Come for the King Arthur legends, stay for the cliffy coastal landscape in northern Cornwall.
Tintagel–also known as Trevena–is a village located on the rugged, cliffy northern coast of Cornwall, in southwestern England. Tintagel and the nearby Tintagel Castle are associated with the legends of King Arthur, and archaeological evidence also suggests a centuries-long history. The clifftop castle is a popular tourist attraction and the views and cliffside paths are worth braving the crowds to see, but Tintagel is also a convenient base for exploring other parts of Cornwall. There are a handful of caravan parks and campsites around Tintagel, and many more in the surrounding Cornish countryside.
Southeast of Tintagel, the large granite moorland of Bodmin Moor contains some of Cornwall’s highest peaks, and is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The bleak, heather-covered moorland is still used as a grazing site for ponies, but was densely populated in the Bronze Age, so contains archaeological sites of interest. A highway runs through the moor so it’s easy to visit on a day trip, and there are hiking and cycling trails to explore.
The spectacular cliffy coastline doesn’t stop at Tintagel–further west is the Trevose Head Heritage Coast, a rugged stretch of walking paths frequented by wildlife and dotted with picturesque lighthouses and other historic sites. Visitors may also see seals here. There are camping spots and caravan parks throughout the area, particularly around the village of Padstow.
Straddling the Cornwall–Devon border, the Tamar Valley AONB is southeast of Tintagel, beside Cornwall’s English Channel coast. The Tamar, Tavy, and Lynher Valleys meet here and become the Tamar, flowing into the ocean near Plymouth. There are walking and cycling paths, from short trips to multi-day expeditions that reach from the south coast near Plymouth to the north coast, further north from Tintagel.
Tintagel is a fascinating and atmospheric place to visit at any time of year, but to best appreciate the outdoor attractions, visit in summer. During this season, the weather will usually be warm, relatively dry, and the days long–ideal for tent or caravan camping. Outside of summer, opt for cabin or cottage accommodation.
Like much of the rest of the south west, Tintagel has been attracting people on holiday for generations thanks in part to its historic sites including, of course, the English Heritage-listed castle. The ruins of this sprawling, 1,500-year-old castle, with links to the legendary King Arthur, are split between the mainland and a headland. A visit includes the opportunity to visit the beach below, and if the tide’s out, Merlin’s Cave too.
Over in Tintagel village, another somewhat smaller site of historical interest is the National Trust’s Old Post Office. This crooked building is actually a 14th-century farmhouse that was repurposed as a post office in Victorian times. And if you head a little way out of town, you can discover St Nectan's Glen, a shady woodland walk passing three waterfalls and the site of the hermitage of the sixth-century Saint Nectan—with a cafe and shop thrown in for good measure.
If it's beaches you're here for, the small Tintagel Haven beach at the foot of the cliffs is worth a look, but like many of the small beaches and coves tucked among the rugged cliffs of this part of the Cornish coast, it's only accessible when the tide's out. You don’t have to travel far to find wide bays and golden sands though. Trebarwith Sands, two miles south of Tintagel, is good for swimming and surfing at low tide, and it isn’t far from the well-known beaches at Polzeath and Bude. For coastal walking, you’re spoiled for choice with the South West Coast Path tracking a route along the entire coast of Cornwall (and beyond). Set your compass for Port Isaac or Boscastle to try freshly landed fish and explore the winding streets of charming Cornish harbour villages.