Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cornwall Castles: Tintagel and St. Michael's Mount.

The weather was projected to be 50 degrees F over one weekend, so Dad, Mum and I jumped in the car and headed for Cornwall, England. Besides boasting delicious Cornish pasties, the area's also known for its beautiful coasts and is home to two castles on Britain's Top 10 Castles listing. Mum found the listing while watching TV a while back, and has been ticking them off her list. I'm lucky to have been around most of the time when she's visiting and am able to bum a ride and entry to most. We went to Leeds last April, and after our weekend in Cornwall, she has just two castles to go. After visiting Windsor last week, I just have one! And I'll updated you on that, soon. She was more dedicated than I, though, in that she rearranged the order of the top ten castles, assuming that Windsor and Sterling will fall into the number eight and nine places. Tintagel nabbed her top spot, and you'll see why. I would not be surprised if she emailed the Travel Channel to inform them that their order was wrong. I'm totally serious. 

Our first stop: Tintagel Castle. This is the legendary birthplace of King Arthur and set directly on the coast. The is very little to see currently; the site's in ruins with mainly just foundations and a couple stubborn walls.  That doesn't sound like a worthy introduction, but this place is gorgeous. I never expected to see a place like this in Britain. That's not a dig, it's just not what I ever saw in movies or imagined from books. The waters were Caribbean blue, the grass a deep emerald, and on the day we visited, we were lucky enough to see the sun and the sky. 

I really enjoyed this site because it was more of a hike and less of a house tour with replica furniture. There were rocks to climb where the path wasn't certain, caves to explore, and hills to ramble.

This all made Mum very nervous, but Dad and I enjoyed it - for a while. Once stairs started being involved, our buns really started to feel the burn. I've never had to pause while climbing stairs for body aches, but there was a lot of that here. They were steep and numerous, and I'm no mountain goat.

The view on the top was totally worth it. Now I have Beyonce stuck in my head.

So much of the original settlement has since fallen to sea and the land has largely reflected that. There's no barriers - you yourself could wash right out to sea, and I gave Mum a bit of a heart attack with my brave exploration. We all survived. I'm afraid this is a place I'm not describing justly and I don't have many fun facts (somehow the information pamphlets escaped Dad's magnetic fingers and there weren't many information signs).

We explored the coast as well, climbing rocks and making our way over some treacherous and maybe-not-really paths. This place was a total exploration free-for-all, which was scary and exciting all at once.  

Our second stop in Cornwall was St. Michael's Mount. Well, there was Land's End, too, which is not related to the clothing store, we learned.

This castle is on an island for part of the day and a peninsula for the other couple hours. We took a ferry out to the castle and walked back on the causeway after the tide had receded. How cool is that.

Plus, the ferry was a duck boat, and that's what this family is all about. So the castle. It was pretty good. It wasn't awesome or stuffed with crazy fun facts. False - Queen Victoria showed up here one day because she liked it when she saw it from the train and wanted a tour, but no one was home. Womp, womp. Prince Charles and Camilla also swung by once, but that's commemorated with a framed 5x7 in a corner of a room, so I don't think that was exciting to many. It was built by some guy when the area was a forest, the forest eventually eroded into a coast, the coast into an island, and it's been passed down through the generations as a family home ever since. A family still lives there. I can't decide if I'd love or hate to live in a castle that's on an island for most of the day. Curfew must be really strict and sneaking in impossible.

The climb up to the castle at the top was beautiful. It reminded us of Hawaii, but please note that none of us have been to Hawaii. I suspect there were a few more evergreens here than in Hawaii, too. 

 This was another steep climb, but it was easier on a sloped surface than on the stairs of Tintagel the day before. Once again, the view at the top was totally worth it.

 The surrounding Caribbean-blue waters made you totally forget the cold wind. 


How about those windows, too? I'm a sucker for geometry. They're just so gorgeous and symmetrical. The private gardens looked lovely from above as well. They almost look to be built into the ruins of former structures, but we couldn't get any closer to investigate.

The day grew on as we popped in and out of the castle into different chapels, rooms, and balconies, and the tide wore out allowing the aforementioned causeway come into view.

I wish I would have done a time lapse photo. Between the pictures Mum and I took once we spotted it, I think we'd be close. Must look into that. We finished the day off with a stop at the cafe for another Cornish pasty for Dad to kill some time because, as I said, we wanted to walk back and had toured the castle before the tide was totally out. Mum kept referring to it as her first time walking on the Atlantic Ocean. I'll clarify - it's not a floating causeway - it's rocks that are built up and make a path. I would think if we would've waited longer, we probably could've walked on the sand, but it would've been squishy. I think she was picturing water-walking shoes, a la da Vinci in Ever After. I love that movie. 

My boots, and feet, did get wet in the crossing. So maybe we did walk on the Atlantic. That's Dad's fault; he was rushing us. The last few waves were trying to cling on to their separated brethren so there was a small part of the causeway that we had to run/skip/jump some crashing waves. That doesn't explain why I posed like I had broken my leg on the causeway. I don't understand it either, but I'm just working on my angles, Tyra.

PS - want more travel stories? Check out the travel tag on the right. There's more to come as I document my trips taken while I've been on sabbatical. I'm linking up with some more travel posts - check them out! 

Helene in Between


  1. oh my goodness this is incredible! I have been to leeds so I definitely need to check this out. absolutely gorgeous!

    1. Isn't it?! I wasn't expecting this at all in any place in England. I've been traveling around here for the past two months and it keeps surprising me!

  2. So beautiful! I am hoping to take a road trip across the UK this summer, because one of my gfs is getting married there, but I have no idea if it will actually happen, depends on work/money. I hope so :-)

    Some Snapshots Blog

    1. I hope so, too! The country is so surprising and varied, and it's not so big, making it much more possible. It's beautiful.

  3. Holy moly just gorgeous - I had no idea this place existed!

    1. Also, would you mind me featuring your post on my travel blog: http://europeitinerary.wordpress.com ? Let me know :)

    2. I didn't either - the Cornwall coast definitely doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Astoundingly gorgeous!


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