• Jem Roberts

Happy Birthday To Us: In TINTAGEL!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Happy birthday to Folklore Thursday, and happy birthday to Brother Bernard too!

Now, this is uncanny. After completing nearly a year of annual blogs themed to Folklore Thursday’s lovely whims, this is the week we were planning to give ourselves the week off – 'Tales of Britain Is On Holiday, in Tintagel!' – due to Brother Bernard hitting the terrifying milestone of 7,040!

But then, thanks to some otherworldly psychic connection known as ‘coincidence’, it’s Folklore Thursday’s birthday too – so we’ll share our birthday holiday snaps.

Besides, the main tale we have chosen to put Tintagel on our map (Tristan & Isolde also having a Fowey connection), is also surely all about having something to celebrate: young Arthur pulling Excalibur from Merlin’s charmed rock in a magical clearing (based somewhere in the Tintagel village, though to be honest we couldn’t find it), in THE SWORD IN THE STONE!

As a penniless author, I refuse to blush to admit that I had never personally been any further south west than Torquay before, despite the many tales in our collection based right down here. The train from Bath came through Totnes and St Germans, literally the sites of the first and last tales in our book! But besides taking a humble billet in the interesting town of Bodmin (where I saw no beast, but wrote a brand new folktale retelling as a birthday treat to myself, 'The Exorcism of Jan Tregeagle'), the big birthday trip to the ruins of Tintage utterlyl failed to disappoint: it’s a truly awesome place to behold and explore and worth every penny and expended calorie (also, it's insanely dangerous, and the most exhausting tourist outing I’ve ever experienced: you’ll need to be fit).

Anyone who loves Glasto will instantly feel at home in Tintagel village, first of all: joss-stick and crystal city! I avoided buying a wooden Excalibur for 15 quid, but was chuffed to see the Merlin’s Cave shop even has a wee stone circle round the back...

Then, once descending the breakneck path to the National Trust shop, the compact but bijou exhibition you find there primes visitors nicely for the vast rocky ruins they’ve come on such an epic voyage to experience...

One you've clambered up the steep rocky steps and inclines, even the knowledge that many of the ruins are 700ish years older than the legends that brought you there can’t spoil the pleasure of exploring what remains of the home of Uther’s enemy, Gorlois – or indeed, Tristan’s uncle King Mark. Story boards litter the site, and you can even visit the medieval rebuilding of the garden where Mark snooped on Tristan & Isolde, with the plot mapped out in decorative slates.

I of course took the opportunity of filming as much as possible for an eventual Tales of Britain launch vid, and there’s some very rough footage attached!

Tristan & Isolde always seems to have a stronger anchor in historicity than any Arthurian lore (and remember, passionate Arthurian debaters, Tales of Britain also takes time out to detail the Arthurian claims to Wales, England, Scotland and France), but on this gloriously sunny day, the visit happily reaffirmed our decision to set The Sword In The Stone here, as the beginning of our Arthur cycle.

We were indeed lucky with the weather, but carefully scaling from the Dark Age outcrops down to Merlin’s Cave on the beach, with the glowing blue waves and splashing waterfalls... if you want to walk onto the set of the movie Excalibur, Tintagel is where you come – with the far north-west town of Glastonbury as a fitting conclusion to any tour, just as Avalon was the conclusion to Arthur’s tale.

Apologies to any Arthur claimant far from the southwest who scoffs at the boasts made here, to being Arthur’s home – yes, we’re all aware of the paucity of any evidence for our greatest mythical figure, let alone historical sites... but you have to admit, whether you prefer to picture the Romano/British warlord based on Hadrian’s wall, in South Wales, or over the channel, Cornwall and Somerset have totally owned the legend and made it work better here in the south west than anyone else can. So if you want to *feel* you're walking in Arthur’s steps, this is where you come, and you will not be disappointed.

Oh well, back home north-west, and on with the 7,041st year. And if you didn’t get Brother Bernard a present – get a friend to pre-order Tales of Britain today!

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Getting ready for print
Publication date: September 2018
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