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  • ♪ (Sweet Nightingale, Lisa Knapp) ♪

  • The Cornish coastline. 400 miles of rocky  coves, windswept headlands, rolling sanddunes  

  • and rugged granite cliffs, all engaged in  a perpetual battle with Atlantic brawls.  

  • On a headland on Cornwall's north coast  stands Tintagel Castle, a site that has  

  • become inextricably linked to a legendary figure  who continues to dominate England's mythical past.  

  • Visitors to these striking ruins are invited to  leave the mainland behind by crossing a footbridge  

  • peering over into the natural chasm below before  entering a medieval world of myth and magic.

  • This is a castle that really owes its existence  to a myth. Tintagel was named in Geoffrey of  

  • Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britainwritten in the middle of the 12th century,  

  • as the place where King Arthur was conceived  and this came about through a mixture of sorcery  

  • and through clever words and it  inspired Richard the Earl of Cornwall  

  • to build a castle here in the early part of  the 13th century. King Arthur would have been  

  • something of a role model to those growing up in  royal and noble households in the 13th century.  

  • In building a castle here at Tintagel  Richard was clearly expressing his commitment  

  • to the chivalric ideals of the time that  could be seen as embodied by King Arthur.

  • The castle itself was used for a number of  purposes including a prison but it was often  

  • in ruins and then sured up again and then in  ruins. By the early 17th century it was appear  

  • as if the land bridge connecting the two parts  of the castle had been eroded away and anybody  

  • who wanted to gain access to the castle had to  climb down and back up the precipitous cliffs.

  • These ruins with their mythical  origins might seem ancient to us  

  • but if we look deeper back into the  past we discover clues about this  

  • site that relate to lives lived here many  centuries before this castle was built.

  • Long before the castle of Earl Richard, Tintagel  was occupied. There really isn't much evidence for  

  • prehistoric or Roman occupation, but the fact that  there isn't evidence does not necessarily mean  

  • that people were not here at that timeBut during the early medieval period,  

  • the 5th to 7th centuries, or the 'dark ages', we  know that Tintagel was occupied. Far from being  

  • a 'dark age' one writer has suggested that  this period is really a Cornish Golden Age.  

  • The evidence suggests that the people living in  and trading from Tintagel were extremely well  

  • connected and were enjoying some of the  finest things in life such as olive oil,  

  • wine and high status tablewares and we  need to bear in mind that this trade  

  • might also have meant that they would have met  people from these far-off places so there's this  

  • idea of diverse languages and diverse  traditions mixing at this place. This was  

  • a place that was characterised by importsexchange and international connections.

  • In gentle compliment of the grandeur of Tintagel  Castle is an iconic slice of Cornish history.  

  • Often thought of as a Cornish anthem, Sweet  Nightingale. It's sung for us by the wonderful  

  • Lisa Knapp. Affirming Cornwall's international  stature, this song isn't actually local at all:  

  • it's a German import brought back to the  south west of England by Cornish miners  

  • who must have heard this beautiful tale while  working in German tin mines in the 1800s.  

  • And neither is the nightingale local. They  are migrant birds flying to Africa each year  

  • and ironically have never actually  made it as far west as Cornwall.  

  • But then again, there was probably  no King Arthur there either.

♪ (Sweet Nightingale, Lisa Knapp) ♪

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