Have you ever considered visiting Tintagel Castle Cornwall, where they say legend meets history? It is hard not to let your imagination run wild and get caught up in the tales of King Arthur that surround Tintagel Castle. I mean who doesn’t love a good story and a location that looks and sounds like it came right out of a movie.
I had wanted to stay at Camelot Castle hotel and visit Tintagel Castle for years and finally made the decision to go. It is hard not to be captivated when you set your sights on it for the first time and see the castle ruins and spectacular footbridge from the headland. It was also pretty impressive seeing the beach and caves below before the tide came in.
Table of Contents
- 1. Visiting Tintagel Castle
- 2. Things to consider
- 3. History of Tintagel Castle
- 4. Tintagel Castle Bridge
- 5. Exploring the Island
- King Arthur Statue
- 6. Tintagel Beach and Merlin’s Cave
- 7. Tintagel Castle Visitor’s centre
- 8. Tintagel Castle tickets
- 9. How to get to Tintagel Castle
- 10. Other things to consider before visiting
- 11. Additional Information and Tips
- 12. Taking pictures of Tintagel Castle
- 13. Tours to consider for visiting Tintagel
- 14. Consider getting an English Heritage Membership
- 15. Hotels near Tintagel Castle
- 16. Things to do near Tintagel Castel
- 17. Conclusion
- 18. Guide Books for Cornwall
1. Visiting Tintagel Castle
This famous historical site is associated with Arthurian legends and medieval history. Tintagel Castle is located on the rugged coast in north Cornwall, next to the charming village of Tintagel. The ruins of the fortress, island, beach, and Merlin’s cave have been a tourist destination since the mid-19th century.
It is estimated that more than 250,000 people visit every year on average. With so many tourists visiting Tintagel Castle there are a few things to consider when planning your trip. Like checking the tide times to go on the beach and explore Merlin’s cave and knowing the best time to visit.
Or even where to park and how to book your ticket online for your allocated timeslot.
2. Things to consider
Over the years English Heritage has made changes and additions like the installation of King Arthur Statue. In 2019 one of the biggest changes to happen was the construction of Tintagel Castle Bridge. Which connected the mainland and the small Island for the first time in 500 years.
Even if you stick to the facts, Tintagel Castle Cornwall is a place of real wonder and a great place to explore. Here are a few tips and things to consider before visiting Tintagel Castle Cornwall to help you get the best out of your trip to King Arthurs home.
3. History of Tintagel Castle
Tintagel island had a long history of settlers before the Castle was built in 1233 by Richard of Cornwall. It is believed it was inspired by the association with tales of King Arthur and Merlin the magician. Told through Geoffrey of Monmouth, a major figure in the development of British historiography. One of them being that this was the place of King Arthur’s conception.
4. Tintagel Castle Bridge
One of the first things you will notice when you enter the castle gatehouse courtyard is the stunning red footbridge. Tintagel Castle Bridge is 229ft (70m) long and goes from the mainland to Tintagel Island. The new footbridge was built in a two part cantilever design, creating a 4cm gap in the middle of the bridge. This is to represent the transition from present to past and history to legend.
4.1 Tintagel Bridge History
Various bridges had been on the site connecting the mainland to Tintagel Island since the early medieval times. In 1850 steep steps were cut into the cliff to enable visitors to get onto the island once again, which was connected to a smaller lower bridge. This access to the island was used up until 2019 when the new higher castle bridge was completed.
4.2 Is Tintagel Bridge Free to Cross
The Tintagel bridge is only open when the Tintagel castle is open and is free to cross, as it is part of your entry ticket. Currently, the Tintagel castle bridge is a one way system to follow with social distancing rules. You cross over when you enter and leave via the original steps.
⇒ I wore my Merrell Women’s Ontario Mid Wp 39S Boot ankle boot, which was comfortable and lightweight.
5. Exploring the Island
On your way to the King Arthurs statue, take a short walk through the small tunnel on the top of the Island. Some believe it is a cave but there is no explanation why it is here. As some of the areas, John Leland thought it was ’the ruins of a vault’.
Discover the Tintagel Island Garden
Keep your eye out for the remains of the medieval walled garden on Tintagel Island, near the tunnel. It was influenced by the famous love story of Tristan and Iseult and built by Earl Richard. Today engraved stepping stones are around the garden that retells the tragic love story.
