Tintagel Castle – Home of King Arthur of Camelot and Merlin the Magician?
Since Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his fictitious “Historia Regum Britanniae” (History of the Kings of Britain) in 1150, Tintagel Castle has been associated with the birthplace of the great King Arthur.
According to the tale told by Geoffrey of Monmouth, King Arthur was born in Tintagel to the beautiful Queen Igerna. He was protected from evil by Merlin, the magician who lived in a cave below the mighty fortress.
The Cornish Celtic name “Dindjagell” or “Din Tagell” means “Fortress of the Constriction”. Set upon the steep cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean, the remains of Tintagel Castle are quite spectacular. Although archaeological finds show that the site was possibly occupied as early as the Romano-British period, it is the Arthurian legends that visitors come to explore.
Tintagel Castle was built around 1236 by Earl Richard Comte de Poitou. He was the second son of King John of England and half brother to Norman-French King Henri III. The Earl was persuaded to build his castle on this isolated, windswept spot as it was seen as the traditional place for Cornish kings.
Did King Arthur rule here?
After over 800 years, fact and fiction are inextricably entwined and some historians think that the legendary King Arthur probably did exist. He could have been a Romano-British chieftain or warrior who led British resistance against the Saxon invasion of the 6th century.
For many visitors, what is fictitious or true from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain is best left to the historians to sort out . Facts and history aside, Tintagel Castle inspires the imagination – it’s a place of dreams, romance and legends, with much embellishment from Hollywood.
To this day, visitors like us still flock here to catch a glimpse of the place where King Arthur was believed to have been born. And if we’re lucky, Merlin’s Cave can also be seen when the tide is not high.
To get up to the castle there are two steep staircases clinging to the cliff-side. Visit in the height of summer and you may have a storyteller on hand to bring the legends of King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot to life.
From the clifftop, a path leads from the castle to Tintagel’s church which has Norman and Saxon masonry.