On our first overnight trip since lockdown Tim and I stayed relatively local (by American standards) and drove to the south of England for a few days. Our friends have a lovely guesthouse in Torquay and we spent some beautiful days basking in the sun, walking on the beach and generally enjoying the coastal scenery.
On Monday though, we decided to take a jaunt (read nearly two hours in the car) from Devon on the east side of the peninsula to Cornwall on the west. Our destination? Tintagel Castle, otherwise known as King Arthur’s Castle. The weather app (which we know is always 100% accurate) said one hour of light rain exactly at 3 pm, out designated time to enter the Tintagel site. Of course. But I wasn’t worried, nor prepared. You’d think that after two years of living in England where it rains ALL THE TIME, this desert girl who doesn’t enjoy being caught in the rain would learn to keep rain coats and umbrellas and boots in the car. Nope. “It’s Summer” says my brain. “So you THOUGHT” says England.
So we emerged from the pub where we had a delicious feast (I experienced a ploughman’s lunch for the first time and what a beauty that is... see box), and it’s raining. It was misty and light but still not ideal for hiking. All I had jacket wise was my hoodless swing dance warm up so I decided to stop at the little store on the way to the castle to purchase a hoodie. In light rain, I figured it would keep me dry enough. And I was right, should it have stayed a light rain…
We showed out tickets, waited out turn and entered the site at our appointed time. English Heritage has installed a one way system for the site but other than that, and the hand sanitizer (that smelled like tequila?), it felt like a fairly normal experience which was lovely. All that is left of the castle built in the 12th century are some ruins, but the English Heritage has done a great job with informational signs that help you envision just what the castle was like in it’s heyday.
If you're not one for history and ruins, venture to Tintagel anyway. The beauty of the coastline, even on the misty day (especially on the rainy day?), were absolutely breathtaking.
When it was originally built, the more private quarters of the castle were located out on Tintagel island, which, at the time was more of a peninsula as it was joined by a land bridge to the Cornish coast. Over time the land bridge disintegrated and a brand new bridge opened less than a year ago now makes crossing onto Tintagel island a breeze. Before this you had to go down steps on one side of the cliffs and then up steps on the other side. If you love climbing steps on the sides of cliffs though, never fear, due to the one way system, you’ll go down the cliffside steps on your way out.
As we finished viewing the lower section on Tintagel and climbed steps up to the flat planes of the island, the RAIN began. I was thinking I was pleasantly dry with my hoodie on but by the time we rounded had of the plane, my thoughts were much different. Wind whipped across the barren land with nothing left to take shelter behind. In the storm it was easy to imagine how lonely and cold it would be living on this part of England. As beautiful as the views are, it’s dampness and desolation would lead to despair fairly quickly I’m sure.
After momentarily taking shelter in a small cave, we decided that the rain wasn’t going to let up any time soon and we would have to just brave it. We made our way out to where the statue is. Mists and clouds swirled around the giant bronze statue standing larger than life amongst the barren landscape. The state, titled, Gallos (‘power’ in Cornish) was inspired the Arthurian legend and Tintagel’s royal past.
Photos of the haunting art acquired, I was more than done being soaking wet in the rain. But Tim wasn’t. If you arrive at Tintagel at the right time, you can walk down the steps to the beach where you can enter Merlin’s cave if the tide is low. If the tide is especially low you can walk through Merlin’s cave to the other side. There were several people sitting on the rocks and generally taking up space in the cave so we didn’t get to go too far in (social distancing and all that), but we did get to walk inside and take a brief respite from the rain. Respite from the pouring rain isn’t too great when you’re already soaked though so we didn’t stay long.
After taking a moment to dip our toes into the Celtic sea, (a must-do when you’re at any new ocean or sea), we began the long trudge back to the car. It’s a good fifteen minute walk back to town where you have to leave your car, all uphill. So be prepared, even if it’s not raining, for a bit of a trudge.
I had hoped for a nice cuppa on the way back at the cafe but both the cafe and the store had long lines to get inside and I wasn't about to stand still in line outside just to get inside. I hope I can return one day and enjoy a cuppa with a view of the coast. There were also other paths I didn't get to explore because of the rain, so I know a return visit to Tintagel would be worth it.
Whether your interest lies in photography, history, legends or just beautiful views, Tintagel Castle is a win. It offers some of the most breathtaking views you will see on this island. I preferred the views here to the Cliffs of Mohr and the White Cliffs of Dover, so definitely add it to your must do in England list.