A circular walk around Tintagel in North Cornwall

Tintagel, Church and Castle

A short circular walk exploring some of the historic sites in Tintagel including King Arthur's Castle and Merlin's Cave, the Old Post Office, and the ancient parish church on the cliffs.

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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.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 2.4 miles/3.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots in winter. Walking shoes or trainers in dry weather

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • 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

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Cornishman
  • The King Arthurs Arms
  • Wootons Inn
  • Ye Olde Malthouse


  1. Make your way past the entrance to the Visitors' Centre to follow the path behind the bus stop and emerge on the pavement. Cross the road to the pavement opposite and turn left to follow the pavement to the roundabout next to King Arthur's Great Halls.

    King Arthur's Great Halls in Tintagel were built in the 1930s 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. Continue ahead on the pavement onto Fore Street and follow it to 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 Inn.

    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 road around the bend to the right past Pengenna Pasties. Keep following the road to reach a sharp bend to the left with a postbox.

    Roughly opposite Pengenna Pasties 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.

    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.

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

    Foxgloves have a life cycle which spans two years. The seeds germinate in spring and during their first year they produce a "rosette" of large, velvety green leaves with toothed edges. These are particularly noticeable from October onwards once other vegetation has died back. The leafy foxglove plants remain dormant throughout the winter, ready for a quick start in the spring.

  7. Pass around the gate and bear left down the path to a kissing gate.

    The roots of red campion contain saponins (soapy compounds) which protect the plants against microbes and fungi. These compounds make it easier for large molecules such as proteins to enter cell membranes. This has the potential to increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy against cancer by allowing immunotoxins to enter the cancer cells more easily.

    Rosebay willowherb is a tall plant with a spike of pink flowers in late summer which can often be seen beside paths and tracks. Their long leaves have a distinctive thin, white vein along the centre.

    The name "rosebay" dates from at least Tudor times and is thought to be based on loose resemblances of the leaves to bay leaves and the flowers to wild roses. The overall family are also known as "willowherbs" due to the resemblance of the leaves to willow leaves. The two names have since been brought together resulting in the slightly confusing duplicate description of the leaf shape.

    Kestrels are members of the falcon family and the most common bird of prey in Europe although in recent years in Britain they have been overtaken by the buzzard. They can be recognised from their fairly small size for a bird of prey, brown plumage and black tips to their tail when in flight. Despite having a wingspan of over half a metre, kestrels only weigh around 200g.

  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 a junction of paths at the bottom beside a footbridge.

    The white flowers along the coast in July and August which resemble a more compact version of Cow Parsley are the delightfully-named Sea Carrot. Unlike Cow Parsley, the flowers start off pink and become white as they open and sometimes have a single dark red flower in the centre. The Sea Carrot is technically the same species as a wild carrot, from which the carrot was domesticated, but is shorter, stouter and more splayed out than a wild carrot. The two converge the further north and east that you go in Britain: West Cornwall is therefore the pinnacle of Sea Carrot evolution. You should avoid touching the leaves of the Sea Carrot as they can make skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light which can result in blistering caused by extreme sunburn.

    The bridge at Tintagel Castle was the result of a design competition in 2015. Work on the new bridge began in the winter of 2018 and the new bridge was completed the following August. The bridge connects the two parts of the castle where the original bridge would have been (which was a lot shorter as quite a lot of erosion has taken place since then).

    The walkway across the bridge is made from Delabole slates stacked on their ends. The two spans don't quite meet in the middle. There is a 4cm gap which allows the metal to expand and contract with changing temperature.

  10. At the junction, bear left across the wooden bridge and follow the path over the headland until you descend to a footpath sign by a seating area.

    The small cove ahead is known locally as Castle Beach, although 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. Turn left and follow the track to the car park just past the English Heritage shop.

    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. As soon as you enter the car park, take the coast path up the steps on the right (signposted to Trebarwith Strand). At the top of the steps, turn right to reach a junction of paths with a black signpost.

    A very large amount of 5th and 6th century Eastern Mediterranean pottery was found at Tintagel Castle in the 1930s, more than the total found in all other Dark Age sites in Britain. This included massive Tunisian oil jars, Carthaginian dishes, Aegean amphorae and Byzantine jars. Some examples are on display in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.

  14. When you reach the black signpost outside the kiosk, turn left to follow the path away from the castle, keeping the rock outcrop supporting the castle on your right. Then follow the wall on your right until the fork just before the Glebe Cliff sign and bear left to a V-shaped gap in the wall.

    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 tableware.

  15. Go through the gap and turn right. Follow the coast path until you reach a waymark to Glebe Cliff.

    A glebe was an area of land used to support the parish priest (in addition to a residence in the form of a parsonage or rectory). Occasionally the glebe included an entire farm. It was typically donated by the lord of the manor or cobbled together from several donated pieces of land.

