There was only one road leading out of the tiny township of Tintagel as far as we could see, the road we had come in by and which ran through the town and disappeared around the corner at the bottom of the hill. Taking the direction in which the B & B proprietor had pointed, we drove down the hill and around the corner expecting to see the castle. There was no castle in sight. Thinking we must have missed it somehow, or that the fairy folk were playing at their tricks, we drove on. Eventually, we spotted a small sign bearing the words “Camelot Castle,” and decided this must be the castle the B & B lady had spoken about. We made a sharp left hand turn as indicated, followed the dirt track that hared off across the moors, and came to a rather imposing stone castle perched almost on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea.
We gazed up in awe at the pennants flying from the castle turrets and looked at the grand cars in the castle’s tiny car-park: feeling foolishly snobbish, we were somehow glad that our rental car was a brand new, rather sleek black Audi that wouldn’t put us to shame. “Wonder what they’d say if we’d rolled up in our own old car and parked amongst this lot,” said Bob. My thoughts turned to Hyacinth Bucket and her sister Daisy in the English sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, then back to our own plight.
We’d been travelling all day and looked a little worse for wear, hair all over the place, clothes wrinkled and grubby: “Wonder what they’ll say when we straggle through those rather grand oak doors looking like something the cat has dragged in and ask for a room for the night.”
The smartly dressed girl at the front desk raked her perfectly manicured nails through her shiny hair, brushed an imaginary speck of dust off her immaculate cream jodhpurs, and gave us the once over: “A room for night? Well I’m not sure we have one, just one moment please while I have a look at the register … Oh, you’re in luck. We have one room left. It’s small, and the bed has a feather mattress, but it has a view of the sea.” Bob said, “We’ll have a look at it first and let you know.”
Yep! The room was a bit like I had suspected it would be: dark, poky, and tiny. The bed could hardly be called a double-bed. The feather mattress was thin, hard, lumpy, and followed the contours of the board slats of the bed beneath. If you squished yourself up tight between the wall and the veneer of the old-fashioned tall-boy that fell far short of being a wardrobe, you could manage a glimpse of the sea hurling itself at the rocks far below. “What do you reckon,” said Bob. “It’s only for a night I suppose, but how on earth are we ever going to get to sleep here?” I didn’t care. By this time I was so tired I could have gone to sleep on a roll of razor-wire.
Back down in the lobby we collected the key from the receptionist, listened to her talking about the artist, a family friend, who lived here in the castle as one of the family, and answered her questions about what we were in England for exactly: it somehow slipped out that I was Dr Parnell, a PhD and a writer, on my way to an international conference in Europe. Our chat must have jogged her memory. There was one other room available if we wished.
The new (to us) room was by no means large or luxurious: it was lightly shabby and looked tired and had an en-suite jammed in the corner that was little more than a very out-date second-hand portaloo. Yet compared to the feather-bed room we had been first offered our “new” room was indeed more spacious, lighter, airier, the bed definitely queen-size, the mattress very comfortable, and the room had not one but two windows and the overall atmosphere of the castle was magical. It was a weird mix but I would go back there and even put up with the horrible little portaloo en-suite if I ever got the opportunity to do so.
The view from the windows was magnificent. We looked out over the heather-covered hills and the cliffs and the sea, and there below, right alongside us, were the ruins of King Arthur’s legendary Tintagel Castle. On the hill nearest the village stood the Tintagel parish church: St. Materiana’s Church, originally built sometime between 1080 and 1150 and added to later, has both distinct Saxon and Norman features and architecture. This church also more has a few more modern features such as bells which were added in the seventeenth century and one later bell (a sixth bell), and a stained-glass window which was added either in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. This ancient stone church is still used by the locals today and has also achieved television fame as being the church in which Doc Martin and Louisa were married in the popular sitcom Doc Martin. My tiredness flew out the window so to speak. We hung out of the windows in our new room to take as many photos as the sea-mist and failing light would allow until it was time for us to shower and dress to go down to the beautiful dining room for tea.
Next morning we were up at daybreak and went for a pre-breakfast walk in the clear crisp air. How can mere words convey the delight of roaming the heather-clad hillsides of old Tintagel early in the morning? After our walk we headed back to our room to pack, took more photos of Tintagel Castle ruins from our window (the mists of the evening before had dissipated), then headed down to the dining room for breakfast.
I found the following information on the net:
Camelot is a castle and court associated with the legendary King Arthur. Absent in the early Arthurian material, Camelot first appeared in 12th-century French romances and, after the Lancelot-Grail cycle, eventually came to be described as the fantastic capital of Arthur’s realm and a symbol of the Arthurian world. The stories locate it somewhere in Great Britain and sometimes associate it with real cities, though more usually its precise location is not revealed. Most scholars regard it as being entirely fictional, its geography being perfect for romance writers; Arthurian scholar Norris J. Lacy commented that “Camelot, located no where in particular, can be anywhere”. Nevertheless, arguments about the location of the “real Camelot” have occurred since the 15th century and continue to rage today in popular works and for tourism purposes. (Camelot, Wikipedia, 11 Jan 2016)