Mention Tintagel and you immediately imagine the exciting legend of King Arthur, Merlin and Excalibur. A whole tourist industry has built up around the mythical tale, but if you look behind the obvious in Tintagel, you will still find the magic in which to believe.
The story is that King Arthur was conceived and born in Tintagel but there is more to the legend than that, so you can find out all about it when you go to this romantic, historic place, best seen in mid-low season, when it is less busy and you have time and space to explore. Indeed, if you wish, you could base your entire holiday on the search for King Arthur. You may not find him, but you will learn an awful lot in the process and see parts of Cornwall you had not foreseen. Great fun for all the family starts here.
From the A30, you need to take the A395, shortly after Launceston, towards Camelford, then you will shortly meet the A39 from which you will see a right turn, the B3314. From here, the B3263 takes you through Trewarmett to Tintagel.
From Bodmin Parkway you can get the number 75 bus to Wadebridge bus station, the 584 bus to Camelford, then the 595 bus to the Tintagel Visitor Centre.
An easier alternative is to hire a car or take a taxi from Bodmin Parkway. Do book in advance, as there are no operators based at the station. Check taxis here.
Tintagel has three main car parks:
There is also a small, free car park at Jeffrey’s Pit, near Tintagel, though the parking is grass and loose surface, rather than tarmac. It is often cheaper to go to privately owned car parks, especially if you are staying all day; a number of these are scattered around the town.
There are a number of places to eat in Tintagel. Check out Charlie’s Café, a deli-cafe which focuses on seafood and British cuisine. They also make fresh bread daily. Alternatively, why not try the Olive Garden for Italian food and pizza in a lovely cosy situation.
Vega is a vegetarian/vegan soul food restaurant which offers great food (also to takeaway). Prices are very reasonable and food is very tasty and ethically produced.
On the outskirts of Tintagel, you’ll find Tintagel Brewery Bar & Bistro proudly serving their very own home-brewed beers and Wagyu beef. Overlooking the spectacular Cornish scenery, with views spanning from Roughtor and Bodmin Moor to the North Cornish coastline.
For pub food why not try the Olde Malthouse Inn? It offers wonderful service and food plus good beer – real ale, real food. The Cornishman Inn is only minutes away from the castle, with extensive grounds, perfect for families to sit outside. The King Arthur’s Arms in the heart of Tintagel is also a great place to go for lunch, with local produce and free range Cornish eggs.
For something a little different try Irina’s restaurant at the rather splendid Camelot Castle Hotel.
Tintagel Castle, where history meets legend, is a pretty spectacular location, a beautiful place oozing magic to fire your children’s imaginations. In 2019, a stunning new cantilever bridge was built, connecting the headland to the castle – that’s fun to walk across.
However, be warned, the castle is quite hard work with pushchairs as it is hilly and uneven terrain. If you do manage to get down to the sea, then you will have a great time on the shore. There is a cave to discover at low tide and beautiful bright blue water to enjoy. The kids will want to check out Merlin’s Cave. Located below Tintagel Castle, the birthplace of King Arthur, the cave is believed to be where Merlin lived but it is only accessible at low tide.
The new footbridge at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall. Photograph by David Levene, English Heritage
Try the Tintagel Toy Museum, an eccentric little space which is crammed to the rafters with miniature cars, dolls, teddy bears, and memorabilia for the grown-ups. Can’t help suspecting mum and dad will enjoy it even more than the children! It is also a collectors’ shop selling die-cast model cars by Corgi and Matchbox.
Nearby Bossiney has crazy golf, great fun for all the family.
Tintagel has cliffs and rocks but west of Tintagel, sandy beaches are within an easy drive. Surfers and water sports enthusiasts head to Polzeath for a relaxing day out, which is great for beginners.
Surfers also flock to Newquay with its numerous beaches. Coasteering is an amazing activity to try which will make your holiday even more memorable. It is a fun mixture of adventure swimming, scrambling and jumping to give you a unique sea level view of the spectacular coastline. You’ll see abundant wildlife, too. Lots of Coasteering companies use nearby Bossiney for coasteering experiences, including Saltwater Safari and Cornish Rock Tors.
Benoath Cove is where experienced surfers test their mettle, but the water is very lively here, so definitely not for beginners.
