My day out: Tintagel Castle
Having been closed for 10 months whilst the construction of the new footbridge took place, I wanted to visit Tintagel Castle and see the new and improved facilities. I had never been to Tintagel Castle before so it was all new to me, including the ruins on the island and the steps down to the beach and Merlin’s sea cave.
It has been on my wish list for a while, but I had always dismissed it as my dodgy knees wouldn’t cope with the numerous steps. With the introduction of the new footbridge, this now makes it more accessible - although there is still a steep hill and some steps to contend with, but not nearly as many as before.
Although marketed as a castle by English Heritage, I knew that it was largely ruins set on a rugged island with dramatic scenery, and of course close links to the legend of King Arthur and Merlin. We were not disappointed with the stunning setting and views, and a new exhibition hall gives a real insight in to the history. Before the 20th century only the castle was called Tintagel; what is now the village was a hamlet called Trevena, which in Cornish means ‘the farm-holding on the hillside’.
Bringing back the original entry point to the castle, the newly installed footbridge is constructed of marine grade steel with stainless steel struts and oak balustrade and is a real feat of engineering. 70,000 people have already been across the suspension bridge in the seven weeks since it opened, and even on a windy day we only felt a little movement in the middle of the footbridge.
The castle’s beach café is now housed in the 19th century lead and silver mine workshops under the headland, and the visitors centre with a shop and exhibition hall is located in the original ‘Castle Cottage’, where Florence Nightingale Richards lived in the 1890s and acted as castle guide.
Despite their best efforts, Tintagel Castle remains on a remote coastal headland and cannot be made fully accessible to everyone. With the introduction of the new footbridge, the entrance to the island is now step free and the elderly or less mobile can walk the unmade path to see the ruins of the Great Hall and the first viewpoint before any steps are involved.
To assist those who may struggle with the steep hill, there is a 10-seater Land Rover service that operates to the main entrance (£1.50) and the visitors centre (£2.00); up to three vehicles run daily between February and November, and they do take card payments. You can also pre-book by appointment calling Antony on 01840 770350.
Spanning 67m, the floor of the new footbridge is actually made up of 40,000 Delabole slates laid on edge and about half of these contain a personal ‘sign a slate’ where in return of a donation, people left a dedication or message on a lacquered slate.
It is said the legendary wizard Merlin once lived in the 330 foot long sea cave on the beach beneath Tintagel Castle – you can explore the dramatic cave at low tide and see the sleeping face of Merlin, one of the most important characters in Arthurian legend, carved into the rocks on the beach.
Top tips for visiting Tintagel Castle:
- There are several pay and display car parks in Tintagel village 600m away, but make sure you allow plenty of time to park and walk to the castle.
- There are a limited amount of walk-up tickets sold on a first come first served basis, so everyone is encouraged to pre-book a timed ticket online in advance.
- It is a good idea to refer to the English Heritage website prior to your visit, as they can close Tintagel Castle if exceptionally strong winds are forecast.
- You are most likely going to spend 2-3 hours visiting, and don’t forget your camera.
- Current admission prices are: Adult £14.30, OAP £12.90, Child £8.60 (including Gift Aid).
- The castle opens at 10am. Closing times varies between 4pm and 7pm.
- Dogs are welcome on leads.
About the author: Ali is our holiday home specialist who visited Tintagel Castle in September 2019. If you want to come and visit this historic Cornish attraction, here is a selection of self-catering properties in Tintagel to stay in.