Planning a visit to Cornwall, UK? Make sure you add Tintagel Castle and Merlin's cave to your itinerary- you won't regret it. Here's everything you need to know to plan your visit.
Ever heard of King Arthur? The wizard Merlin? Knights of the Round Table?
Just the names alone conjure up images of battles & wizards & men in armour rescuing damsels in distress.
Tintagel Castle and Merlin's Cave
There is some (ok, a lot) of debate on whether or not King Arthur and Merlin really existed, and whether Tintagel Castle is Camelot- home of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It's generally accepted that it's not (due to pesky things like dates and historical accuracy) but the legends persist.
Even better, at the bottom of the cliffs on which Tintagel Castle stands is a cave- which therefore HAS to be Merlin's Cave (there's even a picture of him carved in to the rock!)
Whether you believe the myths and legend or not, it's a wonderful place to add to your Cornwall Road trip itinerary (along with these 40 other best places to visit in Cornwall!) Our daughter loved it, even as a teenager.
Here's everything you need to know to help you plan your visit to Tintagel Castle and Merlin's Cave!
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Want to see what Tintagel Castle and Merlin's Cave is REALLY like?
Watch the video below and experience Tintagel Castle and Merlin's cave up close (including some incredible drone shots.)
NOTE: This video was filmed in 2018- before the new bridge was finished.
Tintagel Castle Cornwall
Whether you believe the legend or not, a real castle stood on this hilltop- and the ruins are still open to be explored today, thanks to English Heritage. You don't need to be a member of English Heritage to visit, but members get reduced prices.
You can join English Heritage on arrival, or in advance here
Where is Tintagel, King Arthur's Castle located?
Tintagel is a small town on the northern coast of Cornwall, England. Tintagel Castle is right on the outskirts of this town.
What is Tintagel Castle famous for?
The Castle is one of the most spectacular castle ruins in Britain- mainly due to it's imposing views and also due to being built on a small island (which you used to have to walk up, but is now connected by a long bridge)
There are plenty of ruins to explore, including old doors, walls, battlements and an incredible statue of a historic Knight.
Tintagel Castle Parking
Parking in Tintagel is pretty good as long as you get there early or visit outside of the school holidays.
We spent the night in our motorhome at King Arthur's car park in Tintagel village itself, after a lovely day spent at Boscastle.
There are loads of car parks in this one small town and nearly all of them allow overnight motorhome parking for a small fee. It's not possible to book in advance. We chose to stop at King Arthur's car park because it was the flattest one which had tarmac (normally we wild camp with our motorhome, often on grass, but it had rained so much and we didn't want to get stuck in the mud!)
The car park cost £4 for 24 hours – which was pretty good for a major tourist attraction! It's a normal car park though, so don't expect any services/ water/electric/ toilet/ waste emptying.
How much does it cost to visit Tintagel Castle?
From our parking in Tintagel, we could walk to the English Heritage office in less than 5 minutes (that's before the LONG walk down to the ruins themselves.)
Price for non-members was £9.30 with gift aid (in 2018). Check the opening times on their website as they close over the winter except for weekends. Dogs are allowed but MUST be kept on leads. Please remember the climb is VERY steep, so it's not suitable for young dogs, or any other dog with walking difficulties. Same applies to humans.
There is a land rover service which runs during holidays- we were very thankful for this on the way back! I think it was £2 per person per trip.
Can you visit Tintagel castle without paying?
Yep, you can, although not up close. The surrounding land is free to walk on, so head to the coast path and you'll be able to see the island and even Merlin's cave clearly (on a sunny day) but not much of the ruins.
Alternatively, you can use your travel drone and take it out over the sea- be sure not to get too close or break any drone flying laws.
Are there toilets at Tintagel Castle?
At the bottom (before the climb up to the castle), there's a little shop, cafe & toilets (including disabled and baby-changing facilities). Use these- there are NO toilets or facilities up at Tintagel Castle.
How long is the walk up to Tintagel, King Arthur's Castle?
