This New Footbridge to a Medieval Castle Is Not for People With a Fear of Heights

The bridge, which crosses a deep gorge, is associated with the legend of King Arthur.

This New Footbridge to a Medieval Castle Is Not for People With a Fear of Heights

The new footbridge spans nearly 200 feet across a gorge.

Photo by David Levene

As of August 11, visitors will be able to walk a path that hasn’t been accessible in more than 500 years, when the Tintagel Castle footbridge opens to the public. The bridge, which spans the 190-foot gorge and sits 187 feet above sea level, brings together the two halves of the 13th-century medieval castle, built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall.

That the earl chose to build his castle at Tintagel is no happy accident: Instead, he was inspired by writer Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th-century legend associated with the location, which says that the wizard Merlin transformed Uther Pendragon (the King of Britain) to make him resemble the Duke of Cornwall. Pendragon then traveled across the narrow passageway—which once existed naturally—to spend the night with the duke’s wife, Ygerna, who birthed Arthur, the future King of Camelot.

The Earl of Cornwall’s landbridge, made of rock, earth, and grass, also disappeared sometime around the 15th or 16th century, and since then, visitors hoping to see both sides of the castle have had to descend and ascend steep staircases in the side of the cliffs, connected by a small wooden bridge. During peak visiting times, which saw 3,000 people a day during summer, there could be waits as long as 45 minutes, reports the Guardian.

The bridge consist of thousands of slate tiles packed tightly together.

The bridge consist of thousands of slate tiles packed tightly together.

Photo by Jim Holden

The new bridge is part of a £5 million (US$6 million) initiative to improve footpaths around Tintagel developed by English Heritage, an independent charity that preserves more than 400 monuments, buildings, and sites across the country. Designed by Ney & Partner engineers and William Matthews Associates Architectural Practice, the eight-foot-wide footbridge is made of 40,000 local Delabole slate tiles and 95,000 pounds of steel. It also has two 98-foot cantilevers that almost meet in the middle: At the bridge’s center, there’s a 40mm gap “designed to represent the transition between the mainland and the island, the present and the past, history and legend,” according to a statement.

In order to reduce congestion on the bridge and at Tintagel, timed tickets can now be prebooked via English Heritage in half-hour windows. (A select number of day-of tickets will also be available for purchase at the castle itself, but since there’s no guarantee, we strongly suggest booking ahead of time.) Prices are £14.30 (around US$16) for adults aged 18 to 64, with cheaper rates available for children, seniors, and families. Note that crossings are subject to weather, and that the bridge can be closed due to high winds.

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Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at Afar focused on features and essays.
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