Monday, June 25, 2012

The Birthplace of King Arthur

I've never in my life wanted a time machine so badly as when we visited this English Heritage site.  I love history and have often longed for a machine that would whisk me back in time.  

Tintagel Castle is located on the dramatic, windswept coastline of Cornwall in southwest England.  I stood overlooking the cliffs, experiencing the space with every one of my senses and wondered if I had somehow slipped off to another world.  It was spectacular... surreal and magical. 

If your familiar with the legend of King Arthur, you recall that Merlin used sorcery to disguise King Uther Pendragon so that he could bed Ygerna.  She thought he was her husband and she conceived Arthur.  Legend has it that Tintagel is the place where this deception occurred and the birthplace of one of the most famous and romantic characters in English literature.  

Tintagel Castle is also the setting of another tragic love story.  Have you seen the movie Tristan and Isolde staring James Franco? 

We arrived and parked in a small village and made our way down to the coastline.  There is a little shuttle service, if the walk is too much.  After purchasing a ticket for Sugar Bear, (TE and I are English Heritage members so got in for free) we started exploring the cliffs and castle ruins.  The water was as clear and blue as anything you will see in the Caribbean. 

Have I mentioned that I'm terrified of heights?  Like curl-into-the-fetal-position-and-suck-your-thumb afraid of heights.  So, this was quite a challenge for me.  We were on the edge of the cliffs and straight down are huge rocks.  And there are very few safety rails, not that safety rails really make me feel any safer. 

We started with a heart-stopping walk across a wooden footbridge between two cliff sides.  Then we climbed up some stone stairs clinging to the side of the cliff.  Straight shot down on one side, straight up on the other.  I might have cried, cussed like a sailor and peed a little, but I got up those steps.  


The ruins are from a 13th Century castle and have been a tourist destination since the 1800's.  There are paths along the cliffs to explore. TE took the camera up higher, but I decided I'd gone high enough and would just sit, cling to the ground and enjoy the views.  SB stayed with me to make sure I remembered to breathe. 

You can see Merlin's Cave in this picture which can be explored during low tide. 

Due to coastal erosion, the castle footprint has actually been divided into two different land masses.  You can see the wooden steps that will take you up to the other section.  We only explored the one section.  

Once I was able to sit and catch my breath, I was able to just experience this place and take in the spectacular views.  As I sat there looking into the distance, I felt grateful and moved to see something so special.  I wanted to take it all in.  

The wind was blowing, but it felt... still.  That doesn't really make sense, does it?  I think what I mean is that my soul felt still.  I felt small in space and time when compared to this timeless, majestic place.  Does that make sense?  I hope you understand what I'm trying to say. 

If you ever get the chance, you have to visit Tintagel.  It is worth every scarey step and hyperventilating breath.

What place has taken your breath away?
If you had a time machine, what would be your first stop?



  1. Sigh. Once more, I'm drooling at your post! I'm about to just get in my car and drive south- leaving my husband and his frustrating work schedule behind! I've just started watching a BBC series "Merlin" on Netflix. It's recent, set when Merlin and Arthur were boys (poetic license with the timeline). But I've always loved The Once and Future King, and Le Morte d'Arthur, and The Mists of Avalon, and Merlin the miniseries with Sam Neill... I go on. Basically I need to go there. NOW!

  2. Mists of Avalon was my absolute favorite! I think it's time to reread it. I'm going to have to check out Merlin... sounds good. Thanks so much for reading & commenting. And, yes! You have to go to Cornwall!!


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