One of the hardships of this pandemic is the lack of ability to travel. (Especially for those of us in the USA, thanks to those who refuse to wear masks. ) But in the meantime, until it’s safe to travel again, dreaming tends to give us hope! I know I, at least, always feel better after reading travel posts. And what better place for us Arthurianists to visit than a place connected to our favorite legend? ❤ Goldmines of Arthuriana are spread not just throughout England, but almost the entirety of the UK, and even a few other European countries! For now, let’s talk about a few in England, so that the next time we go adventuring (after the world is safe again, of course), we can add a few of these to our list! A little dreaming never hurt anyone…
The obvious first choice of destinations spots. England is steeped in the legend. Especially areas near western coasts. That’s why one of the top Arthurian stops is Cornwall. Arthur was born in Cornwall, specifically in the castle of Tintagel, along with his step-sister, Morgan. Therefore, being the birthplace of our famous hero, the area around Tintagel is filled with Arthurian-themed destinations.
DESTINATIONS IN CORNWALL
~ TINTAGEL CASTLE
Tintagel Castle is officially open for visitors for the first time in centuries! Now known as one of the top tourists spots in England, Tintagel is said to have a truly magical energy throughout its premises. The front door overlooks the sea and Cornish hilltops– but that’s not all Tintagel has to offer. (I know I sound like a YouTube ad but it’s true!) Merlin’s Cave is also just below the castle, and is said to be where Merlin carried newborn Arthur away to safety on the night of his birth– as well as the location where Merlin once lived. It’s said to be gorgeous inside, especially when the light comes in, and one side of the cave even has a carving of Merlin’s face!
Just be sure to plan for natural interruptions– you’ll want to go during the summer and when the tide is out!
~ DOZMARY POOL
Another hotspot in Cornwall is Dozmary Pool, on Bodmin Moor. It’s said to be the Lake of Avalon; or more specifically, the place where the Lady of the Lake granted the sword, Excalibur, to Arthur. Once thought to be bottomless, Dozmary Pool is now only a few feet deep and sometimes even dries up completely. But its mystical history will never run dry. Local legends even say that the Lady of the Lake is still present on days when the Pool is full and alive with critters. 🙂
OTHER DESTINATIONS IN ENGLAND
~ GLASTONBURY TOR
Glastonbury Tor and Abbey is a maaaajor staple of the Arthurian legend. The Tor sits on a hilltop and is thought to be the entryway into the Isle of Avalon. If not Dozmary Pool, Glastonbury Tor could certainly be considered where Avalon may have stood . Though all below the hilltop is now the artsy, new age town of Glastonbury, it is thought to have once been a giant body of water! And thus, Arthur was thought to have been brought here in his last hours to take his last few breaths in peace. This is why Glastonbury Abbey– the enormous, beautiful ruins downhill– is also said to be Arthur and Guinevere’s burial place! Supposedly, their bodies were found there in the 12th century by Gerald of Wales, and are now officially buried side by side. Gerald wrote, “buried deep in the earth in a hollow oak and indicated by wonderful, almost miraculous, signs, and it was brought into the church with honour and deposited becomingly in a marble tomb. Here too a leaden cross, placed under a stone, not above it as is the custom in our days, but rather fixed below, which I have seen, for I have touched these letters carved there, not raised or projecting but turned inwards towards the stone, contained: ‘Here lies buried the glorious king Arthur and Guinevere his second wife in the Isle of Avalon.’”
Whether this is true or not, Glastonbury Tor is now a pilgrimage site for travelers of all kinds. The abbey is considered the birthplace of Christianity in England. It’s also considered a pre-Christian site that was a Mecca for those of pre-Christian tradition, even back then. And so it will always remain a destination for all walks of people…especially fans of Arthurian legend. ❤
~ CADBURY HILL
One of the closest places we have to a “real” Camelot is Cadbury Hill. This hill was once the location of an Iron Age hill fort. And while there is nothing left of it today, many claim that after the excavation there, it would only make sense that a Romano-British warlord would have held his men there given the sturdy structure the hill would have provided. It’s level of elevation also looks over Somerset and would have served well in spotting enemies from afar. During the excavation, they even found a space for a “great hall” (66 by 33 feet; bigger than any hall that had been built in Britain in the post-Roman era.) This brings many Arthurianists to claim this hill as the original inspiration for Camelot….especially since its original name was “Camalet”! It’s on the destination list for many fans of the legend, and it certainly is on mine!
~ WINCHESTER CASTLE
While not much of the legend states anything about Winchester Castle, some of the older texts mention the area of Winchester and its possible hospitality towards the Knights of the Round Table. Therefore, Winchester Castle has become an honorary Arthurian site. The castle’s Great Hall is said by some to have been where the Round Table was first created. So in its honor, a replica of the Round Table’s tabletop was placed on the wall there and even decorated by King Henry VIII. Whether or not Winchester Castle actually had anything to do with the legend, it certainly pays homage to it and is a treasured spot for Arthurianists.
~ LUD’S CHURCH
Last but not least…Gawain fans, I’ve got good news. The Green Chapel is available for tours! Lud’s Church is a moss-covered chasm that penetrates the Millstone Grit in the Roaches of Staffordshire. Located in Peak District National Park, Lud’s Church was once used by people of the pre-Christian tradition, and therefore has a reputation among Druids and followers of ancient Celtic tradition. This place is also known as the “Green Chapel”, where Sir Gawain met the Green Knight and mustered the courage to lower his head before the Green Knight’s axe.
It makes for an excellent tour, according to hiking experts, filled with mystique and deep history that feels rooted in the earth, itself. Just remember to bring your wellies or hiking boots– the road can get muddy!
These sites are so rich in history. They’re filled with beauty, mystique, magic…and I plan to visit each one in the future. ❤ There are a dozen more sites connected to Arthurian legend in England, and certainly throughout the UK. So the next time we talk adventure, we’ll cover even more!
In the meantime, there are plenty of Instagram photography accounts that cover these places and delve even further into their history. Follow my account @ofswordsandmagic.podcast for more exquisite works by some of Europe’s greatest photographers. Give ’em a search and a follow! It’ll satisfy your travel dreaming until the world is safe once more.