Tintagel

The walk starts from Tintagel Visitor's Centre and passes King Arthur's Great Halls and the Tintagel Old Post Office on its way to Barras Nose - the first coastal land ever purchased by the National Trust. The route then follows the coast past Tintagel Castle to the clifftop mediaeval church on the return route.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 2.4 miles/3.9 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Tintagel visitors' centre
  • Parking: Visitors' centre. Satnav: PL340AA
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers in dry weather

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Tintagel Old Post Office and King Arthur's Great Halls
  • Cream teas and quirky mystic shops in Tintagel
  • Panoramic views over the Tintagel coastline and Tintagel Castle from Barras Nose
  • Tintagel Castle and the legend of King Arthur
  • Tintagel Haven and Merlin's Cave
  • Ancient church of St Materiana

Directions

  1. From the entrance to the Visitor's Centre car park, turn left and follow the road to the roundabout next to King Arthur's Great Halls.

    King Arthur's Great Halls in Tintagel were built in the 1930's by a custard millionaire whose company is thought to have invented "hundreds and thousands". The Halls of Chivalry are built from 53 different types of stone and are big enough to hold 1000 people. 72 stained glass windows by Veronica Whall (a pupil of William Morris) tell the story of King Arthur and show the Coats of Arms and weapons of the knights. Over two million people have visited the Halls since they opened in June 1933.

  2. Cross the roundabout straight ahead onto Fore Street and follow it until you reach the Old Post Office on your left.

    Just after the roundabout and King Arthur's Hall, look on the right side of the road for Aelnet's Cross, which is behind the railings in front of some flats.

    Aelnet's Cross is located on Fore Street in Tintagel next to King Arthur's Great Halls, behind the railings of what used to be the Wharncliffe Arms Hotel (now converted into flats). It is just over 4 feet tall and has a sort of wheel-head cross on both sides along with Latin inscriptions. The cross itself is of the 5th-century, though the carvings and inscriptions could be later (possibly 10th or 11th century). Originally it stood at nearby Trevillet where it was in use as a gatepost.

  3. From the Old Post office, continue past Vicarage Hill to The Wootons Hotel.

    Tintagel Old Post Office is a 600-year-old Cornish Longhouse set in cottage gardens, retaining its mediaeval slate-paved hall and fireplace. It was built in the 14th Century when Tintagel Castle belonged to the Black Prince. In the 19th century, the house was used as the district Post Office when the introduction of the penny post meant the trek to the Post Office in Camelford became too much of a burden. For over 100 years, it has been owned by the National Trust.

  4. Follow the lane around to the right past Pengenna Bakery, heading towards the post box at the far end.

    Roughly opposite Pengenna Bakery is the site of the Tintagel plane crash.

    In July 1979, an RAF jet fighter on a training flight off North Cornwall experienced control difficulties and had to eject over the sea. Still travelling at 250 mph, rather than crashing into the sea, the plane veered towards Tintagel which was bustling with visitors. Miraculously, when the plane ploughed into the ground, it wedged between two buildings, stopping just short of a petrol tanker which had just arrived to refuel the local garage. Remarkably, there was no loss of life or serious injury, even despite the owner of the first house to be hit, being up a ladder painting the house at the time!

  5. Follow the pavement around the bend to the left, and continue on the road to the Camelot Castle Hotel.

    You might have noticed saffron features quite heavily in Cornish baking and yet it has never been grown in Cornwall (in fact 90% of the world's saffron comes from Iran). It's been posited that the Cornish, who were trading tin with foreign merchants - possibly Phoenicians - as early as 400BC, bought saffron at the time and retained it in their cooking. If this is true, England is almost unique in Europe, having cooked with saffron for more than two millennia.

  6. Next to the entrance of Camelot Castle Hotel, turn right down the public footpath signposted to the coast path. At the fork, bear right onto the path and follow it until you reach a gate.

