A Long Way Up or Sarah Visits Tintagel

From Sarah’s Travel Journal:

Want to get down my impressions of Tintagel before going through what all I went through to get here.

Tintagel Island and the headland are awe-inspiring. The cliffs nearest the sea are black where the sea pounds them and tan above, and the sea does shake the ground. In at least one place, a waterfall makes a whitel tail for the stream that runs down beside the path.

To get to the island, you walk down a steep ravine, which is a lovely, green walk with that water-fall stream running beside the path, but this seems counter-intutive, because when you get down to the bottom and the beach (and the tea shop), to get to the castle/ruins, you have to climb all the way back up, and then some. Quite a bit of then some.

The climb up is scary. The only thing thing that makes the climb down less scary is knowing you got up there. It’s winding and it’s steep and some of the stairs have been there for a _really_ long time. I’ve seen grooves worn in stone steps before, but never whole basins.


The sea…

BTW, I’m writing this over dinner, and I’d like to state for the record, the butter is better out here. The lovely, thick, vegetable soup is really good too.

Anyway, I was suposed to be rhapsodizing about the sea. The sea is a brighter blue-green here than I expected and it wasn’t even a really sunny day. It pounds the cliffs so you can feel the vibrations through the stone. There are caves and fissures filled with spray and on the way down I heard a boom like a cannon shot that was the echo of a wave hitting one cave.

I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make the climb. I was pretty shaken by my unscheduled roaming around the Cornish countryside and frankly, it was so narrow and so steep and so high, it scared me, more than a little.

But up I went anyway, and I’m glad I did. I’ve never been in such a place and the pictures can’t capture the feel of the wind and the water and the gulls and birds below you, the jumbles of stone at the foot of the cliffs and the constant rush of the water. You get above the smell of the sea at the caste and fortress, but not above the sound of it.

It is really easy to see why someone would build a fortress there.  Like the Edinburgh Rock, there is only one way in, and that way is daunting. Not only that, but you could see anybody coming a mile away. Literally. When you stand on the headland above the castle, you have a perfect view of the sea, and the rolling green downs that rise above the village, over which any army would have to come.

To sit there, with the wind battering so hard at your back that you didn’t want to get too close to the cliff’s-edge, with the sea battering below and streatcing around, watching the scudding clouds making shadows on the grass and stone below the nearest drop-off, seeing a seagull held absolutely motioonless by the wind, and thinking of the things of legend, is wondrous.

The ruins have their own facination. It’s not just on complex. Buildings accreated in the nooks and crannies of that island like barnacles from the sixth century on up through the nineteenth.

The ragged remains of arches, walls, towers, and cellars are to be found on every outcropping flat enough and big enough to hold a human building. But it was the land itself, the stone and sea and sky that caught me the most. It was them that made me understand how this became a land of legend. There is nowhere else on this island of legends like this place.

The cliffs, BTW, do not drop off smoothly.

They drop in a series of steps and overhands and with the noise of the wind and the water someone could be six feet below you, and you’d never know it. I was startled a couple of times on the way down by the sudden appearance of people when I thought I was alone.

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