Drama. Beauty. Location. Tintagel has it all. Let your imagination wander for a minute. Imagine you’re standing on a hill. The breeze that rustles the grasses around you has a faint hint of salt. Your ears hear the muffled pounding of waves crashing against tall cliffs. The strong sun warms your skin as you smile at the romantic possibilities that fill the air around you. This is Tintagel.
Tintagel The Town
Situated along the north coast of Cornwall, England, Tintagel is one of the top visited sites in the region. People who wander through the town, heading closer and closer to the coast pass by historic buildings and tea shops. The town also has a really cool looking building that dates back to the 14th-century (it was converted to a post office in the 19th-century); I especially loved its wavy roof.
Tintagel The Island
Past the main drag of the town is Tintagel Island. It isn’t really an island, though, as it is connected to the mainland by a bit of land. It is still a pretty neat sight, a clump of rocky land sticking out into the battering ram that is the Atlantic Ocean.
Wandering the island, it is very easy to get lost in your imagination if you have a romantic soul. The island was first inhabited during the Dark Ages, between the 5th and 7th-centuries. There are remains of rectangular house foundations, partially covered by grasses and the sweetest smelling flowers I have ever smelled. There is archaeological evidence that Tintagel was once a very important site (probably royal) as well as prosperous due to its trading relationship with the Mediterranean region.
The castle on the island dates to medieval times, having been built in the 13th-century by Richard I, Earl of Cornwall. By this time, the region had been officially (i.e. forcibly) made part of England. But even before this new architectural addition to Tintagel, there was an even cooler addition to its lore: King Arthur.
So, What’s This About King Arthur?
In the 12th-century, there was a guy named Geoffrey of Monmouth who was a British cleric. He was also a writer, his most famous piece of work being, The History of the Kings of Britain. He said this work was a translation of an ancient book but modern day scholars have pretty much debunked this claim. In fact, modern day scholars have essentially debunked the whole book itself. However, despite its “alternative facts”, the book remains important because it was instrumental in irrevocably linking King Arthur to Tintagel.
Geoffrey claimed King Arthur was conceived at Tintagel via Uther Pendragon (King of Britain) raping Igraine with the aid of magic (after being rebuffed by her, Uther appeared to Igraine in the form of her husband). Soon after, in war, Igraine’s husband dies and so Uther marries her, making her Queen. Stories like this make me so happy I’m alive now rather than back then…
No one really knows why Geoffrey claimed Tintagel as part of King Arthur’s history. I can only imagine Geoffrey wanted a dramatically evocative and romantic place for the hero Arthur. Considering the wild windswept views from Tintagel, he certainly had that here.
Why You Should Visit Tintagel
Apparently, Tintagel has been a tourist attraction since the 19th-century. So, you’ll be following a well-trodden trail if you do decide to visit. And you should – it’s an opportunity to let the imagination fly while walking in King Arthur’s shoes (I know I just said he was likely never there – hush). As you take in the breezy sea air amongst Dark Age ruins, your brain will forget that pesky fact. Your imagination will take over and you’ll shrug while saying, just go with it. And you will.