A soaring footbridge could soon be built at Tintagel Castle, the weather-beaten Cornish fortress famous as the birthplace of King Arthur. The structure would tower 55m above the waves, connecting the castle with its headland, reports Pirate FM. It will be only 3m wide and will consist of two cantilvered halves, with a tiny gap between the two in the middle of the crossing that aims to give a sense of the gap between the present and the past.
The design, from Ney & Partners with William Matthews Associates, was chosen from 137 entries last year by English Heritage, who manage the site, and is now at planning stage. Tintagel Castle’s evocative ruins are visited by around 200,000 visitors annually, and while the current structure dates from the 13th century, archaeologists have found buildings dating back to the 5th century, along with wine imported from the Eastern Mediterranean and drinking vessels from North Africa.
According to medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, Tintagel was the place of Arthur’s conception and birth. In his account, the wizard Merlin cast a spell on Uther Pendragon, allowing the king to ride into a rival’s castle and sleep with Igraine, the Duchess of Cornwall. Arthur went on to rule Britain, Ireland and Iceland before battling the Holy Roman Empire and meeting his end at the hand of his treacherous nephew Mordred.
Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote that the original bridge was so slim that “three men shall be able to defend against the whole power of the kingdom”. The new bridge aims to draw on those traditions. “As well as reinstating the historic route to Tintagel Castle’s island wards,” an English Heritage spokesperson told Pirate FM, “the proposed bridge would help to reduce congestion and provide a step-free route onto the island which would allow more people to enjoy their visit to the castle. The proposed bridge has been designed to be an object of beauty, sensitively balanced with the surrounding landscape.”
The bridge, which would have oak handrails and a deck made from local slate, is part of a £4 million works programme that also aims to improve footpaths and protect the fragile site.