I arrived in Tintagel around lunchtime and from first glance it looked much like the other villages I had passed through. Following the signposts to the castle I soon discovered a high street full of unique and colourful shops, tea houses and pubs, many of which had linked their names to the Arthurian history of the area. For those of you not in the know, Tintagel castle is famed as the conception place of King Arthur, and the village have embraced this heritage full-heartedly.
Journey on further and you will reach the entrance to Tintagel island and castle. Now, prepare to climb. The English Heritage have worked hard to make the island as accessible as possible, but even so I found myself feeling like Frodo Baggins climbing up to Mordor as I looked at the stairway up ahead of me.
For those challenged by heights such as I am, my advice for you is to keep looking at the steps and take your time. You can do it!
The rewards for your walk are the wild and beautiful coastal views from the top of the island edge, with the scene below of the waterfall and beach, home of Merlin’s cave. As you walk to the jagged tip, a sculpture of King Arthur shifts into focus standing proudly as guardian of the site.
The sculpture and the settlement ruins look completely at home in their surroundings, as though they are meant to be a part of the cliff. On a day of swirling winds and rain, I felt completely swept up into another world. I loved the naturalness of it all.
After your island adventure, you will no doubt find tummies rumbling and Tintagel village is perfect for enjoying that quintessential treat, the Cornish cream tea. I swirled into the Village Tea Rooms with the wind and absolutely recommend it, although there is no shortage of cozy places to indulge in. As well as this, the village’s selection of magical gift shops are great for souvenirs and don’t miss the Old Post Office, a 14th century cottage with some great Victorian postal memorabilia.
Buses run to Tintagel every two hours in general. I would recommend checking your return bus times upon arrival. Merlin’s cave and the beach at Tintagel are only accessible when the tide is out, so it is definitely worth co-ordinating your visit along with the sea tides if you wish to see this area.
My last stop of the day was Padstow, a location I had been told to visit by nearly everyone I had mentioned my trip to. One of Cornwall’s most well-known fishing town, Padstow’s history dates back well into Roman times and has seen its way through the days of Vikings, Smugglers and War. Today’s town is rich in historical treasures pointing back through Padstow’ history. Follow the trail of tourists down the pretty shopping streets and feel instantly transported to the days of daily grocery shopping and old markets in the square.
The quay still shines at Padstow’s centre as the gateway to Padstow harbour with the Camel estuary beyond and I spent some happy minutes sat watching the boats enter and leave on their travels. Padstow was one of the main ports along the coastline with a thriving export trade and hub of smuggling activity. Many of the quayside buildings display features from the days of old and it is a pleasure to simply wander about, allowing the sights and sounds of the town to wash over you. Just don’t fall in, there are no rails alongside the quay!
Nowadays the primary export from Padstow is fish & seafood, and the town seems to be supporting the entire fishing life-cycle. The National Lobster Hatchery is located here at Riverside, strangely situated opposite the cookery school and flagship restaurant of TV’s Rick Stein – The Seafood Restaurant. The town is a popular attraction for tourists and surfers and there are a variety of seaside and surf shops to supply you with everything you need for the great outdoors. With beaches, boat trips and seaside safaris to look forward to, you won’t want to waste one minute indoors.
Bus leave from Wadebridge to Padstow every hour-ish.
Where would I go if I had more time?
Port Isaac, the quiet coastal village which is the home of TV’s Doc Martin and sits between Tintagel and Padstow. Bodmin Moor would also be on my list, to visit the world famous smugglers den at The Jamaica Inn along with a tour of ITV Poldark’s cottage home.