Tintagel Castle and Church Circular Walk
- Distance:5 miles/8 km
- Walk grade:Easy-Moderate
- Start from:Trewarmett
- Recommended footwear:walking boots/shoes or trainers in dry weather
- Panoramic coastal views from Penhallic Point
- Wildflowers along the coast in Spring and Summer
- Ancient church of St Materiana
- Tintagel Castle
- Tintagel Haven and Merlin's Cave
- Views over Tintagel and the church from Trewarmett Downs
- From Park Farm, turn left and walk up to the crossroads.
- Take the lane going left to Treknow
The "herringbone" style of walling built with tightly packed alternating diagonal slate courses, is unique to Cornwall's heritage. It is known locally as "Jack and Jill", "Curzy Way" or "Kersey Wave". The latter two names are based on the Cornish word kersy which means "reeds", perhaps referring to a square weave pattern. On a long wall, the herringbone sections are often between "towers" of flat-laid slate (built from the larger and squarer stones) which helped to prevent the wall slumping sideways. Traditionally, hedges (stone boundary walls) were built with whatever was cleared out of the fields, whilst buildings were constructed from stone that was quarried and cut.
- At the end of the lane, turn right onto the road going through Treknow.
Treknow (which in Cornish means 'the valley place') is perhaps one of the oldest 'industrial' settlements in the area dating back to Mediaeval times, based mainly on slate quarrying with some early metal mining. The physical structure of Treknow - its bowl-like formation, in parts literally carved out of the rock - could be the result of early slate excavations. It was in direct response to the needs of industrial workers, in the expanding quarrying industry of the early 19th century, that the rows of cottages were constructed. The use of slate for roofs, chimneys, walls and paving, which contributes so greatly to their character, is further testimony to the dominant role of the local industry.
- Walk along the road through Treknow bearing right up the hill, past some tracks to the left and a small grassy island, past a hotel and a house
- At the point you have passed all the houses, a public footpath runs down to the left past the last house. Take this.
- The footpath (once a track used by quarrymen) comes out on the coast path near Hole Beach. Turn right along the coast.
Coastal slate quarries are confined to a small area of about five miles either side of Tintagel and relatively little is known about their history. In order to work the vertical cliff face, strong points were built from stone above the working areas. From these, ropes were dropped down the quarry face. Men were lowered down the faces on these ropes to split blocks of slate from the face. The slate was hauled up the cliff face on these cables which were wound using "horse whims" - capstans powered by horses or donkeys walking around a circular platform. The stone was split and shaped on "dressing floors" on the cliff top, originally covered with sheds. The remains can be seen as level terraces and are marked by screes of waste rock on the cliff below. Splitting was (and still is) done with a bettle (hammer) and chisel, hence the name of the pub in Delabole.
- Follow the path across the cliff behind Bagalow quarry to a stile
There are 9 slate quarries along the coast path between Tintagel Church and Trebarwith Strand. Slate quarrying began here in the early 14th Century and ended just before The Second World War. The slate was exported from Tintagel Haven and later from boats moored along Penhallic Point.
Cutting the stone and loading it onto boats was harsh work and could be lethal. A local man - Alan Menhenick - recalled in the 1920s: "we worked with the tides, around the clock. I've been at the quarry at four in the morning. When the tide was in, we blasted; when the tide was out, we went down and collected the slate". In 1889, three men vanished into the sea when the face that they were boring sheared off the cliff.
- Cross the stile and walk across the field to a stile at the far end of the left hedge
The Lanterdan and West quarries above Vean Hole and Hole Beach at Trebarwith Strand were once some of the biggest in North Cornwall. In Lanterdan quarry there is a tall, distinctive, pinnacle of rock. This was left behind as the slate in the pinnacle was not of a sufficiently good quality; shorter pinnacles were left in West Quarry for the same reason. These chunks of inferior-quality slate were known locally as "scullocks".
The quarry workings never reached the shoreline as there is a fault along the base of the quarry, known as the Trambley Cove Formation. This is made of volcanic lava which was no good to the quarrymen. Lanterdan Quarry is now owned by the National Trust and is a site of geological interest for two reasons. The first is that it contains brachiopod (shellfish) fossils. Second, a rare mineral called monazite is present which contains rare-earth (lanthanide) metals.
- Cross the stile and follow the path over the top of Dria quarry onto Penhallick Point. From here there are excellent views of the bay.
Penhallic Point is the long headland along the northern edge of the bay at Trebarwith Strand. In the late 1800s, a wharf (which has now been taken by the sea) was constructed at Penhallic Point where the cliff edge was trimmed to form a 100ft vertical face. Ships could lie against this face as there is a natural deep-water berth alongside the point. The slate was lowered by crane down into their holds.
A path from the top of the point zig-zags down to a grassy platform where there is a lifebuoy. It's possible to get down onto the rocks from here, but only in the summer when the rocks are dry.
- From the bench on Penhallic Point, keep right and follow the path along the coast via Higher Penhallic Point to a kissing gate.
