The sandy beach to the east of the bridge, known as the Haven, is where ships were once loaded. From this beach is it possible to access Merlin's Cave at low tide. A fault or a layer of weaker rocks close to sea level has been hollowed out by the action of the tide, and two tunnels run right through the Island that the castle is built on. The larger of the two is known as Merlin's Cave
The short length of tunnel to the west of the garden is a bit of a mystery - no-one really knows what purpose it originally had. The most likely suggestion is that it was dug in the Middle Ages as a larder for the castle - the sea wind would have driven through it, keeping stored foodstuffs cool. However, there are similar tunnels, known as fogous, in prehistoric sites in Cornwall (eg Carn Euny and Chysaustre) - the purpose of these is similarly unknown, but may well be of significance in dating the Tintagel example.
Tintagel Castle is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the whole of south-west England. It lies on a finger of land projecting into the sea from the flat plateau of North Cornwall; half of the castle is on the mainland, while the other half is reached by crossing a narrow neck of land between two inlets of the sea.
The area has been settled at least since Roman times - pottery and coins at the site suggests that it was a place of some importance, and milestones near by indicate that a Roman road may have run along the northern Cornish coast. It is possible that Tintagel may have been Durocornovium. Following the collapse of Roman rule in Britain, Tintagel may have been a stronghold of the kings or princes of Dumnonia - clearly the ruler here was a man of considerable importance; a larger quantity of luxury goods have been found here than at all the other known 'Dark Age' sites in Western Europe put together.
By the time Richard, Earl of Cornwall (the brother of Henry III) built his castle here, the fortress had become firmly associated with the legend of King Arthur - which may partly explain why the Earl chose to build a castle in a site of no real strategic importance.
Entrance costs £4.30
Along the sheltered sloping side of the Island are four groups of ruined buildings, low walls topped with grass and heather, and connected by narrow paths and steps. They were uncovered during archaeological excavations in the 1930s, and there are probably dozens more waiting to be found, a complete village strung along the hillside. The first buildings on this side of the island were put up around the early 5th century AD, but these were wooden, possibly temporary structures. The dating of the stone buildings is uncertain.
The tiny chapel, dedicated to St Juliot, was probably built around the late 11th c.; strangely between the abandonment of the Dark Age settlement and the building of the castle. It continued to be used after the castle was built, when the original door in the south-west corner was blocked up and the entrance moved to the west end and covered by a small porch or tower.
More low stone walls lie around the chapel, remnants of quite a large complex of buildings of various dates - some Dark Age and some medieval. One was used as the foundations of the chapel, leading to speculation of Christian worship on the Island during the Dark Ages.
The wooden bridge is the only link between the mainland and what is known as Tintagel Island. It was actually built in the 1970's to replace an earlier path and set of steps which had become too dangerous to use - some of the old steps can still be seen to the left of the bridge, the rest have fallen into the sea.
In the 5th and 6th centuries AD when Tintagel was a stronghold of the rulers of Dumnonia, the link between the mainland and the island must have been much wider and higher than it is today. By 1233, when Earl Richard built his castle, the neck of land must already have been eroded - it is probable that there was a low narrow saddle between the two separate parts of the castle.
The only way into the castle from the mainland was originally a narrow, naturally defended passageway; hence the name Tintagel - Fortress of the Narrow Entrance. It's likely that this method of access was set long before the medieval castle was built, as beyond the high crag of rock to the left of the entrace, a small settlement was established in the 3rd of 4th century AD; the crag would have allowed the inhabitants to control the approach. During the 5th or 6th century AD, the Ditch to the right of the approach was dug out, and the earth from it piled on the far side to create a bank which may have been strengthened by a wall or palisade. In this manner the path to the headland and island was restricted long before Earl Richard replaced these defences with stone walls.
Remains of the Castle exist on both the "main" land and the promontory known as the "island". A pathway and steps lead up to the ticket office and onto the modern bridge which crosses the chasm between the two.
It is a steep climb but if you pause for a rest not only will you see some magnificent coastal scenery (" look out for the caves and what we called the "Giant Claw") but also some interesting geological layers in the cliff wall as you make your way up to the Island Courtyard.
