New footbridge reunites Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle
visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of the medieval inhabitants of the Cornish castle – inextricably linked with the legend of King Arthur
For the first time in more than 500 years, the two separated halves of Tintagel Castle will be reunited by a footbridge.
From Sunday, visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of the medieval inhabitants of the Cornish castle – inextricably linked with the legend of King Arthur.
Spanning a 190-foot gorge and with a gap in the middle, the bridge follows the line of the original route – a narrow strip of land, long lost to erosion – between the 13th-century gatehouse on the mainland and the courtyard on the jagged headland or island jutting into the sea.
So significant was this historic crossing that it gave rise to the place’s name, the Cornish Din Tagell meaning “the Fortress of the Narrow Entrance”.
Legend has it that the King of Britain, Uther Pendragon – transformed by the wizard Merlin into the likeness of the Duke of Cornwall – stole across this passageway into the castle where he spent the night with the Duke’s wife, Ygerna, who later gave birth to the future King Arthur.
So impressed was Richard, Earl of Cornwall by the Arthurian myth that in the 1230s and 1240s he built a castle at Tintagel, with the land-bridge an integral part of its design.
That crossing vanished in the 15th or 16th century, but now English Heritage has restored it, replacing the original rock, earth and grass with a footbridge of steel, local Cornish slate, and oak.
The bridge consists of two independent cantilevers of approximately 30 metres length each that reach out from either side to – almost – touch in the middle.
At the centre of the bridge, a narrow gap (40mm) has been designed to represent the transition between the mainland and the island, the present and the past, history and legend.
Kate Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “Tintagel Castle has been made whole again. Once more, people will cross from one side of the castle to the other and their footsteps will echo those from hundreds of years ago.
“As a charity, English Heritage’s core purpose is to care for historic sites like Tintagel Castle and to inspire people to visit them.
“Our new Tintagel bridge does both – protecting the castle’s archaeology and bringing its story to life in a brilliant, imaginative way.”
The bridge is part of a larger £5 million programme of works by English Heritage at Tintagel and was due to open to the public on Thursday, but due to the forecast weather has been delayed until Sunday.