Fieldtrip series, Part 1: Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

Hey there! My name is Orla Padwick and I’m a 21-year-old hailing from the sunny seaside of Brighton and Hove! Studying as a Postgraduate student on the MA International Heritage Management and Consultancy course means that I will always be here to convince you that museums and National Trust properties are ALWAYS worth a visit (even though we all know that the tea-rooms and gift shops are difficult to avoid!). Being at Exeter since my Undergraduate means I’ve had my fair shares of ups and downs and will never be afraid to tell you one of my many embarrassing stories to show you how to (or how NOT) to do things!

Here is part one of my fieldtrip series!

One of the (many!) perks of studying an MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy is the broad range of fieldtrips which you have the opportunity to go on. The course really prides itself in giving you hands-on experience with heritage sites and interactions with professionals in the field, so you gain both academic and practical experience. To give a taster of some of the trips that we go on (and also a sneaky peak at my photography skills) I thought I would start a fieldtrip series, including some of my favourite trips/heritage sites from second term.

On a very wet, and very windy Monday morning I went on a fieldtrip to Tintagel Castle in the north of Cornwall as part of my Interpretation, Narrative, Memory and Conflict module. This was actually one of the modules which had drawn me to the course in the first place, and although I had visited Tintagel one before, I was excited to get the opportunity to see what managing such a popular coastal site was like ‘behind the scenes’.

After a very chaotic bus journey, where the scenery appeared to become something out of a Daphne du Maurier novel, we arrived at Tintagel village to find that…everything was closed. Not a tea-room to be seen. Not disheartened (but definitely dishevelled) we made our way down the coastal track to the site itself. Contrary to its name, Tintagel Castle is in-fact a site of ruins – although this certainly does not make it any less impressive. Steeped in history and inherently linked with the myth of King Arthur, the site certainly looked impressive as we battled through the rain and increasing wind to get to the English Heritage station at the bottom.

After sampling the tearoom (a key stop of point for ANY heritage student) we met the Assistant Site Manager in the exhibition. The exhibition explains both the historical use of the castle as well as the intangible myths of King Arthur and Merlin and it was interesting to hear how English Heritage presented both sides of the story. Although we were told we were unfortunately unable to get onto the site itself due to the increasingly gale force wind, the discussion we had was a true insight into the problems of managing Tintagel. Factors including balancing visitor footfall and coastal erosion were key issues for the site – in 2016 alone Tintagel had 229,809 visitors![1]

There has been a recent inclusion of a suspension bridge between the mainland and the island where the castle is, which has massively improved accessibility, as before visitors had to climb over 100 very step and rocky steps. Personally, I am so glad that more sites are improving accessibility, as it enables the enjoyment of these sites to be shared and inclusive. It was also interesting to discuss managing visitor expectation and the balance between the Arthurian myth and the Cornish history of the site, and how to present this to visitors.

Although the trip was extremely wet and we were unable to visit the main site, I thoroughly enjoyed our first fieldtrip for this term! Being able to take what we had learnt in our seminars and critically apply them first-hand to a site was invaluable, as was the discussion with the heritage professionals. I would definitely recommend a visit to Tintagel to anyone who is exploring or studying in Cornwall and I will certainly be returning to walk across the suspension bridge to the island!

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/

[1] https://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=403&codeid=789

   March 31st, 2020    Cornwall, Exploring Devon and Cornwall, Postgraduate

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