A place of Arthurian legend, Tintagel Castle is one of the must-visit destinations in Cornwall. It’s seeping with Medieval history, being the place of inauguration of kings, but it is also steeped in legend, as it is allegedly King Arthur’s birthplace. This blog post will show you how to visit Tintagel Castle – and whether I think it’s worth seeing!
About the Castle
One of the most historical Medieval Castles in not just Cornwall, but the whole of Britain, Tintagel is a fascinating place to visit on your trip to Cornwall.
The castle was initially a place of residence for kings of Cornwall. It was made popular again in the Medieval period when Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote that it was the place of legendary King Arthur’s birth. In fact, it got so famous that Earl Richard of Cornwall built a 13th century castle there!
If you are interested in historic sites, Tintagel Castle is a fascinating place to visit. let’s take a closer look at the history.
Tintagel Castle history
As mentioned, Tintagel is steeped in Arthurian legend – it is alleged to be where King Arthur himself was born! The jagged headland is also one of the country’s best world-famous prehistoric sites.
During the 5th century to 7th century, Tintagel was a residence of Cornish kings and other regal figures. It was a popular trading post at the time, with people trading Cornish goods for Mediterranean wine and olive oil. Fragments of pottery from Italy and elsewhere in the Mediterranean have been found at Tintagel.
Not much else is known about the castle residents around the 6th century, but the place sparked the imaginations of writers, particularly 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth. He first claimed that the legendary figure King Arthur was conceived and gave the place some connections to Merlin.
Due to this newfound literary fame, Richard Earl of Cornwall decided to build a new Medieval settlement on the jagged headland in the 1230s, mainly just to have the prestige of owning somewhere where King Arthur was born. He didn’t visit all that much – it could be quite foreboding – but he seemed to enjoy living as the ancient king would have.
The castle didn’t exist as a Cornish stronghold for long – by the 16th century, it fell into decline. However, during the 19th century, people once again got more interested in the mythical associations of the castle. When tourism was getting more popular, more people decided to visit the castle and it opened as a tourist attraction.
In the 21st Century, Tintagel is owned by the English Heritage and remains one of the most popular tourist spots to visit in Cornwall. With interesting archaeological and natural features, it sees countless tourists every month. Recently, the Tintagel bridge has opened as a special path to provide people with a dramatic crossing from the adjacent mainland.
Where is Tintagel Castle?
Tintagel Castle is technically located on its own island – Tintagel Island! However, this is just a short walk from Tintagel village, located on the North Coast of Cornwall, and it is connected to the mainland. It’s a popular spot on a Cornwall road trip.
Its address is Castle Road, Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 0HE. However, you will need to park in Tintagel village, around a 20 minute walk from Tintagel Island.
If you don’t have a car, the 95 bus goes to Tintagel Castle from Bude, Boscastle and Wadebridge.
Tintagel Castle parking
There is no car park at Tintagel Castle itself, but you can park in the village. There are a few pay and display car parks that you can use, but make sure that you leave enough time to find a space and to park. The English Heritage does not run these, and members still need to pay for parking.
It takes around 20-30 minutes to walk down to Tintagel Castle from the car park, although if you don’t want to walk to the castle, there is a land rover drop off and collection service.
Where to buy tickets?
Tintagel tickets are on sale on the English Heritage website. Tickets cost £17.00 for an adult, £15.20 for students and over 65s, and £10.10 for children.
You might be thinking this is quite a lot – and I would agree! You can read how to see some of the castle for free below, and my thoughts on whether Tintagel Castle is worth visiting if you are paying full price.
If you plan to visit any other castles in Cornwall or elsewhere in the country, it is well worth considering an English Heritage membership. Tintagel Castle is one of the more expensive English Heritage properties, but you’d more than make your money back if you went to Tintagel just four times in one year!
Can I see the castle for free?
If you think that tickets for Tintagel Castle are a bit on the pricey side… I agree with you. You can’t walk around the actual castle for free, but you can take a stroll around the coastal footpath of Tintagel to see the castle from other angles. This is entirely free to do, and you can also get some epic views of the coastline!
Tintagel Castle opening times
Tintagel Castle is open from 10am to 6pm every day. Tickets must be pre-booked before visiting.
Tintagel Castle accessibility
Tintagel is, unfortunately, not very accessible. Due to the rocky landscape of the island, there are lots of uneven steps to go up and down, sometimes with no handrail. Therefore, I would regrettably not recommend Tintagel Castle to anybody with disabilities that mean that they cannot or have difficulty walking.
Is Tintagel Castle dog friendly?
Yes, you are allowed to take dogs around the castle. Dogs need to be kept on a lead at all times and make sure that you take plenty of water for them.
Is there a Tintagel Castle cafe?
Yes, there is a beach cafe on site that serves cream teas, Cornish seafood, and even Cornish rarebit! There are some veggie and gluten-free options as well.
There is also a visitor centre and an interesting shop.
How long do I need for Tintagel Castle?
I’d say an hour is an average time to see Tintagel Castle. You might spend longer if you want to take in some of the epic coastal views, but you’ll be able to get around all of the ruins and read the plaques in an hour.
Is it worth visiting Tintagel Castle?
If you have an interest in historic England throughout the fifth and sixth centuries, as well as the Medieval period, Tintagel is worth a trip. It’s also interesting for anybody trying to piece together Cornish history.
However, if you are just looking for places to visit in Cornwall, entry is quite expensive at around £17.00 per person. If you do not already have one, I would recommend an English Heritage membership, where you can save quite a lot of money.
If you are just interested in the natural features of Tintagel, you could also consider just doing a walk around the coast path of the area for free. Make sure that you take a look at my Boscastle to Tintagel walk and Tintagel to Port Isaac walk guides!
Tintagel Castle may not be to everybody’s tastes, but if you’re interested in Medieval history and ancient legends, it’s definitely a must-do while you’re in Cornwall. With my tips, I hope you have a hassle-free and enjoyable visit!