King Arthur Statue
Standing at 8 foot tall, hooded, and wearing a cloak is the amazing bronze sculpture of King Arthur. His hands are rested on his sword ‘Excalibur’ and look’s back towards the castle with the Atlantic Ocean behind him. The sculpture is made to look ghostly with its hollow design, where you can see straight through to the ocean.
The sculpture is actually called Gallos, meaning for power or the Knight of Tintagel in Cornish. Installed in 2017 the castle sculpture is situated on the far left hand tip of the Island and was designed by Welsh artist Rubin Eynon.
I think this is an amazing sculpture to see and ties together the legend of King Arthur to Tintagel castle.
⇒ Another great medieval castle you can explore in England is Bodiam Castle.
6. Tintagel Beach and Merlin’s Cave
Tintagel Beach and Merlin’s cave is considered to be one best kept secrets in the area. It is understood that the Haven was used as a small port for ships to Tintagel Castle. During high tide, you cannot see the beach or cave but only the beautiful blue water smashing on the rocks. When the tide goes out a beach, waterfall and cave are revealed.
Explore the rock pool, paddle in the water, walk through Merlin’s Cave and watch the waterfall. It’s the perfect spot to relax and keep out of westerly winds.
Access to the beach is via the steep steps and over the rocks on the beach. It may not be suitable for visitors with limited mobility.
Don’t forget your GoPro for your adventures down on the beach and in Merlin’s Cave.
Located at the base of the island on the west side of Tintagel Beach is Merlin’s Cave. During low tide, you can enter the cave and see through to the other side. Legend says that Merlin, who was King Arthur’s teacher, is said to the have lived in this cave.
Keep your eye out for Merlin’ face carved discreetly into the rocks outside the cave.
If you really want to go on the beach and see the cave, you will need to consider the tide times before visiting Tintagel Castle. You can check the Tide Times here before planning your visit, so you’re not disappointed.
Please be careful when the tide is changing, as there are no lifeguards on the beach.
7. Tintagel Castle Visitor’s centre
Located on your way out of Tintagel Castle and near the beach is the visitor’s centre which includes an exhibition, Café, Gift Shop and toilets. It is a great spot to finish off your exploration of this historical landmark while enjoying a bite to eat.
A mask is required before entering any of the buildings, as well as the toilets. Disabled Access is possible to this area of Tintagel Castle.
The exhibition explores the stories that link both King Arthur and the castle over time. It looks at how fact and fiction have contributed to the history and why it was built in Cornwall.
Some of the exhibits in the Tintagel Castle exhibition include a 3D model of the island illustrating how it has changed over the centuries. As well as an oversized open book bringing Tintagel’s mysteries to life with words and pictures.
Head into the gift shop, next door to the exhibition, where you can purchase all things King Arthur and English Heritage. Guide books for Tintagel castle are also available in the gift shop. The toilets are located, next to the gift shop.
The castle café is located in a separate building directly across from the gift shop and exhibition. You can either eat inside or on the terrace whilst enjoying the views out to sea. The café serves a variety of snacks, light lunches, and cakes with most of the menu items sourced locally.
If you are looking for a restaurant or a pub near Tintagel castle then I suggest heading into the village.
8. Tintagel Castle tickets
Tintagel Castle tickets are time allocated, due to the current situation with Covid-19 and social distancing rules, This is so they can limit the numbers of visitors to keep everyone safe. There are two methods of purchasing tickets, booking online in advance and walk ups on the day.
Individual, family tickets and concessions are available, as well as overseas visitor’s pass. If you are an English Heritage member, your ticket will be for free but you will still need to book.
When the Castle gets closed due to the bad weather, you are entitled to a refund or booking for another time slot. Another great English Heritage site to visit with your membership is The Jewel Tower London
- Please note that Tintagel Castle is not part of the National Trust.
Booking your ticket online before visiting?
Consider booking your ticket and timeslot online before visiting Tintagel Castle for both members and non-members. At the entrance, you will be required to give your confirmation. However, once you enter, you can explore at your own leisure.
If you are a member, your ticket will be for free but you will still need to book and provided a booking confirmation.
A great incentive to book your tickets online before you go is it’s cheaper than paying for tickets as a walk-up.
What happens if I don’t book?