We climbed up to Tintagel Castle ruins- very VERY steep steps and we were all exhausted when we got to the top. There is only one way up and down so there was lots of stopping and starting as the steps are very steep and narrow. Did I mention they were steep??
It probably takes around 20 minutes of non-stop climbing from the cafe at the bottom to the ruins at the top. The more elderly or less fit might really struggle- we saw several people give up and turn back. Unfortunately, because it is an ancient castle built onto a hill, there is no other way to get up there!! But the views are definitely worth it once you're up.
Tintagel Castle Bridge?
Since our last visit in 2018, a new 70m bridge has been built across to the island where the castle ruins stand.
Apparently, there used to be in the Middle Ages, so English Heritage has rebuilt it- reducing the need to climb 100+ steps! Don't forget though, that the bridge only goes to the top of the island. If you want to go down to Merlin's Cave or the beach, the only way is the steep steep stairs.
There is a 40mm gap between the two sides of the bridge- so perhaps you might prefer the steps if you're scared of heights!! (Although during global pandemics, they've set up a one-way system, so you don't get a choice!) They do have suggestions for wheelchair users/ those with limited mobility to go at the end of the day so they can return via the bridge, but everyone else needs to prepare for stairs)
King Arthur Statue at Tintagel Castle
Make sure you go to visit the Knight of Tintagel Castle. He's right on the cliff edge- about another 20-minute walk from the top of the stairs- but it's a fantastic sculpture and well worth a photo.
There is also an old store which the inhabitants of the castle would have used to keep food fresh- it's only a tunnel now but cool to see and walk through it.
Apart from that, there are a load of stone walls. They don't really make much sense on the ground but you can see the layout of the castle really clearly on our drone shots in the video.
What about food and drink at Tintagel Castle?
Once on the island, there are no facilities at all.
Many people choose to take a picnic up with them, and honestly, that's probably a good idea. We didn't even take a bottle of water, which was a mistake.
Just bear in mind that you will need to carry everything up all those steps with you… and bring it all back down again as there are no bins up at the castle. Still, it's a lovely place to stop for lunch- especially if you're lucky like we were and go on a sunny day- the views are breathtaking.
Merlin's Cave Cornwall
When you're at the castle, make sure you visit the beach and check out Merlin's Cave,
To do this, you'll need to check the tide times at the office and either go before or after your trip to the Castle.
As caves go it's pretty impressive- you could see the light from the other side and the waves were crashing in. Jade decided she just HAD to go stand on the rocks in the middle of the cave, which were still surrounded by water! Check it out in the video above.
Merlin's Cave Tide Times
As you can see in the video below, the bay at the base of the hill is beautiful- the sea is clear and such a gorgeous turquoise colour. Merlin's Cave is in this bay- but please be wary of the tides, especially if you're not used to English tides. They come in crazy fast from BOTH sides of the cave and the currents can be very strong.
The English Heritage Ticket office can tell you the tide times for that day and when it's safe to explore Merlin's Cave- we were lucky that it was high tide when we arrived so it was going out all morning, leaving us time to explore Merlin's Cave for a few hours!
Where to stay when you visit Tintagel
Camelot Castle Hotel
We love travelling by Motorhome (here are 20 reasons why!) but occasionally we find a hotel which is so cool we want to ditch the van and stay there for a night.
One such place is the Camelot Castle hotel, which overlooks the castle and those incredible sea views. If you're lucky enough, try to grab a sea-view room, although any of them are worth it.
Other great places in Tintagel include:
So, is Tintagel Castle and Merlin's Cave worth a visit?
Merlin's cave was definitely our favourite part of the day, although the drone shots of Tintagel Castle are pretty special too. After we'd cheated and paid for the landrover to take us back up the hill to the entrance (don't judge until you've been!) we spent some time exploring the beautiful village of Tintagel.
Our advice would be don't even bother visiting if it's a rainy day- the views just won't be the same. Fog might be fun though- very atmospheric!
Have you ever been to Tintagel Castle? Would you like to visit? Feel free to pin these to your England Travel board to save for later: