Tintagel is linked to the legendary King Arthur – and eagle-eyed visitors can spot the sleeping face of Merlin carved into the rocks

It’s a place of myth and mystery, with legendary links to King Arthur – and over the winter months the legends of Tintagel Castle have been given new life. Eagle-eyed visitors can now discover a new addition to Tintagel’s landscape - the sleeping face of Merlin carved into the rocks by Merlin’s Cave’ on the beach.

Passing completely through Tintagel island, the cave owes its name to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. By Tennyson’s retelling, it was through this passageway in the cave that Merlin stole away the infant Arthur and carried him to safety. Carved discreetly into the rock-face outside the cave, Merlin’s profile can now be seen emerging from the stone.

Merlin’s reappearance at Tintagel is not the stuff of magic, but the work of experienced local craftsman Peter Graham. Working directly into the stone, Peter has spent the past three months carefully crafting the image of Merlin into the rock. As Peter explains, the task was not without its challenges;

“Recreating Merlin has been a wonderful challenge. You are working in this amazing place, but with the elements too – enduring tides, gales, and winter storms.

Usually you would choose the perfect stone from a quarry, but here I have worked into the rock of Tintagel’s landscape. Merlin has emerged organically out of that rock, to see him now is really rather satisfying.”

The new artwork is the first part of a project by English Heritage to reimagine Tintagel’s history and legends across the island site. New sculptures and installations have been specially commissioned to bring Tintagel’s stories to life and will be revealed in the late Spring.

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“Merlin’s face is just the beginning of our exciting new project here at Tintagel – but what a start” explains Property Manager Matt Ward, “Tintagel is a place of landscape and legend, and Merlin, emerging so organically from the rock, sums that up perfectly. We’ve got lots more to come over the next few months and I can’t wait to see it all take shape.”

Tintagel Castle rose to literary stardom in the 12th century. It was then that Scholar Geoffrey of Monmouth first made the links to Arthur in his History of the Kings of Britain, describing it as the island fortress where Arthur was conceived thanks to the magic of Merlin. The new project is the latest celebration of these literary connections – with Merlin’s face a striking and enigmatic first step.

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