I decide on a short walk today. My confidence was battered by the difficult cliffs yesterday. In addition, my muscles are aching from the effects of steep climbs.
It rained heavily during the night and dark clouds still hang over the Gull Rock. But it is dry when I set off from the rocky beach of Trebarwith Strand.
Trebarwith Strand is sometimes known as Port William. There is a steady climb from the shore to the top of the cliffs, but without the terrifying steepness of yesterday.
The tide is in and the shore beneath is covered in water. Ahead are Hole Beach and Bagalow Beach. The promontory is Lower Penhallic Point, leading round to Higher Penhallic Point. What wonderful names!
This section of the coast along towards Tintagel proves to be very easy. I have swapped over to a new map. And so it seems that all the problems of yesterday’s route have been left far behind.
The sun decides to come out.
I have developed some sort of allergy overnight. My face and neck are itchy and my eyelids were so puffed up this morning that I had difficulty opening my eyes I think I might be allergic to the sun-protection face cream I have been using.
When I get to Lower Penhallic Point I stop to look back towards Trebarwith Strand. The effects of quarrying are clearly visible, leaving large pockmarked deformities in the side of the cliffs.
On Penhallic Point I meet a cyclist and am surprised to see someone cycling along the rocky edge of the cliff. He lifts his bike over the stile and I take his photograph. As usual, I am a little embarrassed whenever I take a photograph of a person, because you never know how they are going to react.
I thought I had managed a secret snap, but he obviously heard my camera clicking. He calls out and walks back towards me. Oh, no! Is he angry?
But he only wants me to send him a copy of the photographs. He explains he used to live in this area and has come back for a nostalgic visit, reliving some of his old cycling trails. I note down his email address and promise to send him the jpegs.
I walk onwards to Dunderhole Point and, beyond a scree of discarded slate, discover a former quarryman’s cottage, now the Tintagel Youth Hostel.
Ahead is the blocky bulk of Tintagel Head. It is called “The Island” on my map, but appears to be a peninsular, linked to the mainland at its base.
From here, along the top of cliffs, I am following the trails used by donkeys as they ferried slate from the quarries to Tintagel Haven, where the slate was loaded onto ships.
Along this section I meet plenty of strollers. Tintagel is a very popular part of the Cornish Coast and hosts the remains of several medieval fortifications and castles.
Most famously, of course, Tintagel is associated with the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table, although there is no evidence that King Arthur ever lived here.
The association arose from an account written by a notoriously unreliable historian, Geoffrey of Monmouth, in the 12th Century.
His story tells how the King, Uther Pendragon, falls in love with Igraine, who is married to the Duke of Cornwall. Igraine is hidden in Tintagel Castle, the most secure sanctuary her husband can find. But Merlin uses sorcery make Uther look like the Duke of Cornwall and so Uther gains access to the castle by trickery and impregnates Igraine. The child grows up to be King Arthur.
Anyway, if you want to look around the possible conception place of the legendary King Arthur, you can pay £6. But I decide not to bother and climb down to Tintagel Haven instead.
This sheltered little beach is bounded by the mass of Tintagel Head to the west and Barras Nose to the east.
Tintagel Haven is the place where slate was once loaded onto ships for export to other areas. It is now a place where tourists wander around aimlessly.
The cave runs under Tintagel Head and leads right through to the sea on the other side. Our B&B landlord told me that a group of unwary visitors were recently cut off on the wrong side of the cave by the incoming tide. One tried to climb the cliffs to safety, but he fell, broke a limb and had to be rescued by helicopter.
With this story in mind, I am wary of spending too long inside the cave system. But I enjoy splashing through the tunnel. The floor is full of rock pools and the journey requires some scrambling. I take some photos of the exit but don’t go all the way through and out the far side.
Turning back I take more photographs of the cave entrance. It is a magical place and I am glad it is not too crowded today.
Across from Merlin’s Cave is a waterfall. It is nearly 1pm. I have spent an hour exploring this amazing beach.
And I decide it’s time for lunch. So I head up the steps and have a cream tea at a little café, sitting on a bench in the sunshine. Unfortunately, my outdoors meal is defeated by wasps who are attracted like homing missiles to the jam on my scone, and after a few minutes of fruitless arm-waving I am forced to retreat inside.
Although the walking routes around the cove are crowded, I find people rarely venture more than 50 yards from the main attraction. Soon I am walking in splendid isolation.
On Barra’s Nose, I sit on a rock, seeking some shelter from the wind, and I finish off my lunch with a bar of chocolate.
Tim Baynes, my wonderful artist in residence has produced a painting of this bay.
To see a larger version, alongside my original photograph, click here.
My B&B landlord told me there are often dolphins frisking just off the shore at Tintagel. Disappointingly, I see no sign of any today. (On my walks I have come across plenty of seals but I have yet to meet a dolphin.)
This area of coast was the first piece of coastal land acquired by the National Trust. A stone plaque commemorates the purchase of Barras Nose in 1896 “by public subscription for the use and enjoyment of the nation”.
Leaving Barras Nose, I follow the South West Coast Path for half of mile or so, along Smith’s Cliff, until I meet a footpath heading inland to Tintagel village.
For a moment I hesitate. It is just gone 2:00pm and I feel fine. The path ahead looks easy. I could carry on walking…
But I decide to stick to my plan and end my walk. Setting off through the fields I can’t see Tintagel village, hidden in a dip, but I can see the large building that has dominated the inland landscape of today’s walk.
Later I learn the large building is the Camelot Castle Hotel. Although its website proudly declares Tintagel as the birthplace of King Arthur, I know this is unlikely. But the hotel would be a lovely place to stay with fine views over Tintagel Head and its medieval ruins.
Miles walked today = 4
Total around the coast = 1,298