The Ticket office sells an excellent 44-page illustrated guide to the Castle. The maps help you to obtain a clearer picture of the layout of the castle and the history content is concise but comprehensive. It is an English Heritage publication and costs £3.99 - well worth it as a guide and as a souvenir of your visit.
Full Visitor facilities availalble - Toilets; cafe;shop; Exhibitions.
Adult £4. 70
Under 5's free
Free Admission - Members of English Heritage and CADW (the Welsh Heritage Org.)
At the top of the extremely steep steps leading up to the island section of the castle, you reach a battlemented wall with a gate through it. This was actually built by the local vicar in 1852, to replace the original 13th century wall which had fallen down the cliff behind it, along with one end of the Great Hall. To the right of the path you will see the service rooms belonging the far end of this Great Hall, while to the left, backed up against the steep grass slope are the remains of a two-roomed building with a flight of steps up the nearer wall towhere there was once an upper floor. This may have been a private chamber, intended for the use of the Earl on his rare visits to Tintagel.
The huge amount of luxury goods from the Mediterranean found in this area of Tintagel has suggested that these cliffs may have played an important part in ceremonies when Tintagel was a stronghold of a Dark Age king or prince of Dumnonia. It has been speculated that such ceremonies may have included celebrations of ancestry, power and fealty.
Personally I wouldn't have wanted to stand near these cliffs if the loyalty of my followers was in any doubt!
This was the outermost part of the medieval castle built for Richard Earl of Cornwall in about 1235. The lower courtyard was larger in the Middle Ages - almost a quarter of it has collapsed into the sea - and more closed-in, with high battlemented walls on all four sides. Next to the ruined gatehouse was a room probably occupied by a porter or guards. Stone steps on the lower side of the courtyard lead up to the battlement walk, from where you can see how difficult it would have been to attack the castle from this side, with the steep slope. Stairs against the cliff face climb to the upper courtyard on top of the crag, which was also once larger; possibly half of it was lost in a medieval cliff fall, and a straight wall was added after this event. Despite the danger, the sheer cliff did have one advantage other than that of defense - it offered a convenient way of getting rid of unwanted waste: in the curtain wall are the remains of two latrines, the one in the furthest corner enclosed in a small tower which projects out from the wall.
This small medieval house dates from the 14th Century and is well worth a visit.
It is maintained and looked after by the National Trust and there is usually a guide at hand to answer your questions.
The rooms are furnished with the type of oak country furniture that would have been is use in rural cottage homes in Victorian times. But judging by the size and layout of the rooms it must have been the home of quite a well off family - originally a 14th Century yeoman farmer according to the Guide.
From 1844 -1892 the house was used as a Letter Receiving Office for the district, dealing with incoming mail only. Now the former Post Room is shown as a Victorian Post Office would have looked and also has a small shop selling local guides, maps and souvenirs. Look out for pictures and posters on the walls.
Each room in the house has an information leaflet - not to be taken away - nor is it allowed to take photgraphs inside the building.
Do not miss the back garden which is delightful and gives you a good view of the slate construction of the building and its "Tumble roof".
Admission Free to NT Members
Family (one adult) £4.05
No parking on site - plenty nearby, all paying
No Toilet facilities on site, nearest WC up the road in Trevena Square.
Merlin's Cave can be found under the rock the castle ruins are situated. So the picture with this tip is not Merlin's Cave. The caves on the picture can be found opposite Merlin's Cave. It is said that mist is sometimes coming out of Merlin's Cave and that makes it a spectacular sight. It gives the whole place a spectacular feeling, especially if you know some stories about the legend of King Arthur.
These buildings were also uncovered in the 1930s excavations, and their date and purpose are still uncertain - some may well date similarly to the 5th or 6th centuries AD, while others may be medieval; one has a small oven for drying corn.
If you walk though the archway in the famous battlemented wall that is most often seen in photographs of Tintagel, a path to the right leads down to the Iron Gate - a defended rock-wharf where ships could be tied up in calm weather.