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Exploring the Legend of King Arthur

With the release of Guy Ritchie's film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword in mid May, there is no better way to be swept up in the fantasy than to explore regional United Kingdom and the locations where the myth was born.

King Arthur was the boy who pulled the sword from the stone and became the stuff of legends, with his knights of the round table and his kingdom of Camelot. The story goes that King Arthur and his knights thwarted a Saxon invasion of modern day Wales in the early sixth century although there appears no timely mention of him. Whether he was a real king or not, his story took on magical elements in its recounting in the 12th century in “History of the Kings of Britain" by Geoffrey of Monmouth, with his magical sword Excalibur, his trusted adviser Merlin and Queen Guinevere and the legend has been growing and developing ever since.

But where in the UK are these legendary locations?

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

The number one place for any King Arthur fans, Tintagel Castle is a history soaked outpost, half on the mainland and half on a headland on the Cornish Sea. The site was first linked to King Arthur by Geoffrey of Monmouth and said to be where he was conceived. These legends of the great warrior king have been speculated as being what prompted Richard, the Earl of Cornwall, to first build a castle on these grounds in 1230.

Before the advent of Arthur this was a significant site, particularly in the Dark Ages. From AD 450 until about AD 650 the headland, or almost island, was a significant strategic position in the competitive trading across the Mediterranean. It is believed to have been the secular stronghold of the Dark Age rulers of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall) at this time.

Whether you believe in the legends or not, this significant site in British history provides a fascinating day trip and you can't help but feel a sense of wonder at the remaining ruins - whether that wonder is born from mystery alone or something a little more supernatural. Visit Cornwall on our Discover Southwest England Superbreak itinerary, based out of Exeter.

Cumbria

The two words 'round' and 'table' will be forever associated with King Arthur and his knights. As with all stories that surround Arthur, there are a few places that claim to be the locations of this important meeting place - one of them is a neolithic round earthwork henge in Cumbria.  This monument dates back to BC 2000-1000 and is thought to have been the location that Arthur used for jousting contests.

Visit Cumbria on our Magical Lakes & Liverpool Itinerary based out of Preston or our Discover Northern England based out of Newcastle.

Hampshire

A more classic understanding of the Arthur's round table - as a table where Arthur and his knights would confer - is on display in the Great Hall of Winchester in Hampshire. The table of legends was said to seat 150 knights and although impressive at 1,179kg and a diameter of 6m, the Round Table of Hampshire has space for only 24 knights. Nevertheless, this table is indeed ancient - it is thought to have been built by Edward I in 1290 to celebrate the betrothal of one of his daughters.  It was Henry VII who repurposed the table as Arthur's, having his name and those of his 24 of knights painted around the edge of the table. From around 1348 to 1873, this table hung on the eastern wall of Winchester - since 1873, it has been on the west.

Chester

In more recent years, scholars have speculated that the round table was in fact a Roman Amphitheatre, used by Arthur as a forum. The amphitheatre of Chester would have had room for at least 1,000 knights who could have been arranged in complex hierarchical systems. Supporting this theory is Chester's close proximity to several famous battle sites of Arthurian legends.

Regardless of whether Chester holds THE Round Table it is a charming city that is drenched in history dating back to Roman times, while also being home to a number of cosmopolitan cafes, shops and bars.

Stay in Chester on our Chester, Shrewsbury & North Wales Superbreak or visit for the day on our Discover Lakes, Liverpool & Leeds package based out of Manchester.

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park is not only home to some incredible natural sites but is also significant in Arthurian Legends. Arthur's magical sword, Excalibur, was said to have been given to him by the Lady of the Lake and upon his death, Lancelot returned this sword to the lake. There are at least three different lakes that claim to contain Excalibur - but luckily for you, they are all in the heart of the breathtaking Snowdonia National Park. The lakes of Llydaw, Dinas and Ogwen are all reasonably close together and beautiful natural spots to stop a while and dream of legends.

If something a little more challenging than a lakeside stroll piques your interest, how about climbing the summit of Mt Snowdon? The  rocks that mark the summit are said to have been put their by Arthur, after he killed a fearsome giant. The story goes that Rhitta the giant killed warriors and collected their beards to weave himself a magnificent cape. When he tried to steal Arthur's beard, he was slain and Arthur buried him under those boulders.

See the stunning Snowdonia National Park on our Chester, Shrewsbury & North Wales itinerary based out of Chester.

Caerleon

There are a couple of locations that could have been the famous Camelot, the stronghold of Arthur and his court. Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed it was at Caerleon, where the remains of a Roman fortress stand today. Today, Caerleon is home to the National Roman Legion Museum, including Britain's most complete amphitheatre and the only Roman Legionary barracks open to the public in Europe.  Even if it actually isn't the site of Camelot, it is still an extremely interesting day trip.

Cadbury Castle

The most popular site believed to have been Camelot is in the hills of Somerset where archaeologists have found that hill fort  of Cadbury Castle was once a major stronghold in the 6th century. What's more, this fort was held by a warrior chief by the name of Arthur, referred to as Camelot and it underwent many improvements in re-fortification under his rule.

The fort was built sometime during the Iron Age and was occupied until 1016 with the death of Ethelred the Unready. Legend says that Arthur and his knights did not die but rather rest below the surface in caves, ready to rise one day to the aid of Britain and once again drive out the invaders.


Whether the legends of Arthur are true or not, all of these locations hold a special element of mystical intrigue and are sure not to disappoint.

Let us incorporate these sites into a Superbreak package for you - or let's build your perfect itinerary together from scratch!