|Friday 3rd February 2006
If you'd like to join us in a musical virtual tour
of Tintagel, click here.
(Sound and Media Player needed).
In February, we had a long
weekend in North Cornwall, to celebrate our birthdays. All I knew
was that we were off to a castle somewhere in the UK, but had no
idea where. We drove through the South Western counties in sub-zero
temperatures, and finally arrived in
Tintagel, on the western
coast. Our home for 3 nights was to be
previously known as King Arthur's Hotel, built in 1899 and directly
opposite the remains of Tintagel Castle. Folklore abounds in this
part of the world, nowhere more than at Tintagel, where legend has
it that King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table lived.
Camelot Castle is an unusual place, dedicated to art and
literature and making the world a more peaceful place. I won't try
to explain the latter, but you can read more on their own website.
The art is evident from the moment you walk through the door. Owned
by jewellery heir John Mappin and his wife, and artist Ted Stourton,
Ted's paintings cover the walls of the substantial building. They
are very varied in style; I liked most, especially the one shown in
the photo below. There is a selection of CDs by both John and Ted
that you can buy or listen to in the lounge.
I have to say, we were disappointed with our room, other than its
view, which looked out across to Tintagel Castle. It was very small
and the furnishings were old and scruffy. Very retro - but
unfashionably so! And the bedding wasn't right - nothing fitted! But
the lovely sofas in the lounge were extremely comfortable. The hotel
is undergoing renovations at the moment so we may have been unlucky.
Also unluckily for us, it was the coldest part of the country that
day and it was the day the heating had broken down, although our
room was warm with an electric heater. So no heating and no hot
water, which worried us in case it couldn't be fixed. So we walked
into the village of Tintagel to see what was on offer. Not
everything is open off-season so we missed seeing inside the Old
Post Office, which was a shame. The tourist information centre is
very good so we spent some time in there and made a mental note to
return to King Arthur's Halls in the next couple of days as it was
closed at that time. On returning to Camelot, we found the heating
wasn't yet fixed so put on a few more clothes reading for dinner in
the restaurant. Due to the redecorating, the dining room was
temporarily moved into the bar. The food was OK, but a bit
disappointing as little of it seemed to be home-made. Having said
that, the wine was good and a fair price and I doubt we'd have eaten
any better in the village.
Saturday 4th February
Tintagel is on the South West coastal path which runs for over
600 miles - a path we'd considered tackling over a period of 10
years, so we thought we'd take the section northwards to Boscastle
and back. It was cold - but the heating and hot water was restored
during the night - so we wrapped up and set off after breakfast. The
path is wonderful, but not an easy walk and it took us 3 hours to
walk the 5 miles into
in the news in 2004 when a freak flood devastated the village. We
had just 45 minutes for a quick lunch in the Cobweb before returning
before darkness fell, so not much time for exploring. The walk was
lovely but very hard work with lots of ups and downs and sometimes
rough ground. We even had icicles! The views make it all worthwhile
though, and on the way back the tide was out so we got a different
perspective on the coastline. I have to admit, I was practically on
my knees by the time we arrived back at Camelot. Far too worn out to
go looking for somewhere else to eat that evening so again we dined
in the restaurant there. Much warmer this time!
Sunday 5th February
We awoke to a beautiful sunny day, perfect for a visit to
Tintagel Castle. It's a beautiful place, whatever its genuine
history. And lots of steps so there was no rest for our aching legs.
But well worth the effort, and a great time of year to go as it must
be jam-packed in the summer months. We explored the castle and then
went back into Tintagel via the pretty local church, and had a drink
at one of the local pubs. Then we visited King
Arthur's Great Halls
which was a fascinating (if very cold!) place. It was built in the
30s by a man who wanted to bring back the art of chivalry. The visit
starts with a rather naff 'lightshow' giving some of the history of
the place, and then you go through to the hall itself, a huge room
round tables and granite thrones and corridors featuring 72 stained
glass windows depicting the Arthurian legend designed by a pupil of
William Morris. It was too cold to spend much time looking at
everything but it certainly warrants a visit, and the stained glass
windows are beautiful.
We had a look at the books in tourist information centre, to find
out just how difficult that section of the Coastal Path was - only
graded 2 out of 4, with 4 being the hardest. So that's put paid to
our plans to walk the whole lot! I wouldn't want to walk anything
much harder than that, being a wimp living in a relatively
On returning to the hotel, we enquired about 'The Light Box'
something which was being mysteriously recommended in Camelot
Castle. Ted Stourton, resident artist, took us to his studios and
explained the ethos of the place, which is to encourage artists to
come and paint free of charge, hopefully gaining inspiration from
the surroundings. He then showed us a studio in which he also
records music, picked up his guitar and regaled us with a song!
Finally we were shown the light box - I won't give the game away by
explaining what it is, but it's fascinating and a very clever
marketing tool which resulted in us coming away with a painting! It
seemed a bargain at the time, but wasn't one we'd have chosen had we
spent a little longer and looked at more paintings. We also bought
CDs by both Ted and John Mappin, the latter which you can hear
We ate in the hotel again - our last night, this time by
candlelight which was more romantic. So our weekend was over and we
set off home the following morning, accompanied by drizzle. We had
been lucky with the weather. Had it been stormy, we'd have been
storm-watching, but much as I want to do that, it would have spoiled
the other activities of which we were able to partake. Camelot
Castle is a fascinating place, but the main attraction is the beauty
of the coastline and the legends that have grown up around the area.