  16. Keep left at the waymark and follow the tarmacked 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 unsurfaced path along the wall to reach the entrance to the churchyard.

    Scholars speculate that the Celtic Cross (a crucifix with a circular ring) developed from the sun cross (a cross inside a circle), a common symbol in artefacts of Prehistoric Europe, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. When Christianity came to the Celtic regions, Christians extended the bottom spoke of this familiar symbol, to remind them of the cross on which their new Saviour was crucified.

  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 and follow the path through the churchyard to the war memorial.

    The dandelion-like flowers along the coast are most likely to be catsear, also known as false dandelion. Catsear is very salt tolerant, not only growing along the coast but actually in sand dunes. The easiest way to recognise it is by the hairy leaves, hence the name. If you can cope with the texture, the leaves are edible and are much less bitter than dandelion leaves.

    Another way to tell them apart is when they are flowering. Although dandelion flowers over quite a long period, the most profuse flowering is in April and May whereas catsear's intense flowering period is in late June and through July. Catsear has neater flowers than dandelion with squarer edges to the petals (but still toothed). The stems supporting the flowers are also solid, in contrast with the hollow stem of the dandelion.

    Jackdaws are very adept vocal mimics and have been known to sing virtually anything including opera and Madonna! They can be trained to copy the human voice but only for single words or short phrases.

  20. Continue onto the lane and follow this downhill to a public footpath sign on the right.

    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. Cross the stile on the right (or go through the gate if open) and follow along the fence to an opening into the next field.

    The fields here are sometimes grazed with sheep.

    Once domesticated sheep had become woolly, individuals with white fleeces were selected for breeding as this was the easiest colour to dye. This was made easier by the genes giving rise to a white fleece being dominant. The recessive genes still do sometimes come together to produce a black lamb in an otherwise white flock. The expression "black sheep of the family" arises from this and its negative connotation was based on the economic undesirability of their fleeces.

  22. Bear left through the opening into the next field. Follow the path along the left hedge to a kissing gate in the middle of the fence.

    The Latin name of the buttercup, Ranunculus, means "little frog" and said to be because the plants like wet conditions. It is thought it may have come via a derogatory name for people who lived near marshes!

    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. Follow the track until it ends at the road.

    The name "Kissing Gate" is based on the way that the gate touches either side of the enclosure. Romantics may however wish to interpret the name as part of the walk instructions.

  24. Cross the road and turn right, following the pavement until you reach Fosters Lane.

    The "herringbone" style of walling built with tightly packed alternating diagonal slate courses, is unique to Cornwall's heritage.

    It is known locally as "Curzy Way" or "Kersey Wave", based on the Cornish word kersy which means "reeds", perhaps referring to a square weave pattern. It is also sometimes known as "Jack and Jill" which is likely to be based on the falling down part of the nursery rhyme.

  25. Turn left onto Fosters Lane and take the first left up Danmore Close. Follow around the bend to the right to continue from the end of the tarmac onto the paved road. Follow this to reach no 12 at the far end.

    Red valerian is also known as kiss-me-quick, fox's brush and Devil's or Jupiter's beard and can be seen flowering in early summer in hedgerows near the coast. The plant is originally from the Mediterranean and is thought to have been introduced as a garden plant roughly around the Tudor period. It has since become naturalised and the brightly-coloured flowers provide nectar for bees, butterflies and moths. Over time the base of the stems can get as thick as a small tree trunk which can lever apart the walls in which it can often be seen growing.

    Red valerian occurs with three main flower colours: about 50% of plants are deep pink, 40% are red and around 10% have white flowers. Very pale pink also occurs to but is much rarer. These distinct forms are an example of flower colour polymorphism. The red pigment within the flowers is an anthrocyanin compound and the different colours are due to different amounts of the pigment.

    Rooks can often be heard in the trees along Fosters Lane.

    Rooks nest in colonies and are one of the most social members of the crow family. Scientists have found that rooks are happy to work cooperatively to solve problems (e.g. each pulling on a separate string to release food).

  26. 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.

    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.

  27. Turn right on the road to reach the Visitor's Centre.

    Unlike places such as Padstow which remained largely undiscovered by tourists until the 20th century, Tintagel was extremely popular in Victorian times. When Tennyson published his Idylls of the King across the mid-late 1800s, Arthurian legend had a renaissance and this put Tintagel in the spotlight. This also coincided with the railway being extended into Cornwall.

    By the 1890s the railway had been extended to Camelford and a hotel was even built which advertised itself as being "on the spot where Tennyson received his inspiration for Idylls of the King". Consequently the village of Tintagel has been heavily shaped by the tastes of the Victorian tourists and the kitsch element of Tintagel's tourist trade could well be a surviving remnant of this.

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