We had determined to visit the most southerly of our possessions on the western coast, Barras Headland, at Tintagel, fifteen acres of which were obtained from the Earl of Wharncliffe in 1897 for the sum of £502. (p. 131)….

We drove by the old post-office, an ancient fourteenth-century building of very remarkable character, saw other crooked-roofed cottages that seemed to be of the same period, then entered the modern world of New Tintagel, and in a few minutes arrived at the most romantically placed fortress-like hotel, that stands high-perched above the Barras Headland. (pp. 137-138)

We went to rest that night with the sea on three sides of us, still gleaming from the long afterglow, and woke to find the whole land bathed in that glittering, dazzling sunshine which seems almost a peculiarity of the Cornish coast.  Down to the Barras Headland we strolled, its short turf scorched by the sun where the rock came near the surface, but for the rest green with soft grass, enamelled with great patches of thyme such as I had never seen, and golden with anthyllis. (p. 138)

The Headland, owned by the Trust, may roughly be divided into three parts, a horn-shaped hill to the north-east covered with gorse, an extensive slope of grass which narrows to a depression, and then a rise to the naked rock which forms the end of the promontory.  Its cliffs go sheer to the sea, and on the southern side form one horn of the far-famed Arthur’s Cove, beneath Tintagel Castle. (p. 138)

That old miner, the sea, has hollowed this cliff into mighty caverns, from which, when tides are high, come bellowings unutterable, as if rocks were groaning and travailing in pain.  All view of the sea to the south is blocked by the Castle rock, except just over the narrow isthmus between the mainland and the castle, where a glimpse of sapphire blue tells us how nearly the waters of Rocky Cove and Arthur’s Cove meet. (pp. 138-139)

Beyond the cove, on the landward side, is seen the steep roadway that leads up to the village inland; a path from where we stand drops down to the cove.  By the side of that path stands a stone, of grey Borrodale slate, which bears the following inscription:


“Hard by was great Tintagel’s table round
And there of old the flower of Arthur’s knights
Made fair beginning of a nobler time.”
(p. 139)….

It is an interesting village, this old village of Trevena that in old days was probably the nurseling of the ancient borough of Bossiney, which boasts a charter from the time of Richard, Duke of Cornwall, and which had for its few farmsteads the right to return two members of Parliament, till the Reform Act was passed.  At one time it boasted Sir Francis Drake as its representative, and elected mayors from 1551 to 1832 with mayoral seal and mace, which still exist.  But the village probably grew up beneath the shelter of the twelfth-century castle, and the Norman church, with its stone altar bearing consecration crosses upon it, and its very interesting font.  A Roman milestone, within the church, strikes a note of pre-Norman times.  The church stands in lonely dignity upon the cliff, a sea-mark for many miles, and is dedicated to St. Materiana or St. Madryn, which suggest a pre-Norman consecration; and, Celtic perhaps in origin, it takes us back to medieval days by reason of the remains of a stone bench round the south transept where the old people sat while the young people stood during worship. (pp. 148-149)

Here and there in the village are a few of the old Cornish houses of early times, with their hummocked roofs, their pleasant porches, and every available crevice giving root-hold to stone-crop or valerian.  But whether old or modern, the cottage of Trevena is made delightful by its tiny wall-enclosed garden plot, green with turf and gay with flowers.  The most interesting building in the village is the fourteenth-century manor-house, formerly the post-office, which stands almost opposite the present post-office.  It attracts attention at once by the extreme beauty of light and shade upon its uneven roof of grey-green slates, tufted with golden saxifrage and moss.  Its front is broken by an ample porch, a hooded window and projecting gable, and on the left of the main porch, by the lean-to roof which shelters the oven. (pp. 149-150)

We enter the little forecourt garden, gay with valerian and flowering mallow, and see through the house to a little garden paradise beyond, a blaze of rose-red valerian to-day.  We are welcomed by a grey-eyed old Cornish body, who graciously tells us that the owner of the cottage, a Miss Johns, will be very glad if we care to walk through it.  “You can go upstairs and downstairs, or wherever you will, and you had better step this way to the bedroom.” (p. 150)

It was furnished very simply, with good old cottage furniture, and going upstairs to a second bedroom we found a four-post bed, and from the stairway were able to look into the main living-room of the house which was open from floor to roof, with a gallery over one end of it.  We came down and passed through this main room to a quaint kitchen beyond, from which a stone staircase leads to the bedroom above, noting the tiny windows to allow of light in out-of-the-way corners, and noting also the old-fashioned ingle and huge oven by its side.  We realized then that this cottage, as it is called, was probably the house of a gentleman, who entertained many friends, and served much baked meats in his refectory.  He too, like the Norman Vicar of old at this church, seems to have known the worth of pigeon-pie.  Still in the vicarage garden stands the old Norman dovecote, and here in this fourteenth-century house is the pigeon loft of ancient time. (pp. 150-151)

The old housekeeper loved every stick and stone in the place, and spoke of the cottage as of a living thing.  “Of course, she be a bit draughty at times, and she makes a deal of dirt from old rafters and what not, and sometimes I say windows should be bigger, but she be a great favourite with the visitors, and them as comes to lodge here in the summer can’t say too much about her.” (p. 151)

The property, which has belonged to the National Trust since 1903, subject to the life-interest of Miss Johns, would probably not now be in existence but for her love of old Cornish days.  She heard that it was to be sold, to be pulled down for the site of a modern building, and begging the Earl of Wharncliffe’s agent not to bid against her she went to the sale.  He, a wise man in his generation, refused to give a fancy price for a semi-ruinous building, and Miss Johns thus became the possessor in 1893.  Unable to put it in repair, she called in the help of the National Trust, who secured the advice of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and a well-known architect, Detmar Blow, who with knowledge and skill put the cottage in substantial repair, and preserved for us its original features, and there is no reason now why the cottage should not stand a monument of fourteenth-century architecture to delight beholders for many generations. (pp. 151-152)

But the interest of a stay at Tintagel does not consist only in National Trust property and the Arthurian legend.  We sojourn here among a grey-eyed, well-mannered and kindly people by the seaside, entirely unspoiled by the paraphernalia of an ordinary watering-place.  Every road that leads from the village takes you at easy distance to some remains of the old British kingdom of Lyonesse, or to some remembrance of early Celtic Christianity. (p. 152)

(A Nation’s Heritage, pp. 131-157)