Tintagel Castle, Cornwall
~ History ~
300 AD - Romans occupy the site in their quest for tin mining and trade.
450-650 AD - Early Christian monks establish a monastery here and a Celtic prince rules the area from Din Tagell, the Fortress of the Narrow Entrance.
1145 - Reginald, Earl of Cornwall and illegitimate son of King Henry I, builds a stronghold here.
1175 - On the death of Reginald, having no heir to succeed him, the castle passes to Prince John.
1199 - Upon John's succession to the throne as King John I of England the castle becomes Crown property.
1216 - Just before King John's death he grants the lands of the Earldom of Cornwall to Henry, the illegitimate son of Reginald. Just five years later the Earldom reverts once more to the Crown.
1224 - Richard, the younger brother of King Henry III, takes over deserted Tintagel and commences re-building the castle.
1257 - Earl Richard is elected to the influencial and powerful position of King of the Romans and attempts to rule his lands in Germany.
1272 - Following Richard's death, the buildings fall into disrepair.
1299 - Richard's son Edmund dies heirless and his estates revert once more to the Crown. King Edward II makes his favourite Piers Gaveston Earl of Cornwall, and the Earldom is later held by Earl John of Eltham, brother of King Edward III. Neither ever live in Cornwall and it is John who unroofs Tintagel so the timbers can be used on his other properties.
1337 - King Edward III creates his eldest son Edward (later known as the Black Prince) Duke of Cornwall. A survey at the time shows the castle ruinous.
1386 - In the face of an invasion scare, the crumbling castle is refortified, lest 'our enemies of France and their adherents' should 'take hold some fortress in our realm of England, and in particular on the sea coast, from which they can make war and ravage our said Kingdom'. The castle is used as a prison for political prisoners during this period.
1540 - A survey by John Leland describes the castle as ruinous and deserted, ' the residew of the buildings of the castel be sore wetherbeten and in ruine'.
~ The Legend of Tintagel ~
Uther Pendragon, King of the Britons, falls in love with the beautiful Igerna who is married to Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. Gorlois objects to the attentions that the king pays his wife and returns to Cornwall with her. Uther demands that Igerna should be returned to court, and when Gorlois refuses the king invades Cornwall. Igerna is locked away in the town of Tintagel 'situated upon the sea and on every side surrounded by it, and there is but one entrance to it, and that through a rock which three men shall be able to defend against the whole power of the Kingdom'. Tintagel being in-fact so impregnable that it is only with the aid of the magician Merlin that Uther is able to enter the place in disguise. Merlin effects a transformation that makes the king so like Gorlois that he is able to seduce the innocent Igerna. Gorlois is then killed in battle. Uther and Igerna marry and their son Arthur is born.
2 miles North of Camelford
Tintagel Castle situated high on the Cornish cliffs remains one of the most spectacular and romantic spots in all England, destined to remain a place of mystery and romance long associated with the Arthurian legend. During the Dark Ages King Arthur is said to have lived in a castle here, and Merlin the magician in a cave on the beach. What is certain is that there was a monastic settlement here in the early years of Christianity, a fifth century fortification and a Castle built by the Normans in the thirteenth century.
There are few Castles which stir up such imagination and wonder as Tintagel Castle, due to its association with King Arthur and its spectacular location.
In some ways the castle itself plays just a supporting role to the whole experience, with its dramtic cliffs, caves and coves, a bridge that joins the headland with spectacular views all around, to the ancient remains of a settlement that provides an unexpected surprise to explore.
How much of a serious castle built here for the purpose of defence in this isolated location, had it not been for the association with the myths and legends of King Arthur that the builder would have been very much aware of, is questionable, and is evident when you take a closer look at the thin walls and defensive features.
A visit to Tintagel Castle is a fabulous experince and a must to explore.