Daytrip – 30th Sept 2011
When it comes to holidaying, people are renowned for neglecting their own locale in favour of somewhere farther afield. Over more recent times, however, we’ve been making a point of sucking the marrow out of the local tourist destinations (as it were). And, as we had a visitor over from Down Under who was keen to visit Tintagel Castle, we fired up the campervan for another daytrip.
The site of Tintagel Castle, set on Cornwall’s north coast, is now owned by English Heritage and, as most of you will know, it’s the birthplace of King Arthur – or, should I say, the legendary King Arthur…?
Having paid our entrance fee, we were treated to a short video about the site, which made it clear that the story of King Arthur is not necessarily fact, but may actually fall into the realm of myth.
Hmm…, I thought, we fork out good money to see King Arthur’s birthplace, and then we find out the guy might never have existed!? Well, we were here now, so I guess we’d have to make the most of our day – King Arthur or no King Arthur.
Now, I could have regaled you with tales about having visited a bleak, windswept coastline and it might have sounded quite atmospheric, what with romantic monarchic legends haunting the landscape. Unfortunately, it was a beautiful day which showed off the last of the summer sunshine, so much so that our Ozzie visitor probably thought he was back home. I apologised for the good weather, promising that it actually was normally much more overcast and gloomy here in England. Better luck next time, eh?
Apparently, Tintagel Castle was built about 500 years ago (some time after the not-sure-he-even-existed King Arthur was supposed to have lived). However, before we were to see any of the ruins, we would have to scale a heckuva lot of steps. And I don’t use the word ‘scale’ here lightly. The steps were so steep that one lady had to lift her dog up them. And don’t get me started on wheelchair access – which would have been impossible unless you had a winch.
At the top of the first flight of steps were the remains of a fortification, now home to a solitary seagull. Looking over the walls, it was clear that the sheer cliffs and lashing seas would have afforded strong protection against marauders – and, if nothing else, the steep incline would have wheedled out the unfit ones.
Descending the steps was almost as hairy as the ascent, and we moved on to another set of slightly-less-steep steps which led, through a medieval-looking doorway, to the main headland. Here were the ruins of a stronghold built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in the early 13th Century.
Over the years, the headland has apparently seen many constructions come and go; and outlines of old buildings can be seen dotted about. Thousands of pieces of pottery have been found in the area, which have led archaeologists to believe that Tintagel was the centre of a luxury goods trade, the likes of which are unknown in the rest of Cornwall.
On such a sunny day, the views from the cliffs were glorious; and I had to wonder what it must have been like living on the headland all those years ago, especially when it was cold, wet and windy. Squalling winter days might make an atmospheric backdrop to films and TV shows about King Arthur and the (also legendary) wizard, Merlin (whose dwelling cave is said to have been somewhere down below the cliffs), but they can’t have been that pleasant to endure.
After we’d had enough exploration, it was time to head off to town so our friend from Down Under could experience a traditional Cornish Cream Tea. Now, some say that Cornish folk aren’t that bright, but Steve & I have always thought that anyone who can charge a fiver for a bit of hot water, a couple of teabags plus scones, cream & jam – all of which are pretty cheap and left to the customer to look after – has got to be pretty canny!
Fully refreshed, we made our way home and our Ozzie friend spotted a sign for ‘Arthur’s Stone’, so we turned off to investigate. No doubt, he was keen to see if this would lead us to the stone from which King Arthur pulled out his legendary (and possibly non-existent) sword, Excalibur.
Unfortunately, time was getting on and the entrance gates were locked. We turned round and drove off. My friend might not have shown it, but deep down I think he was disappointed at not having had a chance at trying to pull the sword from the stone. Oh, well… At least he’d been to see Tintagel Castle… even if Arthur was the stuff of legends and might not even have existed in the first place!
TIPS & CONCLUSIONS
- Since there is no parking at Tintagel Castle, you need to find alternative parking. We found a spot just before the town which was cheap at only £1.50 a day. The Pay & Displays in town would probably cost a bit more.
- Rather than take extended holidays, why not go for shorter local breaks and learn something about your area. The money you’d normally spend on fuel can either be saved or spent on a treat and you avoid the hassle of having to load up the campervan.
For the foreseeable future, we’ll be taking our own advice and getting the most out of the campervan by making daytrips. It’s a great way of exploring the local area whilst letting the van stretch its wheels every now and then.
We recently made a short trip out in the camper to undertake what would no doubt have looked to some like ‘strange goings-on’ off the A30 – all of which will be the focal point of another Steve’s Cycle Shorts soon.
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WHAT?… THERE’S MORE?…
If you noticed the date of our trip to Tintagel, you’ll probably be wondering why it’s taken me so long to post. What have I been doing all this time?… Sitting on my backside? Err… Well, the answer is YES, actually, I have!
As it happens, I’ve been beavering away on my other writing projects so I can finally get round to working up a first draft for my Campervan Capers book.
My book is now finished, so you can now read about our adventures in Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.