You can take the risk of turning up and seeing if you can book a time slot but this will be highly unlikely. I saw a few people turned about away when I was there. You don’t want to get all the way there and have to wait around all day to see if you can get a time slot.
Even if you are an English Heritage member you will not get priority time slots over non-members. Also, walk ups have to pay more than booking online.
Tintagel Castle ticket prices and booking are available online here on the English Heritage site.
Tintagel castle opens at 10 am all year round but closing times differ depending on what time of year it is. The last entry is always one hour before, closing time. For Tintagel castle opening times and hours, you can visit the English Heritage site.
Sometimes the castle and island are closed for the safety of visitors, due to the conditions, especially of high winds. If you are aware that the weather is not going to be good, it is best to check.
Please check the official website for up to date information on Tintagel opening times. This is due to the current situation with Covid-19 restrictions.
9. How to get to Tintagel Castle
Tintagel Castle is located along the north coast of Cornwall England near the village of Tintagel between Bude and Padstow. From central London, it is roughly 235miles away or around 4 hr and a half hours by car. Meaning if you are coming from London it is best for an overnight or weekend trip.
Getting to Tintagel Cornwell can be a bit tricky due to the location, especially if you do not have a car. It is only a small village and there isn’t a train station or a major bus depot with direct routes from London. There is a bus stop but the buses are infrequent and you will need to make a couple of changes.
Alternatively, if you don’t own a car I would consider hiring one before visiting Tintagel Castle for a few days. There are numerous companies in and around London where you can hire a car. Zipcar is also an option if you are a member.
Address & Postcode for Tintagel castle: Castle Rd, Tintagel PL34 0HE
⇒ Looking for a castle or palace in London? How about Kensington Palace
Directions to Tintagel castle
Visitors usually come to Tintagel Castle while holidaying in the popular Cornwall County destinations like Bude, Newquay and also Boscastle, which are all a short drive away.
Bude and Newquay to Tintagal
Bude is 19.6 miles away and you go along the A39. If you are coming from Newquay, go via the A39 which is about 30miles. Boscastle on the other hand is only 3miles away and you can walk along the coast if you up for it.
London to Tintagel
London to Tintagel Castle by car should take around 4 hr 38 min and is about 235miles depending on where you’re based. The drive is pretty straight forward via the A303 and A30.
⇒ Travel Supermarket has a free and easy fast comparison on car hire.
Can you get a Train to Tintagel castle?
Bodmin Parkway is the closest train station to Tintagel Castle and is roughly 15.5 miles away. If you are coming from London then you will need to take the train from Paddington to Penzance first. Great Western Railway services these lines in Cornwall from London.
From Bodmin Parkway you then catch a cab or take the public bus and change. You take the 75 bus to Wadebridge, then the 584 bus to Camelford before changing onto the 595 bus to the Tintagel Visitor Centre.
⇒ Travelling by train to other parts of England, Wales or Scotland? How about the Interrail Great Britain Pass, a convenient way of taking a train journey?
Tintagel Castle Parking
Tintagel castle does not have its own car park for the public and you cannot park near there for free. Instead, parking is available in the village at various locations. English Heritage does not manage these car parks, so they are not free for members.
All car parks are pay and display with hourly rates and some with all-day rates available. To help with the overflow during the high season parking fields are opened. These charges an all-day fee that goes to charity.
The closest car park near Tintagel castle is Old Tintagel Country Club Car Park. Located only about 100 meters away from the ticket kiosk of Tintagel castle, under the Cornish bakery. Please allow yourself 30 minutes to walk from the village car parks to the footbridge entrance for your allocated time slot.
Postcode for Old Tintagel Country Club Car Park: Atlantic Rd, Tintagel PL34 0DD
10. Other things to consider before visiting
Dogs at Tintagel Castle
Dogs are allowed at Tintagel castle and Tintagel village is a dog friendly area. I saw lots of dogs wandering around with their owners all over Cornwall. Tintagel Castle advises though it is best to keep your dog on a lead, due to cliff edges, steep steps, and birds.
When the tide had gone out on Tintagel beach and you can go down and explore, dogs were off their leads playing around in the ocean and in Merlin’s cave.
