The 148 steps on to the island to see Tintagel Castle in Cornwall have to be taken slowly and in single file. It’s steep, hard work, treading the well-worn stone grey steps to reach what would be known as the Great Hall, built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall. Tintagel, which for centuries has captured the imagination as the birthplace of King Arthur and home of Merlin, foretells of magic, and it’s truly a spectacular pile of rack and ruin to behold.
The new film, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Jude Law, David Beckham (really) and Charlie Hunman in the title role, is due for release this March and will no doubt spark further interest in the legend.
The castle, connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, offers spectacular views of the dramatic Cornish coastline. It has had some ‘touristy’ additions in the past year, including Merlin’s face carved onto the stones by the beach — but the aim is to help preserve the magic for future generations. Open 10am-4pm in winter; with swordplay in the summer.
2. Somerset’s Cadbury Castle a possible site of Camelot, King Arthur’s court
3. Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle (which found recent fame as Harry Potter’s Hogwarts) is, according to medieval texts, the castle of Lancelot, King Arthur’s knight. english-heritage.org.uk
Of myths and legends
Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Disney reportedly used this fortified gothic island castle as inspiration for Rapunzel. At high tide it appears to rise majestically out of the sea.
Corvin Castle, Hunedoara, Romania
Also called Huniazilor, this fairytale castle, complete with a drawbridge over a flowing river, inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire, Dracula, who was based on the very real Vlad the Impaler.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria
Cinderella’s castle at Disney World and Sleeping Beauty’s castle in DisneyLand are reportedly fashioned on this 19th-century palace with its iconic turrets and cylindrical towers.
Prague Castle, Czech Republic
This 10th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site and Guinness World Record holder is the ‘largest coherent castle complex in the world’.
Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
Constructed by the Moors, this medieval fortress sits on a large rock promontory on a hill overlooking the city — 156 creaky steps lead to the top.
Published in the 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller – Family