Wild chives are rare in the UK, but can be found next to the paths and rocky ledges along the cliffs around Tintagel, particularly where a spring seeps water out across the cliff. There is a large cluster of them on the path down to Penhallic Point, near Trebarwith Strand, where water seeps across the path. In summer when they flower, they attract large numbers of bumblebees and butterflies.
- Go through the kissing gate and take the path to the left, passing more quarry workings, to reach a waymark.
On the point opposite Tintagel Youth Hostel is the remains of Gull Point Quarry. The quarry face on the rear of the cove was known as Lambshouse Quarry (Lambshouse is the name of the cove). Both were worked in the 19th Century, and jointly for much of their later life. The round platform near the top is the remains of a "horse whim", where a blindfolded donkey used to circle, operating the winding gear.
- At the waymark, take the left path and follow this until it emerges onto the track to the Youth Hostel.
Long Grass Quarry on Dunderhole Point was the last working quarry along the Tintagel coast, closing in 1937. The old office, engine and blacksmith's shop of the quarry have been converted into Tintagel youth hostel. You can see the slate waste from the dressing floors on the cliff face below it.
- Turn left onto the track towards the Youth Hostel then bear right to a waymark. Take the small coastal path beside the waymark and follow this to another waymark and remains of a concrete structure. Continue until the path eventually emerges onto a larger gravel path at a waymark.
The Dunderhole is a 100ft deep split in the cliff face at Dunderhole Point at the end of Tintagel's Glebe Cliff. The name is a corruption of "Thunder hole"; when a big swell is running, the reason becomes apparent. When waves surge into the cavern at the bottom, they compress the air, which then exits through the Dunderhole with a sound that you do not so much hear, as feel resonate through your entire body.
- At the waymark, turn left and follow the gravel path until you reach another waymark.
The cliffs around the church are known as Glebe Cliffs.
A glebe was an area of land used to support the parish priest (in addition to a residence in the form of a parsonage or rectory). Occasionally the glebe included an entire farm. It was typically donated by the lord of the manor or cobbled together from several donated pieces of land.
- At the waymark, keep right along the gravel path and follow it towards the church until you reach a junction with another path beside a picnic bench.
Gillow quarry lies part-way down cliffs near Tintagel church, just below a rocky ridge along which the coast path runs before it joins the path from the church to Tintagel Castle. A pair of capstans, known as horse whims, were used to haul slate up from the quarry. A track ran up the cliff beneath the ridge, eventually emerging onto the path to Tintagel Castle. Slate would have been transported by donkey to Tintagel Haven and loaded onto the boats there.
- At the church car park, facing St Materiana's church, turn left and follow the path marked "Coast Path and Access to Castle View" until you reach a waymark signposted to Tintagel Castle.
Tintagel Parish church, dedicated to St Materiana, is located on Glebe Cliff at the end of Vicarage Lane.The first church on the site was thought to be in the 6th century, founded as a daughter church of Minster in Boscastle which is even older. The current church was built in the late 11th or early 12th century with the tower added in the late Mediaeval era. The Norman font bowl by the south wall is believed to have been brought from St Julitta's chapel at Tintagel Castle. The church also contains a Roman stone from the 4th century bearing the name of the Emperor Licinius which may be evidence that there was once a Roman camp nearby.
- At the waymark, continue ahead (signposted to Tintagel Castle) until the path forks at the bottom of a flight of steps.
Tintagel Castle (also known as "King Arthur's Castle") is perched on an island which was joined by a land bridge in the Middle Ages. The ruins of Tintagel Castle that you see today were built in the 13th century by Richard Earl of Cornwall. From coins and pottery fragments found at the site, it is thought that before this, the site might have originally been a Roman settlement, and later, in the early Middle Ages, a Celtic settlement. There is speculation amongst historians that the site was a summer residence for one of the Celtic kings, perhaps leading to the legends of Arthur.
- Keep left at the fork, over the stile, and follow the path along the wall to reach the a waymark at the entrance to Tintagel Castle.
A very large amount of 5th and 6th century Eastern Mediterranean pottery was found at Tintagel Castle in the 1930s, more than the total found in all other Dark Age sites in Britain. This included massive Tunisian oil jars, Carthaginian dishes, Aegean amphorae and Byzantine jars.
- At this point you have two choices: You can pay to enter the castle and leave past the steps to the beach and along the fence until you reach the bridge over the stream. Alternatively, you can turn right here at the waymark, then left down the steps to descend to the car park; then turn left past the English Heritage shop and keep right to reach the bridge over the stream.
The small cove at the bottom of the valley is known locally as Castle Beach, though its formal title is Tintagel Haven.