King Arthur’s Great Halls is a visitor attraction set up to promote Arthurian courtly ideals, but which has some wonderful artwork, such as 72 superb Arts and Crafts windows by the stained glass artist, Veronica Whall, telling the story of Arthurian legend.
You reach the beach via a vertiginous stairway, but it is well worth it to explore Merlin’s Cave at low tide.
It is difficult to access for very young children. The cave features in Tennyson’s Idyll of the Kings poem, where Merlin is described as standing by the entrance to the cave holding the infant Arthur in his hands.
In 2016, English Heritage unveiled a carving of Merlin’s face in the cliff by the entrance. The beach is sandy with clear water, perfect for a paddle.
Head to Tintagel Artisan Confections for foodie gifts like fudge, old-fashioned humbugs and sweets, are all made with love. Silver Stone has a large selection of fossils and crystals, while Sea Dolphin sells natural remedies, novelty and ethical gifts, and planet-friendly self care and beauty products (you can also book yourself in for a massage too!). The Castle also has an English Heritage shop which you can visit without paying to go to the castle – perfect for toy swords and shields.
Why not go on a bear hunt and visit the Urchins Bear Shop, for bears of all shapes and sizes? Cornish Craftiness is another cool option with a wide range of exciting and unusual items from Cornish crafters.
Tintagel has a couple of galleries. North Shore Gallery on Fore Street offers a portfolio of photography from all over Cornwall, including seascapes. Dean Murphy’s gallery, meanwhile, is situated in Trebarwith Strand. He sells original paintings in oil, watercolour and mixed-media plus seascapes and figurative work. Trebarwith is just a mile away from Tintagel.
Near to the Old Post Office is Jo Downs petite Cornish gallery selling handmade glass items plus exclusive designs based on Tintagel’s Gull Rock.
On a wet weather day, it helps to go with the flow, and choose a watersport, such as surfing, snorkelling, sea kayaking or rockpooling. Nearby Trebarwith Strand is perfect for rockpooling, but also, in places, for snorkelling, diving and surfing. It is rare for rain to be torrential and incessant, so take some waterproofs and take short walks between showers, or aim for indoor entertainment. Luckily, our properties are all very well equipped so you should have no problem.
The Great Hall has armour, ceremonial swords, and a round table, all in a magnificent building. The Old Post Office (National Trust) is a Medieval yeoman’s farmhouse, adapted down the centuries from a traditional Cornish longhouse. Rickety from the outside, the old post office area has also been preserved inside. A lovely visit and free to National Trust members.
Take a walk up to the exceptionally old church of St Materiana, roosting on the cliff top. You can continue on a short circular walk which takes in vistas of the new bridge and the coastline. In autumn, the cliff area is known for house martins preparing to migrate south, plus the peregrine falcons and merlins that prey on them.
Inland a couple of miles away is Conolden Hill, with a Bronze Age barrow, which ties into Arthurian lore. This reaches a height of 308 metres.
Much-photographed, is an 8ft (2.4 metre) bronze sculpture called Gallos, of King Arthur. This intricate, impressive sculpture blends in well with the cliffs of Tintagel. It is part of Tintagel Castle, and is the work of Welsh sculptor, Rubin Eynon. It was flown in by helicopter to be put in place. Gallos means ‘power’, and it is a really powerful sculpture, well worth a look.
Seek out Fontevrault Chapel, a tiny, ancient and spartan chapel, which looks a little like a shed from outside. It is open to the public to see and for prayer and contemplation, although privately owned. An authentic experience.
The new award-winning bridge at the castle reinstates a medieval crossing which connected the clifftop to the castle during the 14th to 17th centuries. It saves a hundred steps of uphill slog…
Tintagel Bridge Credit English Heritage
In Tintagel, even the summer tends to be windy though not uncomfortably so, and breeze is often welcome on a hot day. Over the year, the temperature varies from 5°C in winter to 19°C in summer. The best time of year to visit Tintagel for warm weather is from late June to early September, as with much of Cornwall.
You will find public toilets at the Castle, which has disabled toilets and a baby changing area. These are generally clean and well-presented. Toilets at the Visitors’ Centre cost 50p, so be aware.
Steeped in myths and legends, Tintagel is one of Cornwall’s most popular holiday destinations.