The Island and Castle
The castle ruins date from the twelfth century, and evidence suggests this site had an earlier history as a trading post and, at some time in far off days, was probably a Celtic Chieftain's stronghold. The island and castle were first opened to the public in 1852; today, the ruins and headland are under the management of English Heritage.
At shore level, there is Merlin's Cave and, towering above it, the headland that reaches nearly 300ft above sea level, forming what must have been an almost impregnable stronghold against the enemy. The headland is not a true island, as it is still connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus of land. There has been considerable erosion by the mighty seas over the years, resulting in notable large rock falls, the most damaging being those recorded in 1820 and 1846.Good weather, bad weather, whatever the prevailing conditions, the sheer majesty of the towering cliffs and ever present might of the Atlantic Ocean will not fail to impress when you visit "King Arthur's Castle" at Tintagel. Even the most sceptical amongst us will surely conjure up a fitting scene, from our perceptions of times long past, that will fit the spectacular vista laid out before them.
Glebe Cliff and the Parish Church of St Materiana
The church stands alone on Glebe Cliff well away from Tintagel itself, here, the power of the wind at the height of a storm blowing in from the Atlantic has to be experienced to be
believed. If you visit the churchyard, note that several of the gravestones in the churchyard are buttressed with stone reinforcements to stop
click to enlarge
them being laid flat by the driving force of the wind. The church itself has an aura of strength and the tower, visible for some miles out to sea, has served as a landmark for sailors for hundreds of years. The church has Norman origins, with some Saxon additions, of note, are the five legged font and windows and doors.
In 1823, a young Robert Hawker stayed in Tintagel with his bride, some twenty years his senior, and was so influenced by all he saw and the Arthurian legends that he later wrote "Quest for the Sangrall".
See pages on Morwenstowe referring to "Hawker of Morwenstow" for more information on this fascinating character, who has had such a lasting influence on the coast of North Cornwall.
Tennyson's visit to Tintagel in 1842 gave rise to him writing the stories of King Arthur in "Morte d' Arthur". Later, he wrote "Idylls of the King".
The twelfth century author Geoffrey of Monmouth is the main originator of the legends of King Arthur, becoming established in Tintagel, through his writings in the "History of the Kings of Britain".
Click for "King Arthur in Cornwall".
King Arthur's Great Halls
For those of you whose memories stretch way back to the first half of the twentieth century, you will, no doubt, recall the delights of a traditional steamed pudding, liberally coated in custard, which may well have been a popular brand of the time "Monk & Glass". It was Fredrick Glassock, a millionaire, of "Monk & Glass" custard fame, who was so smitten with all things Arthurian that he retired to Tintagel to form the "Fellowship of the Round Table", and to build, with local varieties of stone, "King Arthur's Great Halls" in the centre of Tintagel, opened on June 5th 1933. It is a building worth viewing in its own right, not only for the Arthurian story it tells, but also as an example of the eccentricities of the British!
King Arthur's Great Halls are open most days of the year. The stained glass windows of the Great Halls depict the Knights of Arthurian fame and their many deeds. The actor, Robert Powell, provides the voice of Merlin as he takes you on a journey through Arthurian times to the accompaniment of suitable musical, light and sound effects. This is entertaining and informative, but don't come expecting the very latest in high-tech productions!As you enter the building, there is a small gift shop with an interesting selection of Arthurian books, prints and memorabilia, certainly worth a visit if you require more reading matter on all things Arthurian.
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