The time needed for visiting Tintagel castle
Consider the time needed in visiting Tintagel castle to get the most out of your trip. I personally think you need around 2-3 hours to visit Tintagel, factoring in going down the 140 steep stairs. This does not include waiting in the queues on the stairs during peak periods.
This includes walking around the island, seeing the ruins, going down the beach, and visiting the café and exhibition. Add on another 30mins for parking and walking to the castle.
⇒ Here are some good suggestions for day backpacks for exploring, Tintagel all are reasonably priced.
Best time of year to visit
When is the best time to visit Tintagel Castle? The best time to visit is April, May, June and September during the spring or autumn seasons. During the summer months of July and August is peak season. Consider avoiding visiting Tintagel Castle during this period because it gets extremely busy especially on the weekends.
It will take you longer to walk around and see everything, as you might end up waiting a lot longer on the steep stairs. If you are going to go during the peak period, consider booking really early or later in the day.
English Heritage has tried to make most of Tintagel Castle as disabled friendly as possible but it is still very limited. Even with the new footbridge connecting the two sides and giving disabled people access to the Island. This is due to the geography of the historical site.
The hilly rugged terrain of the pathways on the island is uneven and rocky and can be challenging in the strong winds. Not to mention the 140 steep steps to exist off the island to comply with the one way system in place.
Unfortunately, Tintagel Island and the beach are not wheelchair friendly.
Disabled Access is possible to the exhibition, Beach Café, and Shops, as well as the toilets.
Can you see Tintagel Castle without paying
It is possible to see Tintagel castle ruins without paying from afar on the mainland. However, you cannot go onto the island to explore or visit the attractions like King Arthur statue or exhibition. The land around the castle is free to walk along and you can even see Merlin’s Cave on a clear day when the tide is out.
You can take the ‘easy coast path’ walk from St Materiana which goes past Tintagel Castle. Or you can get some amazing views from Barras Nose headland on the Camelot Castle Hotel side. It is also a great spot for watching Tintagel Castle sunset.
⇒ Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes along the coast paths, as some bits are uneven.
11. Additional Information and Tips
- The only toilets available are at the information centre, where the café and exhibition are located. There are none on the island once you cross over the footbridge from the mainland.
- DK Eyewitness (Pocket Travel Guide) was my reference while in Cornwall England.
- Take a water bottle, to keep hydrated, as the only place you can purchase water is at the cafe.
- Tintagel castle guide books are available at all ticket kiosks and the Tintagel castle gift shop.
- Stay connected with 4G SIM Card for the United Kingdom to keep update with maps and things to do in Tintagel.
- How do you pronounce Tintagel? It’s pronounced ‘Tin-TA-jul’.
- Book your ticket online and receive a discount for Tintagel Castle.
12. Taking pictures of Tintagel Castle
Tintagel Castle is visually appealing with its rugged clifftop and a wild landscape making it an instagrammble paradise. There are lots of amazing spots to take pictures on the mainland, island, and beach. Here are just a few popular suggestions for your Tintagel Castle pictures;
On the new bridge – Sitting at 57 meters over the cliffs below, the new red footbridge is a spectacular sight. As you walk across not only will you get some amazing pictures but some of the best views of the coast?
Tintagel Castle Doorway – Just past the Island courtyard is the castle doorway arch, a great spot for taking pictures going through and looking out to the ocean.
King Arthur statue – One of the popular things to do on the Island is to get your picture taking with the giant King Arthur statue.
Tintagel castle gate –Just before you head down the steep stairs towards the beach is the castle gate. The gate looks like it opens out onto the ocean floor.
As far as I know, drones can not be used at Tintagel castle or any other English Heritage sites. However, it seems that some people use their drones along the Cornwall coast. You will need to check the rules for Tintagel.
13. Tours to consider for visiting Tintagel
It is possible to take an organised tour to Tintagel but if you are coming from London they will over a few days. You can also take tours from other parts of Cornwall, Devon, and even Glastonbury. Here are just a few tours to consider for visiting Tintagel Castle with different companies:
- 5 Day Historical Tour from London to Devon and Cornwall, visiting such places like legends of King Arthur, Celtic Kingdoms and Roman towns.
- 2-Day Tour from Glastonbury, visiting King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, as well as Boscastle and Dartmoor.
