Walk through St Materiana churchyard, take a right onto the Coast Path and before you know it, you’ll be gazing out to Tintagel island. Those of you with good eyesight (or binoculars) will be able to spot the iconic bronze statue of King Arthur, that signifies this is no ordinary island. In fact, look again and you’ll be able to see flashes of high-vis orange; the jackets of construction workers who are currently building a bridge between the island and the mainland.
The landmark project led by English Heritage is due to complete this summer and will connect visitors to this site’s extraordinary past with a historic walkway. Although we couldn’t yet get across to the island, it was still an amazing sight. Watching the workmen abseiling up and down the rockface to put in place supports for the bridge, was a sobering reminder of how cruel a mistress the Coast Path can be when it comes to making improvements for us walkers!
As you walk past the site, you can spot the ruins of Tintagel Castle, which was built in the thirteenth century, but the history of the island goes back much further. Archaeologists excavating the island in the 1930s found traces of a Roman settlement dating back as far as the 5th century. Click here to visit the English Heritage website and find out more about the history of the castle and the legend of King Arthur.
It’s not just castle ruins you should keep an eye out for, the natural landscape here is equally impressive. Tintagel has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its rocks. Here the sea has carved cliffs and platforms into the lower Carboniferous and upper Devonian rocks. Erosion along fault lines and softer rocks has produced an intricate set of bays, headlands, stacks, blowholes and caves. Speaking of caves, there was much discussion amongst the group as to which one was ‘Merlin’s cave’ where King Arthur’s magician is said have lived. To avoid any quarrels if you follow in our footsteps, said cave can be seen from the small bridge above the beach at Tintagel Haven. From the bridge, you will see the water cascading out below and to the left, the opening of the magical cave. Merlin is said to have been born in another such cave further up the coast at Clovelly, but that’s a whole other walk! (See the Clovelly & Mouth Mill Walk).
Even with the various building works underway, the views on this walk just got better and better. As we rounded the headland, we spotted a seal surfing playfully in the waves below, before climbing up to Barras Nose where we enjoyed uninterrupted views out across the Atlantic. Sadly, it was time for us to head back to the office, so we left the Coast Path and headed back to town on the inland road towards Bossiney. Although we weren’t the first ones to cross the bridge, we thoroughly enjoyed having a sneak peek and look forward to returning when the island is open to visitors once more.
We’d like to say a special thank you to our Local Rep Andy Salmon and to Pengenna Pasties where we stopped for lunch – some of the best pasties we’ve tried in ages and great options for vegetarians and vegans. Don’t worry, you can order online if you won’t be visiting Tintagel anytime soon!
If you would like to follow in our footsteps, click here get directions for our ‘Tintagel King Arthur Walk – 3.4 miles / 5.4km’