    Camelot Castle Hotel in Tintagel was formerly named King Arthur's Castle Hotel and is referred to by locals as simply Castle Hotel. The building was designed by Silvanus Trevail, Cornwall's most famous architect, and opened in 1899. Originally it was planned to be built on Barras Nose but after a local campaign with the National Trust to save Barras, it was built on the site formerly known as Firebeacon. The dramatic Victorian building was used for Dr Seward's Asylum in the 1979 film Dracula, starring Laurence Olivier (and the baby thrown out of the window in the film was in fact Dave - our software developer). It also featured in the ITV Comedy Drama, Doc Martin, as the location for Doc Martin's meeting with the Health Board.

  7. Go through the gate and bear left down the path to a kissing gate.
  8. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to a waymark.

    The rocky headland ahead is Barras Nose.

    Barras Nose is a rocky headland located just east of Tintagel Castle and its island, to the north of the village of Tintagel. This was the first piece of coastal land ever bought by the National Trust in 1897. In Victorian times, the Castle Hotel was originally planned to be built on Barras Nose which gave rise to a local campaign to purchase the headland and save it. It's a popular spot with locals for fishing as there is a rock platform and several surrounding reefs. From the top of the headland there are excellent views to the right, across to Willapark, and to the left, of the castle.

    A rocky scarp runs nearly all the way across the neck of Barras Nose, forming a natural defence similar to those that were created by hard labour at the cliff castles on surrounding headlands. It's therefore quite possible that Barras was adopted as a "prefabricated" hillfort and flint tools have been discovered which show there was human activity here from at least 4,000 years ago. The name itself may also hint at its history: in the 1890s, it was known as "Barrows Cliff".

  9. Turn left at the waymark and keep left to follow the coast path down the steps to another waymark at the bottom.
  10. From the waymark, follow the path over the headland in the direction of Tintagel Castle until you descend to a footpath sign by the seating area outside the restaurant.

    The small cove ahead is known locally as Castle Beach, though its formal title is Tintagel Haven.

    Below the the island upon which Tintagel Castle is perched, there is a small sheltered pebble beach, known locally as Castle Beach although on maps you'll see it marked as Tintagel Haven. Slate from the coastal quarries was brought here by donkey, and loaded onto beached ships which also brought in cargoes such as Welsh coal. Beside the waterfall is the remains of a derrick which was used to winch the cargo to and from the beach. In order to manoeuvre them around the dangerous rocks, ships were "hobbled" (towed by rowing boats then manoeuvred by gangs of men pulling on ropes).

    On the left side of the beach is Merlin's Cave, and to the back of the beach is a waterfall where the stream running through the Vale of Avalon meets the sea.

  11. At the sign next to the restaurant, turn right and follow the path past the viewpoint to a waymark. Then follow the path down some steps and across a bridge over the stream.

    According to Arthurian Legend, Merlin lived in a cave below the fortress of Tintagel during Arthur's childhood, and was his teacher. Tennyson made Merlin's Cave famous in his Idylls of King Arthur, describing waves washing infant Arthur to the shore, and Merlin finding him in a sea cave and carrying him to safety.

    The cave is 100 metres long and passes completely through the island beneath the castle, where the sea has eroded a fault containing a band of softer rock. At high tide, the cave is flooded (so one can assume Merlin was a good swimmer!), but at low tide you can walk through from Tintagel Haven to the rocky West Cove on the other side.

  12. From here you can either pay to enter and explore Tintagel castle or continue to follow the coast path. To follow the coast path, turn left and follow the track to the car park just past the English Heritage shop.
    If you choose to explore the castle, bear right towards the entrance near the base of the island, above the beach. When you're finished, head out of the inland entrance to the mainland section of the castle grounds to the Tintagel Castle sign.

    Tintagel Castle (also known as "King Arthur's Castle") is perched on an island which was joined by a land bridge in the Middle Ages. The ruins of Tintagel Castle that you see today were built in the 13th century by Richard Earl of Cornwall. From coins and pottery fragments found at the site, it is thought that before this, the site might have originally been a Roman settlement, and later, in the early Middle Ages, a Celtic settlement. There is speculation amongst historians that the site was a summer residence for one of the Celtic kings, perhaps leading to the legends of Arthur.

  13. Take the footpath on the right (signposted to Trebarwith Strand) which climbs the cliff, keeping right until you reach the Tintagel Castle sign at the top.
  14. From the Tintagel Castle sign, follow the path away from the castle, keeping the rock outcrop supporting the castle on your right. Then follow the wall on your right towards the Glebe Cliff sign until you reach a stile.

