Take the kids to … Tintagel, Cornwall

Wizards, kings and castle ruins combine with beach, caves and rock pools to make a magical day out – even in February

In a nutshell
The home of legendary kings, beautiful queens and a powerful wizard, this craggy headland is one of Cornwall’s most iconic sites. Supposed birthplace of King Arthur, the Tintagel ruins and surrounding coast are steeped in stories. Kids enjoy playing knights or smugglers in the ruins, and exploring rock pools and caves, one with Merlin’s face controversially carved in rock. Some of the locals are aghast at the feature, but for kids it’s fun to find. There’s also a new, rather imposing King Arthur statue on a neighbouring clifftop – called Gallos, Cornish for power. A little farther afield are scenic coastal walks, which in summer are vibrant with wildflowers, butterflies and sea birds. If you’re lucky you might spot dolphins and basking sharks. There are family events from Easter, but out of season you can have the place to yourself. It’s at its best in fine weather, obviously, but in pouring rain the waterfalls in the area are thunderous.

A young boy looks at a carving of Merlin at Tintagel Castle in Tintagel
A young boy looks at the controversial carving of Merlin at Tintagel Castle. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Fun fact (for parents)
Legends say Arthur was conceived here when Uther Pendragon used Merlin’s magic to sneak into the remote fortress and have his way with Igraine, the Duke of Cornwall’s beautiful wife.

Best thing about it
Clambering over the ruins, venturing into atmospheric Merlin’s Cave and splashing by the waterfall that crashes on to the secluded beach. Check tide times at the shop or online.

What about lunch?
There’s no shortage of picnic spots and the Beach Cafe near the visitor centre serves locally sourced produce. A child’s hot meal is £4.95, a sandwich £2.50. Kids will love the ice-cream parlours and fudge pantries in Tintagel village, but they’re not cheap. A Granny Wobbly’s special – two scoops of ice-cream with clotted cream and crumbled fudge – is £4.95.

The Gallos King Arthur scuplture.
The Gallos King Arthur scuplture. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Exit through the gift shop?
The hard-to-avoid shop sells Arthur-themed souvenirs. Our daughter spent £1.25 on a quill pen, but those hankering for a broadsword or helmet will find them. A replica Excalibur is £165.

Getting there
Tintagel is a short drive from the A30 at Launceston, with pay and display parking in the village. The nearest station is Bodmin Parkway, from where the 122 or 125 bus runs to Tintagel. Alternatively, Western Greyhound’s 595 bus runs from Wadebridge, Camelford, Bude and Boscastle.

Value for money?
Yes. In dry weather you can spend a day exploring. Adult £7.90, child (5-15) £4.70.

Opening hours
Weekends all year; Wed-Sun after 25 Feb; daily summer and school holidays, including Feb half-term.

Verdict 8/10 Be prepared for rough terrain and lots of wonky steps. Pushchairs are not appropriate for most areas of the site. A buggy shelter is next to the shop. Baby slings are advised for carrying small ones.



Kari Herbert

The GuardianTramp

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