Friday, 19 March 2010

A March Afternoon at Tintagel

On a bright, cold Sunday in early March, we drove the eighteen miles or so from Launceston, up to the North Atlantic Coast of Cornwall. The village of Tintagel lies at the head of a narrow valley where a fast running stream rushes down to the sea. There has been a settlement here at least since Roman times, as the rocky headland gives a fine vantage point out to sea, while the sheltered cove and beach would have offered a safe haven for seagoing ships.

Tintagel has been associated for centuries with the legend of King Arthur. It was here that he was said to have been born. The Victorian poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, renewed interest in this legendary past when he wrote and published his "Idylls of the King". It is also said to be the setting for the tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde.

Today, there are the ruins of a fine 13th century castle on the clifftop of a rocky island at Tintagel cove. According to the English Heritage website, this medieval castle was built as the residence of Richard, Earl of Cornwall.

We had only a short time in Tintagel, so we decided to leave a castle visit for another occasion.
We began our afternoon with a light lunch at an ancient village inn, parts of which are four hundred years old. The barmaid told us that the inn is haunted. The room now used as a residents` lounge was once the village jail. There are marks in the floor where the bars of the jail were fixed.
A collection of ale measuring jugs hangs in the dining room of the inn. The jugs carry the name of a brewery and would have been used to measure out beer at the bars of inns and hotels across the land.
The building jutting out to the right is the site of the old village jail.

Looking up Tintagel`s main village road.

The Womens Institute (WI) hall. A meeting place for the village community.

Next to the WI Hall is the Old Post Office, which can be visited during the summer months. A Victorian post box is set into the wall.

Another village inn. The village shops now seem mostly to be gift shops for tourists.Their theme is very "Arthurian" !
As we started on our walk down to the sea, we noticed that crows had started to build a nest.

The stream that rushes down the "Vale of Avalon" towards the sea.

Rocky outcrops, and at last, a glimpse of blue water.

The 13th century keep of the clifftop castle at Tintagel.

A downward path towards the sea. Old mining buildings have been converted to a cafe and a visitors` centre . The castle remains the property of the Duchy of Cornwall ( held byPrince Charles) but is protected and managed by English Heritage.

A herringbone patterned wall built into the cliff beside the path, presumably to prevent erosion.

The cove and a small, sheltered beach. One of the caves is known as the legendary wizard Merlin`s Cave.
The stream rushed over the cliff edge and tumbles as a waterfall, down into the sea.

The area around Tintagel has been associated with mining tin and slate since Roman times. At Tintagel Cove there are reminders of slate mining and the methods used to transport the rock down the steep cliff faces and into waiting boats.
The sheltered cove where boats would have moored as they collected slate.

The footbridge across to the rocky island where Tintagel Castle stands. Was this the legendary Isle of Avalon?

Remains of the 19th century cast iron Donkey Winch that was used to lower slate down the cliffside and into waiting boats. The winch was apparently driven by a donkey, who was blindfolded to protect him from the sight of the sheer drop below. All day long, the donkey walked in a circle to drive the winch.

Information boards tell of the artefacts found at Tintagel Cove during archaeological explorations. Pottery from the 5th and 6th centuries has been found, along with fine glass fragments which may have originated in 7th century Spain. A piece of slate, inscribed in Latin, dates from around 1500 years ago.

Too soon, it was time to leave this beautiful and fascinating place. We turned back and walked uphill, through the steeply sided peaceful valley where, despite the cold, birdsong and young green plants were showed evidence of early spring. That evening, we had to return home to Hampshire across the darkening hills of Devon and Dorset. The evening sun was behind us as we drove eastwards past Dartmoor, where the high plateau glowed pink in the sunset light.

1 comment:

Mac n' Janet said...

Went to Tintagel a number of years ago when we were in England, your post brings back good memories.