Famous as the supposed birthplace of King Arthur, Tintagel's epic clifftop castle has been occupied since Roman times and once served as a residence for Cornwall's Celtic kings. The present castle is largely the work of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, who built a castle here during the 1230s. Though the Arthurian links may be tenuous, it's certainly a fine spot for a fortress: clinging to black granite cliffs, surrounded by booming surf and wheeling gulls, it's the classic fairy-tale castle. King Arthur notwithstanding, it’s hard to think of a more soul-stirring spot for a stronghold. Though much of the castle has long since crumbled, it’s still possible to make out the footprint of the Great Hall and several other rooms. Part of the castle stands on a rock tower known as the 'Island’, cut off from the mainland, and accessed via a wooden bridge and a dizzying set of cliff steps (vertigo sufferers beware). There’s also a curious tunnel that’s still puzzling archaeologists; it may have been used as a larder or cold store. Trails lead along the headland to the atmospheric medieval chapel of St Materiana, and down on the beach below the castle the rocky mouth of Merlin's Cave is exposed at low tide – local legend claims it's where the wizard once wove his spells. It's a steep walk down to the castle from the village car parks; in summer, Land Rover taxis shuttle up and down throughout the day.