Tuesday 28 August 2012

Tintagel Castle and the Legacy of King Arthur

I'm back from a fantastic holiday in Cornwall, but still have plenty to blog about. I'll start with Tintagel Castle.

In legend, Tintagel Castle, perched high on the windswept, rocky cliffs of North Cornwall, is the place where King Arthur was born - or at least conceived. This is the story told by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 12th century book The History of the Kings of Britain.

Although the ruins of the castle that stand in Tintagel today date from the Middle Ages, archaeologists have found artifacts from Romano-British times at the site. Of course, whether King Arthur ever existed or not is a matter of debate and speculation, but tales of England's Once and Future King have only gone from strength to strength. Tourists have long flocked to Tintagel hoping to connect with Arthurian legend, to walk in the footsteps of Arthur Pendragon, Guinevere and Lancelot, and maybe discover a hint of magic in nearby Merlin's Cave.

Whatever your thoughts about King Arthur, Tintagel Castle is a spectacular place to visit. To get there you will have a long walk on a steep and narrow path, then a climb up a very long flight of steps that cling to the side of the cliff, but the views are worth it. You can explore the romantic ruins, look out over the sea and watch seagulls wheeling overhead while waves crash on the rocks below. Bring a picnic, as it is a beautiful spot for one on a sunny day. If it is stormy, then bring your most serious waterproofs.

However, the town of Tintagel is, by contrast, rather tacky – full of Arthurian-themed tourist tat. Of course, that's only my opinion – maybe you fancy being The Girl Who Pulled the Plastic Sword from the Bucket, slaying slot machine dragons in Camelot amusement arcade and then gobbling down Lancelot's giant sausage in a bun from Ye Olde Excalibur Kebab Shoppe (OK, I made that last one up, but the first two are for real). I suppose you can't really blame the local traders for trying to cash in on the Arthurian hype, but frankly it put me off wanting to spend any money in the town at all.

If you happen to be in Cornwall this week, then I'd recommend visiting Tintagel Castle tomorrow, 29 August, as you'll be treated to costumed storytellers relating King Arthur's Tales. I went last week and enjoyed the performance more than I expected - it really isn't just for kids. You can find out more about it here: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/king-arthurs-tales-tc-29-aug/

The pictures top and bottom show views of Tintagel Castle, the top side photo shows the King Arthur's Tales being performed, the bottom side picture shows the kind of stuff on sale in the town of Tintagel.

The History of the Kings of Britain (Classics)

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