Keltfacts: Arthurian Celtic places

We would love to get you acquainted with the Celtic culture in our new series Keltfacts. In this blog we are looking into King Arthur and several locations associated with his stories.

Where can King Arthur’s castle be found?
Throughout all tales and legends of King Arthur, many places have been rumoured to be the origin of the story or have a relation to an Arthurian legend. One of these places is Tintagel Castle close to North Cornwall. The rumours about this castle started around the twelfth century. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentioned the castle to be the place where Arthur was conceived. More interesting of course, is to find out whether Arthur’s court is an existing place.

Aside from its relation to King Arthur, Tintagel castle also is related to Merlin. Below the cliffs where the castle is situated, you can find a sea cave. In one of Arthur’s stories he floats ashore near the cave as an infant, and later gets found by Merlin. The legendary wizard has his birthplace near Wales as well. Legend has it that he was born the son of the devil and a pure maiden, thereby becoming the bearer of knowledge.
Eventually even the oldest and wisest have to die. Merlin is supposedly buried in Paimpont in Brittany, France, but you can find his grave in Drumelzier (Scotland) as well. There’s said that at the coast of Drumelzier, Merlin fulfilled his own prophecy of his death: he died falling by tripping off a cliff, getting impaled by falling on a fishing rod and drowned in the water afterwards.

Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is one of the places mentioned to be a possible location for Camelot. However, some stories regarding Arthur’s Seat mention an archer hero also named Arthur, instead of the King Arthur we talk about in this blog. However, according to Sir Thomas Malory, famous for his stories about King Arthur, the Winchester Castle is Camelot. It even has the ‘Winchester round table’ and the Roman characteristics described in the story. Other rumoured locations for Camelot are around Wales, such as Caerleon and Mynydd Baedan.

Cadbury Castle is another option for Camelot, introduced by John Leland. Etymologically, the most likely as it’s evolved from the Welsh Camalet or Camlann, which is similar to Camelot. Geographically Cadbury Castle is also a possibility as it’s close to the river Cam, West Camel and Queen Camel where King Arthurs’ final Battle of Camlann is said to have taken place: the last battle between King Arthur and Mordred.

Around the fifth and sixth century, South Cadbury had a Castle in a place which is now a hill-fort. As a castle, it was used by the Romans. When they left, it was refortified and supposedly used as headquarters by Arthur. From the castle to the south is a path called Arthurs Lane. This runs all the way to Glastonbury, a city and caste also related to King Arthur’s stories and legends.

Where is King Arthur buried?
It is said that after the Battle of Camlann, Arthur was taken to the Isle of Avalon to recover from his wounds.
In 1190 monks from Glastonbury Abbey said they had found bones that belonged to Guinevere and Arthur. The monks had found a coffin with the inscription that said it to be the king of the Isle of Avalon, King Arthur. Some historians however think it was a stunt from the monks to raise money for their abbey.

The Glastonbury Tor is associated with the Isle of Avalon. Long ago the water level was much higher. The speculation of the Glastonbury Tor being an island at the time isn’t so far-fetched. The Isle of Avalon was nicknamed Island of Glass, which has some similarities to Glastonbury.

Where are Excalibur and the Holy Grail?
The Holy Grail is said to be buried underneath the Glastonbury Tor. This is connected to the Chalice Well at the foot of the Tor.
Another version of the Holy Grail near Glastonbury is where Joseph of Arimathea brought the grail to England. Following up on this, in yet another story Joseph buried a glass bowl near Glastonbury Abbey. When he went hiking with friends, they found the bowl and claimed it to be the original Holy Grail from King Arthur.

Depending on which story you follow, Excalibur was either given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake, or pulled from the stone. There’s a lake in Cornwall, near Bodmin Moor, which is suggested to be where Arthur got his sword from the Lady of the Lake. This lake could also located be around his castle Camelot, or near the battlefield, where the sword was gifted to him to defeat his enemy.

Have you visited places linked to Arthurian legends? Did you know so many locations were linked to these tales?

Article by Dewi van Zeggelaar

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