Legend has it that Charles Dickens visited Tintagel as one of the earliest tourists to seek out King Arthur’s Castle. There were no signposts nor roads leading to the ruins in those days, and on arrival, according to the tale, Mr. Dickens said to his fellow travellers: “Who in God’s name could have built a castle in such a forlorn place?”

Today, the modern visitor, nearing the end of his journey, is well directed through a series of winding roads to a tiny village with its large car park, that eventually leads on to the hidden ruins of what was once a fortress of forgotten tales.

Before he ventures forth, he is confronted with a multitude of souvenir and gift shops, cafes and pubs that hint at the legendary past of fair maidens, knights in shining armour and governing kings. He cannot help but breath in the air of English Heritage almost present in visible form. Tour guides dressed in khaki uniform remind him of England’s military past as they smile and answer the monotonous sought after question: “Where did King Arthur die?”

Once he passes ‘go’ - paid his £2.95 to enter the enshrined area - the immediate sense of history begins to take over. The initial effect is to hold his breath as he crosses the threshold and approaches the rocky drop to the ocean below that surrounds the castle. Holding on to the rails and climbing the 20th century stairs to the top he is finally confronted with the most magnificent of views. The sea, the coast, the castle, the village and his fellow tourists all blend into the image that sets the scene for next year’s postcards. Bless the legend of Camelot with King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Guinevere and all the rest of the Cornish mythical characters!

© James Skinner 2001