You enjoyed your taste of London; but over the past few days the thought of a particular part of England came to filter into your thoughts. The idea wouldn’t go away, calling to you, leaving you unable to settle. Finally yielding to this persistent thought, you book a train seat and find yourself whisking 300 miles due west, leaving city and suburbs far behind. The passing hours become measured—not in clock time–but in grain fields, hedgerows, stone walls, and sheep.
By late afternoon you find yourself entering a stunning, remote area of England that once belonged to the Cornovii, a fierce warrior tribe of Celts. The ancient word wealas(foreigner) was added to their name to create the word Cornwall. This westernmost part of mainland Britain juts westward into the Atlantic with a confidence of which the Cornovii certainly approved.
But on this day as you descend the steps from the train, you are startled to be greeted by palm trees and a sunny, warm afternoon. You’re not entirely fooled: any land on the coast of the Atlantic is subject to storms and bitter cold. But Cornwall is also blessed by the warm eastward winds of the Gulf Stream, and today’s mild, welcoming climate is beguiling—so much so that you find yourself wanting to abandon your schedule and spend much more time here. The ad on the train station wall tells of a travel service to ferry your luggage from B&B to B&B. It’s tempting. You could spend your days walking along a spectacular coastline and your evenings nestled in cozy stone home and eating shepherd’s pie. As you stand there, you even wonder what it would be like to take the next two months walking the entire 630 miles of the Coastal Path.
What has possessed you to want to abandon all of your well-made plans?
One answer lies on the northern coast line on the cliffs at the castle of Tintagel.
In lore, Tintagel was the site of the wizard Merlin’s greatest feat of magic. King Uther Pendragon was besotted with Igraine, wife of the Duke of Cornwall. Through Merlin’s magic, Uther was transformed to look like Igraine’s husband and made love to Igraine. Their child was Arthur, who became a mighty king in the legends of Britain.
Tintagel—now a mass of ruins–still presides over one of the most dramatic coastlines of the world.
Beside it you can find the so-called Cave of Merlin where the wizard became imprisoned by Morgan Le Fay, the sorceress he had come to love.
After your day among the ruins, you sit on the cliffs and watch the sun set in the west, stay to study the mists rising over the sea, find yourself mesmerized by the path of light laid across the water by a rising moon. There is magic at work here.
Who indeed can resist the enchantments of Cornwall?
Next time: St. Michael’s Mount
Photo Credits: Nancy Parrish