This past Christmas both Jon and I got each other trips as our gift. Mine was a weekend away in a hotel in London that he’d always wanted to go to – the gorgeous St Pancras Renaissance – and we went for his birthday weekend back in February. His gift for me was a long weekend away to the southwest of England, in a bit of Cornwall called Newquay. We stayed in the hotel that they filmed The Witches at, which was pretty stunning for me as 1) I love that movie and still find it super scary, and 2) Angelica Houston was there, so that’s amazing. But I’ll talk more about that later.
The legends have their roots in the 12th century when Geoffrey of Monmouth described Tintagel as the place of Arthur’s conception in his (fictionalized) account of British history, the Historia Regum Britanniae. Geoffrey told the story of how Arthur’s father, King Uther Pendragon, was disguised by Merlin’s sorcery to look like the Duke of Cornwall, the husband of Igraine, Arthur’s mother and then got her pregnant…? It’s a bit creepy, I think. Let’s talk about consent Uther!
Basically, it was a really old legend that wasn’t shared around until centuries after it supposedly happened, and then eventually it was written down even later than that. So really, was Arthur born there, or conceived there? Is Arthur real? To be honest, I still don’t know. I don’t think it matters much, in the grand scheme of things.
But the ruins of the castle (which wasn’t his anyway, and belonged to the aforementioned Duke of Cornwall), and views are just stunning, so it was completely worth a visit, mythological history or not. There’s an amazing statue/sculpture of Arthur on the top of one of the cliffs looking out to sea, and Bruce was scared of it and started growling and scratching at the ground around it, which was quite funny.
I can’t really imagine the manpower and skill that went into building this place. Similar to how I can’t comprehend the building of the pyramids of Egypt. Impossible surroundings, and yet, there they are.
One of the things I love about visiting these historic spots around England (thanks National Trust and English Heritage) is that they are so well-kept and you, as a visitor, are expected to take care of yourself and not do anything stupid. There aren’t fences everywhere, blocking things off and telling you what to stay away from. Essentially you are treated like a responsible human being who can walk up to the edge of a sheer cliff face if you really want to.
That being said, dogs are allowed at Tintagel and smartly it’s asked that you keep them on the leash. When we were buying our tickets, the woman told us that recently a dog got stuck on the cliffs and a helicopter had to rescue him, costing the council £3,000. Poor puppy! Keep your dog on a leash on steep cliffs everyone! It’s dangerous out there and dogs are dumb and overly confident in their abilities!
The steps to get up to the ruins of Tintagel were nothing to shake a stick out. There are only about 200 steps, which doesn’t seem like much, but they’re essentially straight up a rock face. On the way back down I had to do it toddler style, two feet per step before moving on to the next one. And Jon had to carry Bruce down because his legs are even tinier and fatter than my own. We are stout, the two of us. Little tea pots.
We could see hearty locals hanging out in the cove, a few brave souls even heading into the freezing cold water. There’s a bit down there called Merlin’s Cave. Sadly, we didn’t head down to check it out as the evening was coming in and we still had an hour’s drive to the hotel and our final destination.
Being that close to the Atlantic Ocean, looking out at endless sea was intoxicating. We live on the sea now here in Brighton, but it’s the English Channel – just knowing that there really isn’t that much space between us and France lends it a different air than when you know that there are literally thousands of miles between where you stand, and the next bloc of land. In my case, that bit of land is America – home! My other home, my first home. Strange.
And this is what it’s like as I repeatedly cut off the top of Jon’s head while trying to take a picture of us. The perils of marrying tall when you yourself are very short. He’s got a pretty chin though, doesn’t he?