Tintagel Castle is one of Cornwall’s most visited attractions, with over 3,000 visitors a day in the summer months. But God knows why – it has to be a contender for the world’s crappest castle. Give it a miss and get a proper history and geography lesson on the 2¼ mile coastal walk south to Trebarwith Strand.
There were once around ten quarries on this short stretch of the rugged North Cornwall coast, quarrying and exporting slate from the 15th Century until just before WWII. See how the cliffs have been shaped by man’s intensive quarrying, enjoy a gorgeous sandy beach and take pictures of the photogenic Gull Rock from Trebarwith Strand’s beachfront pub.
Parking up in one of Tintagel’s pay and display car parks, you should head directly down Fore Street towards the coast path following signs for the castle. Have a laugh at the tacky pub and shop names in the village as you go (“King Arthur’s Arms”, “Camelot Hotel”) – for some reason, the area is associated with Arthurian legend. Unbelievably, English Heritage charges £8.70 to enter the ruins of Tintagel Castle, set on its own island – save your money, and admire it from the South West Coast Path.
Google maps says the walk to Trebarwith Strand will take 40 minutes, but if you factor in stops to take photos of some of the Cornish coast’s most impressive scenery, it’ll be at least double that. Shortly after leaving Tintagel behind, you’ll pass what must be one of the most dramatically sited YHA hostels in the country, high on the cliffs. There are tracks criss-crossing the cliffs around here which were once used by donkeys, carrying slate from quarries to Tintagel’s old port to be exported by ship.
One of the area’s stand-out features is an 80-foot pinnacle of slate at the former Lanterdan quarry. This is inferior slate, so was left while everything else around it was quarried. Other relics of the area’s industrial history include the remains of tramways, and slate stiles worn smooth by steel-shod quarrymen.
By now, you’ll almost be within sight of the beach resort and village of Trebarwith Strand, and its off-shore rocky islet known as Gull Rock. Some say this looks like a dog’s head, and although I was a bit dubious about this at first (coming from the Tintagel direction, it looks more like a pyramid) when I was at beach-level I could definitely see the similarities between it and a giant Labrador’s head. Surely anyone who remembers the dog/car scene from Dumb and Dumber will think the same?
When the tide is out, there is half a mile of sandy beach, and big waves that make it a popular area for surfers. The tide was completely in while I was in Trebarwith Strand, hiding all the sand but leaving plenty of rock-pools. The village pub, The Port William, is a new entry in my ‘top-ten Cornish pubs’ list with its huge tropical fish tank, outdoor seating-with-a-view and St. Austell Ales. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one to think that, and it was very busy and full of people eating. I was lucky to grab a bench outside overlooking the beach, and sat with my pint of Tribute watching the surfers, the rock-poolers and staring out to sea at that giant crazy dog.