Related things to do near Cornwall England
14. Consider getting an English Heritage Membership
Tintagel castle is owned by Prince Charles as part of the Duchy of Cornwall estate and is managed by the English Heritage. Consider getting an English Heritage membership before visiting Tintagel Castle. Especially if you are planning on going to other English Heritage sites, like Stonehenge. As it could save you money in the long run.
14.1 Types of English Heritage Memberships
You can get an annual membership for individuals, couples, families, over 60’s, and life memberships. You can even get an overseas visitors pass. Please be aware that English Heritage is not the same as the National Trust, both manage different properties.
My husband and I have a joint English Heritage membership, which we have had for the last few years. It has definitely been worth it for us as we regularly use it.
Here is the link to the English Heritage website for all types of memberships and costs.
How about taking a guided day tour from London to Stonehenge, Winsdor and Bath
15. Hotels near Tintagel Castle
Tintagel is one of the top tourist destinations to visit in Cornwall not just for the castle but for coast walks and outdoor activities. Consider staying in the village when visiting Tintagel Castle, as there is a variety of hotels and places to stay. Which are all within walking distance.
15.1 Types of accommodation in Cornwall
You can choose from Camelot Castle Hotel to Bosayne Guest House. For the more budget conscious you have Dolphins Hostel an adult’s only accommodation or The Headland Caravan & Camping site near Tintagel castle. Search for availability for all types of accommodation in Tintagel Cornwall.
15.2 Camelot Castle Hotel
We stayed at Camelot Castle hotel Tintagel, a 4* hotel located on a cliff overlooking Tintagel castle and island. Our room had stunning ocean views and view of Tintagel Island; it was great waking up to it. If you’re not a guest, you have the option of booking an afternoon tea.
16. Things to do near Tintagel Castel
16.1 King Arthur’s Great Halls
Located in the centre of Tintagel village is King Arthur’s Great Hall a historic building built in the 1930s. Inside you will see the Great Hall, the round table and a small display. As well as beautiful 72 pieces of stained glass window that tells stories of the legend. A book and gift shop devoted to everything King Arthur for Arthurian enthusiasts is also available.
This popular tourist attraction is a great addition to your trip if you like all things, King Arthur.
16.2 The Old Tintagel Post Office
Check out the Tintagel Old Post Office a quirky slate medieval property built over 600 years ago. This property was originally a farmhouse but has since served many uses, most notably being a Victorian Post Office. Today this historical building exhibits the history of the way people used to live over time.
You can explore living courters like the kitchen and bedrooms, as well as the lovely cottage garden at the back. The National Trust currently owns and manages The Tintagel Post Office building and gardens.
16.3 Do one of the coastal walks near Tintagel
Some of the best walking trails in England are along the Cornwall coastline known as Cornish Riviera. While visiting Tintagel Castle, consider doing one of them along the coast on the mainland. It is a great way to have a different view of the Tintagel footbridge and island.
We walked along a trail on Barras Nose located on the headland in Tintagel near Camelot Castle Hotel. Which is free to walk along and is owned by the National Trust.
I wore my Merrell Women’s Ontario Mid Wp 39S Boot that is warm, comfortable and lightweight. They are a great option if you are looking for an ankle boot for coastal walks or hiking.
I think personally that Tintagel Castle is worth a visit, even in the very windy conditions. The views were breath-taking and it was fun exploring the island and the beach. I really like the fact that there are display signs everywhere explaining spots. It meant you could picture yourself back in time and learn at the same time.
Not to mention this is a great day out for all the family, as Tintagel Castle child friendly. Afterward, head to charming Tintagel village with cute shops and quirky pubs.
Whether you believe Arthurian legends and tales of King Arthur or not, it’s a wonderful place to add to your itinerary.
18. Guide Books for Cornwall
If you are exploring other parts of the Cornish coast, I suggest getting a great resourceful guidebook. Which should include maps and information about other areas of Cornwall England. I used DK Eyewitness Top 10 Cornwall and Devon (Pocket Travel Guide), great size for carrying it in your backpack.
Thank you for reading my article about Tintagel Castle, there are a few things to consider before visiting. I hope I was also able to answer any questions you might have had.
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⇒ Looking to discover other parts of England, please feel free to head to my United Kingdom Page
Have you been before? Is there anything else that needs to be considered before visiting Tintagel Castle that I should add?
Disclaimer: All views are based on my own personal experience and I bought my own English Heritage membership.