Saturday, 13 October 2012

Merlin's Cave

Tintagel is now forever linked with the legend of King Arthur. In the stories it is to the castle on top of the cliff that Merlin smuggles King Uther, disguised as the husband of Igraine so that Arthur can be conceived. And it is from here that the infant Arthur is delivered into Merlin's hands to be brought up away from the court, unknowing of his parentage until Uther's death is near.

So in 1987 when we visited I had to see the place.

The part of the legend that places these events at Tintagel Castle ignores the fact that at the time of Arthur (if he indeed ever existed) was the early 6th century. No Norman castle existed at the time because the Normans would not invade for another 500 years.

Anyway, the legend is now deep rooted. So in September 1987 when I was writing my own fantasy novel about Arthur, King And King To Be, (UK link / America/Canada link) I knew I had to include Tintagel.

There is a cave called Merlin's Cave here. On the opposite side of the bay to the castle. It fit my story better to use the smaller of the two caves shown above, just to the left of the water line.

In this case "small" is relative! The cave is huge! I've heard lots of reports over the years that this was in danger of collapse. In fact it does collapse in the book!

So I'm not sure if you can still go into the cave or not. In the book it's an entrance to the fairyland of Merlin and his elven daughter, Merienne.

In 1987 you could walk right through almost to the other side of the cliff. Perhaps you could walk through at low tide. When I visited the sea was already coming in from what was the rear of the cave for me. But what an atmosphere to the place! It inspired chapter four of my book.

I did not try to put a castle into Tintagel's part of my story though. There has been evidence found of a very early Christian settlement on the site, so I used that instead. And that's the end of any spoilers!

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