Things to do in Tintagel: The perfect Cornish day trip
Looking for a perfect Cornish day trip? Or to soak up some of the finest and most dramatic sea views in the county? Then Tintagel, perched on the cliffs of the north Cornwall coast, is just what you’re looking for. Our guide will show you exactly how to spend a day here (or even longer), things to do in Tintagel alongside our recommendations for things to do, where to eat and where to stay. It really is the perfect Cornish day trip!
Why visit Tintagel?
History, myths, legends and amazing scenery. If there is only one place you can visit in Cornwall, Tintagel is the place to choose. It has it all and is by far our favourite place in the county. King Arthur’s castle is set high up on a headland and the surrounding dramatic views make it well worth the effort of getting around the site. Here’s our favourite things to do in Tintagel and the reasons to add it to your must see list.
Things to do in Tintagel
Learn about the legend of King Arthur
Dubbed the place where history meets legend, Tintagel is steeped in both. As you wander around the site of Tintagel castle ruins, both are brought to life through information boards dotted about at key points. They’re easily missed as hit’s hard to take your eyes off the amazing scenery, at the same time catching your breathe from the steep climb.
The steep steps up to the castle ruins and the bridge that crosses to the island are worth the climb. We may not be able to say for sure if the legends surrounding King Arthur are true but there’s no doubt that these views are something of legend.
Explore the ruins of King Arthur’s Castle
When you visit the site, you’ll see loads of small ruined walls and tunnels at Tintagel Castle, scattered right across the island. The majority of these bricks aren’t Medieval or even castle ruins, but date back to the Dark Ages.
They originate from around 450AD so quite a long time ago! Back then King Arthur was but a twinkle in an ancestor’s eye and Tintagel was a small settlement and trading-post. Even by Medieval times, in the 12th and 13th century, they would have been unrecognisable. This makes them all the more intriguing and even people from medieval times were intrigued.
Enjoy a picnic at the top of the island
Despite Tintagel’s popularity, with 18 acres to explore, it’s not too difficult to find a quiet seclude spot to enjoy a break and a bit of lunch. And it’s an excuse to soak in the big sky, steep, craggy cliffs and massive expanse of the ocean below.
Don’t miss King Arthur’s statue
English Heritage installed the bronze statue in 2016. It’s so large and heavy they airlifted it onto the site by helicopter.
English Heritage say it’s called Gallos – the Cornish equivalent of power – and was inspired both by King Arthur and other stories from the Castle’s history.
The statue is very much part of the visitor’s experience and learning about the castle’s history and the legend of King Arthur.
Venture into Merlin’s Cave
The cave you see in the middle of the photo is Merlin’s Cave. It’s 100 metres long and passes completely through Tintagel Island. Legend tells us this cave is where Merlin lived. If you believe the legends, Merlin still walks in the cave today. Listen carefully and you may be fortunate to hear his magical voice.
The caves are accessible from a footpath although the beach is strewn with huge boulders at the bottom so you need good sturdy footwear to protect you ankles. At low tide, you can walk all the way through the cave to the other side. It’s well lit inside by natural daylight and the colours of the rock formations give a whole new perspective.
Take care down here though and keep one eye own the sea. You don’t want to get trapped by the incoming tide!
Traveller top tips: bring a picnic! The site has a café serving Cornish delights but once you climb the steps to the top of the island there is no better way to reward yourself than relaxing on the cliff tops.
Top tip for you road trippers: the nearest car park to the site is pay & display. Just a hundred metres before this, there is a car park that costs £2.50 all day. You’d pay that for 2 hours nearer to the castle.
Explore more: Cornwall’s most scenic drives
Take a stroll on the South West Coastal Path
If you still have some energy to burn, taking a stroll along at least a little of the South West Coastal Path is a perfect way to take in more of the stunning coastline.
Cornwall has a 300 mile section of the path and it passes right through Tintagel. If you’re really up for it, the 9 mile walk from Tintagel to Port Isaac is said to be a particular challenge.
Essential reading: the perfect Cornish road trip itinerary.
Accommodation in Tintagel
Tintagel is a tourist hotspot yet despite this, there are few large hotels in the village. Because of this low priced budget accommodation is a little scarce. Guesthouses are a plenty though and offer friendly hospitality and great home cooked breakfasts. With demand for accommodation in Tintagel so high, it’s highly recommended to book well in advance.
Wild or free camping in your camper van
Across the road from the Old Post Office in Tintagel Village, King Arthur’s Car Park is licensed for motorhomes to stay overnight. There’s a small fee (£3 per night when we visited) but no facilities and the toilet is closed overnight.
There are a few campsites near to Tintagel and the Headland Caravan and Camping Park is the closest. Take a look at the UKCampsite website for up to date information on facilities and opening dates of all the campsites nearby.
If you’re not travelling in a camper van and need budget overnight accommodation in Tintagel, we recommend checking out Gordon House B&B. They both have rooms for around £60 per night, including breakfast and situated right in the village.
Best of the rest
Great value: The Avalon is situated a little further out of the village but in a great spot for the beach and has free parking.
Hotels: Camelot Castle Hotel is a large hotel with plenty of luxury on offer. Perched high up on the cliffs overlooking Merlin’s Cave and King Arthur’s Castle, it’s in a prime spot for your visit to Tintagel.
How to get to Tintagel Castle from London
We’re a road trip travel blog so of course we’d say the best way to get to Tintagel from London is to drive. And it really is the best way too, even if you need to hire a car.
We’re not loyal to one rental firm, and will simply go with the one that offers the best value – and that means using a comparison website. For us, AutoEurope is by far the best, and our first choice, every time. They even do camper van rentals!
The nearest train station to Tintagel is Bodmin Parkway, almost 16 miles away. The fastest London Paddington to Penzance train takes about 4 hours each way and can take up to 6 hours at weekends. From Bodmin Parkway station, you can get a 75 bus to Wadebridge bus station, then a 584 bus to Camelford, then a 595 bus to the Tintagel Visitor Centre. Life is too short!
With the price of a return adult train ticket at about £110 and I have no idea how much 3 bus tickets will set you back, it’s far cheaper, more convenient and quicker to hire a car, even if you want to travel solo.
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