    Excavations at Tintagel Castle have revealed that in the 5th and 6th Century, high-status Celtic people ate pork, cod and oysters, drank from decorated Spanish glasses and dined on Turkish tablewear.

  15. Cross the stile and bear right onto the coastal path, following this until you reach a waymark to Glebe Cliff.
  16. Keep left at the waymark and follow the path until it forks alongside the wall of the churchyard.

    Gillow quarry lies part-way down cliffs near Tintagel church, just below a rocky ridge along which the coast path runs before it joins the path from the church to Tintagel Castle. A pair of capstans, known as horse whims, were used to haul slate up from the quarry. A track ran up the cliff beneath the ridge, eventually emerging onto the path to Tintagel Castle. Slate would have been transported by donkey to Tintagel Haven and loaded onto the boats there.

  17. Keep left at the fork, following the wall around to the entrance to the churchyard.
  18. Turn left through the gateway into the churchyard and follow the path to the church door.

    Tintagel Parish church, dedicated to St Materiana, is located on Glebe Cliff at the end of Vicarage Lane.The first church on the site was thought to be in the 6th century, founded as a daughter church of Minster in Boscastle which is even older. The current church was built in the late 11th or early 12th century with the tower added in the late Mediaeval era. The Norman font bowl by the south wall is believed to have been brought from St Julitta's chapel at Tintagel Castle. The church also contains a Roman stone from the 4th century bearing the name of the Emperor Licinius which may be evidence that there was once a Roman camp nearby.

  19. At the church door, turn right through the churchyard and follow the path to the war memorial.
  20. Continue onto the lane and in the same direction head downhill to a public footpath sign.

    At the bottom of the hill on the lane (just a little further from the public footpath sign where you turn off) is the old vicarage.

    Tintagel vicarage is located at the bottom of the appropriately named Vicarage Hill on the way to the parish church. Inside the vicarage garden is a mediaeval holy well and a circular mediaeval dovecote (also known as a columbarium) with 247 nest boxes. This may date from 1259 when the first vicarage was built. The current building dates from the 17th Century. The vicarage was sold by the church in 2008 but church fetes are still held here every summer.

    From 1925 until 2008, part of the vicarage outbuildings were also in use as a chapel known as Fontevrault Chapel. The name commemorates the abbey in France which held the patronage of Tintagel during the Middle Ages.

  21. Follow the footpath sign to your right, crossing the stile and follow the path to join the track. Bear left along the track to a waymark beside the gateway.
  22. At the waymark turn left through the gateway and follow the left hedge to a kissing gate in the middle of the fence.

    The small car park on the opposite side of the valley is on the site of Fry's Coach station

    The area next to the Spar shop in Tintagel, now called Trevena Square, is on the site of Fry's Coaches. In the 1880s, Fry's ran a horse-drawn charabanc to Camelford and Bodmin. Travel to Tintagel became much easier in 1893 when the railway was extended to Camelford and Fry's provided the connection to Tintagel. For a number of decades, this was horse-drawn, then in 20th century the horses were replaced with motorised coaches and Fry's also became Tintagel's petrol station which closed in 2000.

  23. Go through the kissing gate and turn right onto the track, then follow it to a gate.
  24. Follow the track through the gate and continue to where the track ends at a white gate onto the road.
  25. Go through the kissing gate on the left of the gate (or the main gate if open) to reach the road. Cross the road and turn right, following the pavement until you reach Foster's Lane.

    The modern-day village of Tintagel was known as Trevena ("place of the women") until the Post Office established 'Tintagel' as the name in the mid 19th century (until then Tintagel had always been the name of the headland and of the parish). In Norman times, a small castle was built at Bossiney; Bossiney and Trevena were established as a borough in 1253 by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall who built Tintagel Castle.

  26. Turn left down Foster's Lane and take the first left up Danmore Close. Follow the road around bends until you reach no 12.
  27. Follow the tarmac path to the left of no 12 into a car park. Bear right across the car park and follow the driveway out of the car park onto the road.
  28. Turn right on the road to reach the Visitor's Centre.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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