Below the the island upon which Tintagel Castle is perched, there is a small sheltered pebble beach, known locally as Castle Beach although on maps you'll see it marked as Tintagel Haven. Slate from the coastal quarries was brought here by donkey, and loaded onto beached ships which also brought in cargoes such as Welsh coal. Beside the waterfall is the remains of a derrick which was used to winch the cargo to and from the beach. In order to manoeuvre them around the dangerous rocks, ships were "hobbled" (towed by rowing boats then manoeuvred by gangs of men pulling on ropes).
On the left side of the beach is Merlin's Cave, and to the back of the beach is a waterfall where the stream running through the Vale of Avalon meets the sea.
- Once you've explored the beach, walk up the valley (Vale of Avalon) following the track until you reach Tintagel. If you want to cheat, there is a landrover service to the top of the hill.
Seals are not closely related to other marine mammals. In mediaeval times seals were classified as fish and could therefore be eaten during lent and on fridays and saturdays. However, as you might be able to guess from their features, seals are closely related to dogs, bears and otters. In fact, a dog is very much more closely related to a seal than a cat. The seal species most frequently seen along the Cornish coast are grey seals and common seals.
- More or less opposite where the track meets the road in Tintagel (slightly down to the left) is Pengenna Pasties if an emergency pasty is required after the climb up from the castle.
"Pasty" was another word used for "pie" throughout England from the Middle Ages onwards, and did not necessarily imply the characteristic shape and crimping we associate with the Cornish Pasty. The "traditional" Cornish Pasty recipe contains beef, onion, potato and swede (referred to as "turnip" in the local dialect) seasoned with salt and pepper. It's thought this probably dates from the late 1700s when potatoes and turnips were a staple diet for the poor. Even into Victorian times, main meat available to poor people would have been pork. In fact, the really poor had "tiddy oggy" (with no meat at all). A pasty recipe from 1746 contains no potato or swede, just meat (venison), port wine and spices.
- From the track up from the castle, head right into Tintagel past The Wootons pub
- Just past The Wootons pub, before The Cornishman pub, turn right down the hill to the vicarage.
- Follow the road past the Vicarage and Fontrevault chapel
It is probable that the original patron of St Juliot, Lanteglos church and Tintagel Castle's chapel (all dedicated to St Julitta) was St Juliana, mentioned in the 12th-century Hartland list of the children of Brychan. Other than that mention, little is known - even the gender is a bit sketchy, with the picture of St Julitta in Tintagel Church depicting a man, but many assume from the name that the saint was female.
- Just as you start to climb the hill there is a footpath on your left.
Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales. He had a large number of children, and most of these were reported to have evangelised Cornwall and North Devon, with many of the churches dedicated to them. Consequently, many of the place names in North Cornwall (St Teath, St Mabyn, St Endellion, St Minver, St Clether, Egloshale, Egloskerry, Advent, Morwenstow, Lelant etc) are from the names of his children. Brychan is buried on Lundy Island, known in the Celtic language as Ynys Brychan.
- Take the gate ahead marked "Trerammett" (not the path to the left which goes back up into Tintagel).
- Take the footpath, keeping left along the hedge. Watch out for enormously deep rabbit holes along this path. The path comes out onto the main road beside the Tintagel sign.
The modern-day village of Tintagel was known as Trevena ("place of the women") until the Post Office established 'Tintagel' as the name in the mid 19th century (until then Tintagel had always been the name of the headland and of the parish). In Norman times, a small castle was built at Bossiney; Bossiney and Trevena were established as a borough in 1253 by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall who built Tintagel Castle.
- Turn right, following the main road away from Tintagel - walk on the pavement. Once you reach the hill, walk up the pavement on the left side of the road.
- Cross the stile on the left after the school playground and make your way into the field (ignoring the sheep gate on the left which looks uncannily like a pedestrian gate!). Follow the wall then the fence on the left, heading for a stile directly ahead when you leave the fence.
If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleeting, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.
- Cross the ditch via the stepping stones and cross the stile into the next field. Bear right across the field to a corner in the hedge to the left of the telegraph pole; as you approach you'll see a stile.
- Cross the stile and follow the right hedge towards a metal gate in the far hedge; as you approach you'll see a stile on the right of the gate.
The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:
- Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
- If cows approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size.
- Avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If you can't avoid it: if cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
- Cross the stile and turn right, following the right hedge to another stile next to the gate.
- Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) and follow the right hedge towards the barn.
- Climb the stone steps below the signpost onto the hedge. Descend the steps on the other side and take a few paces to reach the yard. Bear right to reach he stile next to the gate which leads onto a lane.
- At the lane (Tregeath Lane), turn left and walk uphill along the lane.
- Turn right at the T junction at the top onto the lane (which locals call Menadue since it goes to Menadue Mill and Farm), stopping to have a look at the views of St Materiana Church across the fields.
Menadue is the name of a farm and mill on the downs above Trewarmett. The place name Menadue is possibly from the Cornish word meneth which means hill, and due is the word for black, i.e. "Black Hill". The hill in this case is the one that overlooks Tintagel with Condolden Barrow at the summit.
- Walk along the road which comes out in Trewarmett next to the post box opposite Park Farm.