The wonderful wilderness of the place, a Cornish rocky outcrop relentlessly battered by the waves of the Atlantic, has inspired poets, artists and dreamers for many centuries.
But Tintagel, immortalized in British mythology as the site of King Arthur’s conception, is one of a series of castles at risk of falling into the sea as climate change increases the rate of coastal erosion.
English Heritage has launched an appeal to raise funds and identified its six most vulnerable castles, warning that some of England’s most beloved places may be lost if nothing is done.
Rob Woodside, Estates Manager at English Heritage, said: “Erosion along England’s coastline is nothing new, but the rate of land loss we’ve seen in recent years is alarming. Sea level rise and more regular storms pose a real risk to the future of many of our sites.”
Chunks of Tintagel have long since fallen into the sea, but parts of the cliff directly in front of the visitor center have recently been lost to erosion, gobbling up a viewing area and coastal path.
Other sites at risk in south-west England include Bayard’s Cove Fort, built in Tudor times to protect Dartmouth in Devon. It is located on a terrace cut from the rocky bank of the river, a beautiful spot but prone to flooding. English Heritage says urgent work is needed to investigate the impact of sea level rise.
Off the Cornish coast, English Heritage is also concerned about the garrison walls at St Mary’s, the largest of the Isles of Scilly. They were built after the Armada attack in 1588 due to concerns that Spain would send a second fleet.
But the sea is now more of a threat than enemy forces, with the shape of the walls creating pinch points, or “armpits”, where tidal power is concentrated.
English Heritage is also concerned about Piel Castle in Cumbria, located on a low-lying island about half a mile offshore in Morecambe Bay. Much of the island has already been lost and the castle keep is in danger.
Two castles in Hampshire are under threat. Calshot, built by Henry VIII, is considered at risk, with work needed on a rotisserie and the beach.
Part of Hurst Castle, also built by Henry VIII, collapsed days before planned work to stabilize the site in February last year, after the sea exposed and undermined its foundations. While stabilization of the damaged section has been carried out, the dikes around Fort Tudor are in urgent need of repair and reinforcement.
Woodside said: “The partial collapse of the East Battery at Hurst Castle was a devastating reminder of the power of the sea and the risks facing our coastal heritage, but Hurst is not an isolated case.
“Hundreds of heritage sites in the UK and around the world are increasingly at risk. For these coastal properties to survive for decades to come, we will need to strengthen their walls and build sea defenses to protect them.”