The most southwesterly county of England is surrounded by water on three sides: the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel and the Celtic Sea. Rough, steep cliffs alternate with long beaches and picturesque bays. The climate is maritime and due to the Gulf Stream particularly mild in winter which has Mediterranean and subtropical plants thrive in this region. The gardens and parks around the former aristocratic estates benefit from this phenomenon. Some of them are several hundred years old and among the finest in all of England.
Prehistoric stone circles in an uninhabited upland moor
This upland moor in the northeastern part of Cornwall covers over 200 square kilometers. Granite lies at the bottom of the moor, which is why water has difficulty draining. Imposing rock formations called the “Gates” rise over this desolate, treeless landscape. Prehistoric burial mounds and stone circles indicate that the moorland must have been heavily populated during the Bronze Age. Bodmin Moor has been declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its highest point is Brown Willy (420 m), which is also the highest point in Cornwall.
The botanical garden north of St. Austell is one of the most important of its kind and thousands of visitors come to view the garden. Here 100,000 plants from 5,000 different species grow on 50 acres of land in a defunct china clay pit. Particular emphasis is placed on endangered species to preserve the genetic diversity of wild plants and crops. The hexagonal greenhouses are currently the largest in the world and home to tropical and Mediterranean plants.
Northwest of Bodmin Moor stand the ruins of Tintagel Castle, billed as the ancestral home of the legendary King Arthur. The magic of King Arthur and the Round Table is reflected in the enchanting countryside of Cornwall. Fact is, a heroic knight led the defense of Britain against Saxon invaders in the 6th century. The rest is folklore, mostly written by a Welsh monk six hundred years later. According to that account, the king was raised by a wizard named Merlin, took the throne at age 15, and married a Roman noblewoman named Guinevere. After conquering all of Britain, the brave knight marched on Rome. In his absence his nephew Modredus seized the throne and seduced his wife. Arthur returned home and killed Modredus, but was fatally injured in the process. To prevent his death he is whisked off to the enchanted island of Avalonia, never to be seen again. His magic sword, Excalibur, rests at the bottom of the sea. The popular legend created an entire genre of Arthurian romances, giving rise to such famous characters as Lancelot, Parceval and the medieval lovers Tristan and Isolde.
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The most famous gardens of Cornwall consists of a ravine garden and an English landscape park with a commercial and an ornamental garden. Particularly attractive are the jungle in the ravine where bamboo, gunnera, agave and tree ferns grow as well as “The Lost Valley” of oak, beech and chestnut. The garden is also home to rare wildlife. The overgrown rock figures make reference to the mythology of Cornwall.
Henry VIII had the fortress built in 1540 as a stronghold against the French and Spaniards. After he had murdered his wives and then summarily changed the religion because of subsequent papal criticism, he had enough reason to fear enemies. One hundred years later, the castle was really embattled. For five months it was besieged as the last bastion of the royalists by the parliamentary forces. About a thousand men, women and children were trapped and surrendered only when they were close to starvation.
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Romantic castle ruin on the west coast
The romantic castle ruins off the west coast of Conrnwall could for a long time only be reached by a narrow headland and a steep ascent with over 100 steps. In the meantime, the construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting the small peninsula with the mainland has made access much easier for visitors.
The legend connects the castle with the legendary King Arthur, who fought the invading Angles and Saxons in the 9th century. Today, however, archaeologists rather suspect that the castle was built in the 5th century as an early Christian Celtic monastery and was already a ruin in the 15th century.
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