Merlin's Cave

Merlin's Cave - Tintagel
Merlin's Cave
Paolo Giovanni Trovo/123RF

Tintagel is intricately linked with the tales surrounding the legendary King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. And no story that involves Arthur is complete without mention of the oh-so mysterious magician Merlin.

If those tales are to be believed, Merlin spent much of his life in the caves that today bear his name. In fact, they make it clear that it was only because of his cave dwelling that he was able to rescue an infant Arthur from the waves when he drifted ashore as an abandoned castaway.

Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,
Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame:
And down the wave and in the flame was borne
A naked babe, and rode to Merlin’s feet,
Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried "The King!
Here is an heir for Uther!

Made famous by Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Arthurian poem the Idylls of the King, the cave is located almost immediately beneath the rocks supporting Tintagel Castle, on a small beach. You'll even find a contemporary carving of his likeness close to the entrance of the cave.

Merlin's Cave - Tintagel
Merlin's Cave and Tintagel Cove

A sea cave created by the power of the Atlantic Ocean over thousands of years, it passes right through the Tintagel peninsula (also known as Tintagel Island) for approximately 100 metres.

Although Merlin's Cave can be explored at low tide, the cave does fill with seawater during the high tide, meaning care should be taken when visiting. You'll need to know the tide times, and have a torch handy too. Steps lead down to the beach and cave, however the last few have been worn smooth by constant wave action, resulting in the need for a short (and not particularly difficult) clamber over the last of the rocks.