The name of Tintagel is now firmly embedded in the English
consciousness as the home of King Arthur, but the actual remains of the buildings perched on this
headland in north Cornwall are more complicated than that.
Excavations have discovered that the site was being used in Roman times, and it
may be the unlocated Roman name-place of Durocornovium. It may also have been a Celtic Christian
monastery, or the stronghold of a post-Roman king. There are little mounds, possibly early
Christian burials, in Tintagel churchyard, located within the pre-Norman earthwork bank, but the
presence of St Julitte's Chapel, built around 1000AD, is separate from the existing castle remains,
and much earlier.
The earliest remains of the Tintagel Castle seem to date
from around 1145, when Reginald, Earl of Cornwall and bastard son of Henry I constructed England's
earliest linear castle (Lower, middle and upper wards in a row). This is only slightly later than
Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his History of the Kings of Britain in 1136. He seems to have known the
geography of Tintagel as his romance of Arthur's conception at Tintagel describes the extreme
difficulty Uther Pendragon faced - only gaining entrance to the beautiful Duchess Ygerna with
The site is on many levels and surrounded by sea cliffs, a good defensive base,
but removed from the village. There is a Lower and Upper Ward defended by a ditch before the
crossing over the isthmus to the Inner Ward.
The remains of the Great Hall show that it was originally over 80 feet long and
36 feet wide, and was divided later into smaller buildings. There is a path descending to the Iron
Gate at the landing, which was defended through arrow slits. Most of the remains are baffling but
the site is very evocative, and you can let your imagination rebuild the castle, with its fine
views over the sea.
There is still a walled area, used as a garden in the medieval period, for
recreation, and nearby, rock-cut wells or basins for water. The highest part of the castle is a
climb, but worth it. The remains here are of more than one period, and it is difficult to imagine
exactly what they were like. The Chapel's west end is the oldest part and there was a porch added
in the thirteenth century. A rock-cut grave is just outside the Chapel.
There has been much erosion on the site more recently due to an extensive fire
in the hot summer of 1983. The grass failed to grow back and the wind blew away a lot of the
powdery soil. However, this meant that more remains were exposed to view, and there were finds of
pottery fragments, heaths and post-holes. English Heritage, who owns Tintagel
Castle, have carried out conservation and re-seeding of the burnt areas to protect what
The finds from the site are varied and come from a surprisingly wide area - no
local pottery, but pieces of pottery from Tunisia, Carthage, the Greek Islands and Turkey. There
are also some fragments of Eastern glass. This would suggest a high status residence, with the
luxurious imported goods of wine, perfume and olive-oil perhaps being traded for local tin.
The evidence tends to suggest that Earl Richard of Cornwall may have built the
majority of the remaining castle in the thirteenth century. He was the younger brother of King
Henry III and the other medieval castles in Cornwall, Launceston and Restormel, are also his
Possibly because of its remoteness, Tintagel Castle was
deserted and in ruins as early as 1483.
Tintagel Castle Visits
Tintagel Castle is open for visits. An aduld ticket is about £5.50 while a
family ticket is £14.30. Visit the official website for more information about the opening hours and ticket
Tintagel Castle Map&Location
Tintagel Castle is located at the following address: Bossiney Road, Tintagel,
Cornwall - PL34 0HE. To get help with directions use the map provided bellow:
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