My lips curled into a smile when I saw the word Tintagel etched on a huge slab of slate. I had finally made it. I have wanted to visit Tintagel Castle since I read my first book of legends about King Arthur. I was not more than 10 years old. Since then I have read various re-tellings of Arthur’s tale. From Malory’s Morte D’Arthur to Tennyson’s Idylls Of The King; from The Child Of The Holy Grail to the more controversial The Mists of Avalon - and so many others that I cannot remember the names of all of them.
I am still not sure where the fascination lies but of one thing I am certain – this legendary hero from the Dark Ages has ridden through the swirling mists of time and gripped my imagination as surely as his strong hands once gripped Excalibur.
Tintagel Castle, perched high and precariously on the cliffs of North Cornwall, is said to be the place of Arthur’s birth. (Those not familiar with the legend may read it a very short version of it here). The climb to what remains of the ruins requires an almost super-human effort but, once up there, the view is as wild, spectacular, rugged and unspoilt as I had expected it to be. Tintagel Castle boasts an interesting history. But what of Arthur?
I believe that a legend which has survived for hundreds of years and which has captured the imagination of thousands of people so fervently must have, at least, a kernel of truth in it. After all, each legend is as true as we want it to be. I believe that if we seek hard enough we will find what we are looking for.
As I sat at the top of the castle’s magnificent headland I found the Arthur that I had always seeked. His legacy lay in the surrounding land that still remembers him. Perhaps, he does lie sleeping, somewhere in the apple-scented land of Avalon and, perhaps, as the legend goes, he will return when Britain needs him.
And standing there, on the windy headland of what once was a magnificent castle, it dawned on me that Arthur has returned, many times, under different names and in the guise of countless men and women who have done their duty to their country. The real Arthur would wish for no more.
Ah … and what about the magic of Tintagel? Well, it is hard for such a beautiful place not to lay its spell on such a one as me. I arrived curious and left enchanted and, as I stole one last glance at Merlin’s Cave, and imagined the thick mists for which this coast is so famous moving like wraiths around it, I had no doubts as to why a legend so powerful and so magical had come into being.
If you are interested, King Arthur, ‘Once and Future King’ amalgamates the historical figure with the myth and makes an interesting read.
And I will stop here, at least for today, before I get carried away, by the magic of Tintagel and by its legendary hero, to some misty realm.