Saturday 16 April 2016

Tintagel Old Post Office

If you had to pick one National Trust property that sums up Great Britain, it would surely be Tintagel Old Post Office. 

You've got Tintagel, the ancient, legendary home of King Arthur. And then you've got the Post Office, with queues stretching for several days across multiple counties, unless you need foreign currency, in which case you get served straight away (WHY?). 

I'm joking about the queues - Tintagel Old Post Office was a post office in Victorian times, so it's not actually open for business today. I did see a man in a stovepipe hat who'd been waiting for a passport application form for 130 years though. 

Tintagel Old Post Office

Anyway. There's no tea room at TOPO. But that's the beauty of Cornwall - you're never far from a scone. Which made a nice change for me and the Scone Sidekick, as we live in London where you're famously never far from a rat. 

Here are some factoids about Tintagel Old Post Office:
  • It was built between 1350 and 1400
  • It probably began life as the home of a prosperous yeoman
  • In the 1870s it became the receiving office for letters, but it has also been a grocer's, shoemaker's, draper's, and family home 
  • Tintagel began attracting a lot of tourists because of its connections to King Arthur - as part of this, many buildings were demolished and replaced by hotels
  • When the almost derelict Old Post Office came up for auction in 1895, a local artist bought it to preserve it - the National Trust bought it from her in 1900
Rear view of Tintagel Old Post Office

We then headed onto enemy territory; Tintagel Castle, which is run by English Heritage. Now, I am extremely defensive of the National Trust. If someone says to me "we went to X property and it was SO EXPENSIVE to get in! £9.80 each for me and Dave and £6.50 for little Kanye! One of us could have gone to Legoland for that! We had to leave Dave's mum in the car." I always think "WHY DIDN'T YOU JOIN?! 500+ properties for a few pounds a month is a bargain! And to think that you're an accountant - I'm not letting you anywhere near my finances." 

BUT! At Tintagel Castle today I turned into one of those people. I balked at the entrance fee. I got inwardly irritated when the woman tried to sell me a guidebook on top of our ticket price. I declined when she asked if I had ever thought about joining English Heritage. And I was outraged to see a Land Rover ferrying people back up the very steep but very short hill for £2 a pop - they even charged 50p for dogs. (Although I will admit that halfway up I would gladly have paid £2 if they'd have stopped for me.) 

Having said all of this, if you want to meet the Gordon Gekko of the heritage world, go to Land's End (not an NT nor an EH property) where you have to pay £9.95 minimum if you want to have your photograph taken at the famous sign. 

Anyway. Tintagel Castle is well worth a visit. It was built in 1230 by Richard, Earl of Cornwall. Tintagel had been linked to King Arthur since the 1100s, when Geoffrey of Monmouth declared that Arthur had been conceived in Tintagel. It's now a ruin and you'll need a bit of energy to climb up there but it's impressive.

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Old Post Office: 4.5 out of 5
Scones: there's no NT tea room but you'll find 8,000,000 other tea rooms nearby
English Heritage charging £2 to drive people a few yards up a hill: 0 out of 5

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