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Locals Upset By Bridge to King Arthur’s Castle

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

A new footbridge installed at Britain's Tintagel Castle, the reputed birthplace of King Arthur, has locals up in arms by its “theme park” appearance.

For centuries, Britain's Tintagel Castle, located on a rugged promontory in Cornwall, has drawn visitors, for being the purported birthplace of the legendary King Arthur. Originally accessible via a narrow isthmus, the castle, which was built in the 13th century, was originally accessible by barge and then draw bridge, and most recently, by a long, steep staircase down the cliffside that ended at a small wooden bridge that joined the other side of the ravine. Unfortunately, with up to a quarter million visitors a year, at peak visiting times, this narrow bridge became so overwhelmed with traffic that visitors would have to wait up to 45 minutes on each side of the cliff for their turn to cross… and with no bathrooms nearby, this began to also raise sanitation concerns.

So English Heritage, which owns and operates the site, installed this year a wide footbridge that can accommodate the vast numbers of tourists who visit the site annually. Constructed of a Cornish slate walkway, steel cables, it features balustrades that project out from each side of the cliff to almost meet in the middle over the 190-foot gorge.

Although quite beautiful in its own right, the $6 million bridge has drawn a firestorm of criticism. Called by some a vanity project that makes the castle now look like a theme park, detractors say that the bridge as ruined the historic look of the site. They also are upset that Tintagel is being promoted as a British historic site rather than a Cornish site, as the castle was the seat of the powerful Dumnonian kings, an empire that was actually larger than London during the time of King Arthur (5-7th centuries).

The bridge's architects said that the 4cm gap in the bridge represents the movement between the present and the past, “the known and unknown, reality and legend.”

Regardless of its aesthetic appeal, the bridge will allow easier access to the site where, according to Sir Thomas Mallory's popular 15th-century story Le Morte d'Arthur, King Uther Pendragon asked the wizard Merlin to help him transform his appearance into that of the Duke of Cornwall. Thus enchanted, Uther snuck into the castle at night to spend the night with the Duke’s wife. From this encounter she became pregnant, giving birth to the future King Arthur.

To see more photos of the bridge, castle, and surrounding cliffs, visit Design Boom.


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