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With its spectacular location on one of Britain’s most dramatic coastlines, Tintagel is an awe-inspiring and romantic spot, a place of legends.
Joined to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, Tintagel Island faces the full force of the Atlantic. On the mainland itself, the gaunt remains of the medieval castle represent only one phase in a long history of occupation. Even before Richard Earl of Cornwall built his castle, Tintagel was already associated with the conception of King Arthur. This connection was later renewed by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his Idylls of the King.
After a period as a Roman settlement and military outpost, Tintagel is thought to have been a trading settlement of Celtic kings during the 5th and 6th centuries. Legend has it that one of these was King Mark, whose nephew Tristan fell in love with Yseult (or Isolde). Their doomed romance is part of Tintagel’s story.
The remains of the 13th-century castle are breathtaking. Steep stone steps, stout walls and rugged windswept cliff edges encircle the Great Hall, where Richard Earl of Cornwall once feasted.
There are many unanswered questions and legends surrounding Tintagel. The castle has an amazing capacity to surprise us, even after years of investigation.
In June 1998, excavations were undertaken under the direction of Professor Chris Morris of the University of Glasgow, on a relatively sheltered and small site on the eastern side of the island, first excavated in the 1930s. Pottery from the 5th and 6th centuries was found, as well as some fine glass fragments believed to be from 6th or 7thcentury Málaga in Spain. Even more remarkable was a 1,500 - year-old piece of slate on which remained two Latin inscriptions. The second inscription reads: ‘Artognou, father of a descendant of Coll, has had [this] made.’ Who exactly Artognou was continues to be a subject for lively speculation.
‘Searching for King Arthur’, a short audio visual tour through the ages, introduces visitors to the castle, its legends and history.
During the summer you can also enjoy special introductory talks.The site offers a newly refurbished shop and visitor facilities.
Access to the castle is difficult for disabled visitors (via over 100 steep steps). There is a Land Rover service from the village which can take visitors to the exhibition and shop (Apr-Oct only). Contact the site for service information.