The History of Tintagel Castle


Tintagel Castle is the birthplace of the legend of King Arthur. It is said that King Uther Pendragon wooed the beautiful Igraine, wife of his enemy Gorlois, with the help of magician Merlin. According to legend, Arthur was conceived and delivered where the ruins of Tintagel Castle now lie. The stories of King Arthur tell of him consorting with giants amongst other mythological creatures, as well as having super human strength and being blessed with immortality. Are these people's elaborations on a truly magnificent ruler? There were many Arthurs born into royalty in the 6th Century, if any were 'the' Arthur, we may never know.

It is believed that hundreds of buildings have covered this area of land over time. There are remains of a 'Dark Ages' fortress discovered by archaeologists that are visible to visitors today. The Dark Ages was a period in medieval Britain that refers to the fall of the Roman Empire. Historians today tend to believe this area in time spanned from the 5th Century to the 10th, although the term tends to be used less frequently now. In June 1998, Chris Morris was overseeing excavation work being done on the site. Pieces of pottery from the 5th and 6th Centuries were found, as well as glass fragments from the 6th and 7th Centuries. Evidence of settlements existing in the 5th Century and beyond, adds weight to the idea of this being King Arthur's birthplace and home.

A further discovery during the excavations, perhaps more exciting, was the uncovering of a 1,500 year old piece of slate. It bore two latin inscriptions, the second reading

'Artognou, father of a descendant of Coll, has had this made'

There is much debate as to who Artognou was and to what this stone relates. More discussion on this stone, as well as photos, can be found here. 

The ruins we see today are of Tintagel Castle, build by Richard, Earl of Cornwall between 1233 and 1236. It is believed that Richard built the castle in a style quite dated for the time. It is understood that this was his way of trying to impress the locals with a building more ancient looking. It had no real purpose, and over time began to fall into disrepair. Some of the buildings were used as a prison for a time, and the land was otherwise used for grazing sheep.