If you’re taking that trip to Britain and really want to visit sites related to King Arthur, and more specifically castles that are related to Arthurian legend, then here is a short list for you. Because so many sites related to Arthur and the knights are more or less speculative in nature, it’s always a plus to visit castles and landmarks that hold other significant meaning as well. Of course, in the end, it’s up to you: the traveler but here are a few spots to begin your journey.
1. Tintagel Castle
The most obvious castle on this list is the famous (at least among Arthurian lovers) Tintagel Castle. Barely more than ruins these days, Tintagel Castle is known more for it’s amazing views and mythical surroundings than the actual castle walls themselves. Tintagel is the rumored birthplace of King Arthur, and a community has survived in the Tintagel area for at least 1,400 years or more. The amazing beauty of the ocean off of the cliffs is reason enough to visit the windswept stone walls and craggy rocks. But when you step foot in Tintagel (a tiny village off the northern coast of Cornwall in Southern England) you can almost feel the magic in the air. Below the walls and cliffs at the foot of the ocean below Merlin’s Cave may be seen and the legend hangs in the air around rocky outcropping and opening to the cave. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain was the first to mention Tintagel as the possible birthplace of Arthur, citing evidence of the deceit used by King Uther Pendragon to sleep with the wife of the Duke of Gorlois, Igraine – who would ultimately become his Queen. If you get the opportunity to take a train (and then bus) out to the village of Tintagel, don’t miss out on the chance.
2. Warwick Castle
Juxtaposed to Tintagel Castle and it’s ruins, Warwick Castle is a beautiful castle still in pristine condition that sits much further to the Northeast in Warwick England. Warwick Castle is actually a replica built of the original Warwick Castle, which was erected by William the Conqueror in 1068. Though Warwick Castle (the original) is very loosely associated with King Arthur, it gives tourist and adventure seekers the chance to live like knights for a day. There is something for everyone at Warwick Castle, and it’s a great place for the kids as well. Not so much for deep Arthurian legend lovers, but a great place to kick back and live like a tourist for a bit!
3. Carlisle Castle
One of several spots associated with Camelot, Carlisle Castle is quite the fortress built of both red and grey sandstone. It’s walls are marvelous and the structure is solid. All in all, a wonderful place to explore and a prime example of a Middle Ages type castle. Though some would argue there is no evidence that Camelot existed here, others say it’s as good a guess as any. If you’re wanting to truly explore Camelot options, a visit further south to Cadbury Castle might be a better trip and indulge the more avid Arthurian legend lovers.
4. Harlech Castle
In all honesty, Harlech has very little ties to Arthurian legend, but with it’s close proximity to Cader Idris as well a slew of other Welsh Arthurian legend spots, it’s a great place to visit. Not only is it a beautiful castle nestled atop a cliff right on the shores of the Irish Sea in Gwynedd, Wales, it was also the last stronghold of Welsh folk hero Owain Glyndŵr, who led a Welsh revolt against the British for some 11 years and ruled as Prince of Wales from Harlech Castle during that time. Because of all of these ties, there is a sense of Arthurian legend at this castle. In addition to that it’s truly a magnificent piece of architecture and worth a visit if you’re anywhere close in the Snowdonia region of Wales.
5. Carleon upon Usk
Not really a castle, Carleon is more of a roman ruined type amphitheater in southern central Wales. But according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Carleon was King Arthur’s headquarters and principal city. Not to be confused with Camelot and the castle there, it did come to rival Camelot, according to Geoffrey and is a great spot to visit even to this day. The modern day Carleon is basically some Roman amphitheater as well as the surrounding buildings, and for decades the middle of the amphitheater was referred to as The Round Table. Carleon (or Caer-Leon) was also a site of one of the 12 great battles fought by King Arthur and the knights of the round table, and certainly worth a visit if you’re making the trek through Wales.