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Hikers in Cornwall Can Visit The Actual Cave of Merlin

You can only reach it at low tide...

The legend of King Arthur has been beloved for more than a thousand years. This tale of knights and kings, of fair maidens and great quests, of mysterious sorceresses and wise old wizards is one that every generation can find something to latch onto. Retellings, adaptations, songs and books and stories abound, and of these, perhaps the most famous legend is that of the wizard unstuck in time, the great hermit and kingmaker Merlin, who helped to put Arthur on the throne.

Far fewer people know that historians and archaeologists have placed a few pieces of Arthurian legend in the historic record, claiming he was a real old king of Cornwall, and that Tintagel castle, on the sea cliffs, was the actual Camelot. But if so, then the massive cave beneath the cliffs must have once been the home of Merlin himself.

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Today, tourists and hikers can visit the ruins of Tintagel Castle, in the far southwest Britain, and brave their own trip down the cliff face to traverse this 330-foot long cave themselves. Only accessible when the tide is low, the cave was formed in the rocks by sea erosion. According to legend (and, specifically, Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Arthurian poem Idylls of the King), this very cave was where Merlin first happened upon the baby who would one day be King Arthur.

Recently the organization English Heritage, which controls many historic sites in the UK, caused a controversy by having the wizard’s face carved into the entrance of the cave. Though this cemented the connection between this natural landmark and the legends surrounding it, many thought the move amounted to vandalism.