Charmed by Tintagel on the Coast of Cornwall
It was a damp and dreary afternoon when Bob, our son and I arrived in Tintagel, but our despair was fleeting. Lush plantings along main street soon put smiles on our faces. Gardens held back by drystone walls were overflowing with flowers and bursting with rich colour. What a welcome sight!
Even before arriving in Tintagel, we were captivated by the rugged and romantic coastline of Cornwall. We three had just finished reading the Bernard Cornwell Trilogy about King Arthur and Excalibur, so the legendary connection of King Arthur’s life to this very area spelled mystery and intrigue in our eyes before we even set foot on the land.
Barely 1/2 a mile from the coast, the bare upland is suddenly interrupted by Tintagel’s simple quaint houses that exude a mysterious charm themselves.
Throw in a rider on a sleek mount clopping its way through town, some intricate drystone walls made of slate slabs, and pretty pastel cottages, and we had a recipe for total enchantment.
Throughout the day, we had experienced a mixed bag of weather including mist, sunshine and finally rain when the low, heavy clouds bumped into the elevated terrain of the Bodmin Moors. Upon arriving at our snug suite at Trevenna Lodge Bed & Breakfast, finally, a bit of clear sky prevailed. We were tempted to sit for awhile in the garden, but curiosity got the better of us.
At our son’s urging, we set off to explore. A thin trail across the rolling fields tempted us because it led towards the cliffs that drop away to the Atlantic Ocean.
Drystone fences crisscross the countryside in part to keep livestock contained on their owner’s property, but also to act as windbreaks against fierce storms blowing in off the North Atlantic.
Other trampers had the same idea for a late-afternoon stroll. Because paths cut across an endless number of paddocks, stiles are conveniently placed bridging the stone walls. It was quite novel walking among the cows. Their soft lowing created a sense of calm even though I was excited to look down on the dramatic coastline.
As we made our way over the rocky hills and stony paths, two Pheasants exploded from a thicket startling us. That pretty much completed my foregone impression of the bucolic English countryside.
At last installed at the edge of the cliffs, we each were left to ponder the legend of King Arthur while the never-ending roar of the Atlantic breakers blocked out all other sounds. An unmistakable ancient aura embraced us as we looked out over the gigantic headlands and down to the rocky shore 300 feet below.
A moment such as that required time dedicated to rest and relaxation. We were happy to sit on the wild grasses, nestled among the stones, read our books, catch a wink and have a little refreshment. While the tide came in and the surf pounded the rocky outcrops, my mind kept wandering as I contemplated our plans for the following day.
From our clifftop perch, we had a view of the craggy “island” offshore where King Arthur’s castle once stood proud.
Judging by the steep wooden staircase seen in the distance, a challenging hike was in store for us up to the steep point and that windswept piece of land where the Castle once loomed proud.
We wasted no time the following morning in setting off for Tintagel Castle, and we soon discovered that the medieval fortification was built half on the mainland, seen above with Tintagel in the distance, and half on the jagged headland projecting into the Cornish Sea.
Bob, our son and I spent a good while exploring the ruins of Tintagel Castle under cool, misty conditions. I’ve got to tell you that climbing the 148 wooden steps from the shore to the promontory and then descending them again had all of our legs trembling from exertion.
After a quick stop at a pastry shop on Main Street, Tintagel, to pick up provisions for a picnic lunch, we gratefully piled into our car and drove to nearby Trebarwith Strand Beach, touted as one of the finest in Cornwall.
The tide was out leaving all the rocky ledges high and dry, perfect spots for people to wile away the afternoon. Substantial Cornish pasties and sumptuous pastries filled our hungry tummies as we loafed on the unyielding shelves of rock.
Aside from all the people playing in the surf, many children splashed in the warm tidal pools. The ocean was very cold so most people wore wet suits, but many carefree youngsters gallivanted about in their birthday suits.
We were ill-prepared to go swimming, but honestly, the cold water would have forestalled any attempt by me for a complete body dunk. Still, we had to wade in the Cornish Sea just for the sake of saying we did so. Brrr!
A leisurely stroll along the strand brought us to a sea cave that was safe to explore since the water was low. Of course, we entertained ideas of pirates and marauders as we stole into the dingy darkness. It was fun!
Back in Tintagel, we made the obligatory stop to photograph and learn about Tintagel’s Old Post Office. Starting life as a 14th Century Cornish longhouse, the Old Post Office is now a treasured National Trust building that exudes the charm of such tiny granite cottages.
Wandering the streets of Tintagel offered so many beautiful gardenscapes. I was tempted more than once to amble down a secret path to discover what was just beyond. I restrained myself with much difficulty.
Instead, once again, we hit the hills. The lure of the sheer cliffs was too much to resist.
As the golden rays of sun washed over us, we reveled at the majesty of the Cornish landscape where land meets sea. We three were totally enchanted with this part of England, but adventure was calling us elsewhere. We would be heading off to Bath on the morrow.
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