A Cornish castle immortalized as the mythological home of King Arthur is in danger of falling into the sea as climate change speeds up coastal erosion.
Tintagel Castle – home to the legendary King’s Inception – is one of several sites at risk of being lost forever, English Heritage has warned, as rising seas batter the coast.
The charity has launched a multi-million pound appeal to fund work that would stop damage to the sites it manages.
The cultural heritage agency described the rate of land loss in recent years as “alarming”, and warned that sea levels are now rising at their fastest rate in nearly three millennia.
Rob Woodside, estates director at English Heritage, said: “Erosion along England’s coastline is nothing new, but the rate of land loss that we have seen in recent years is alarming, with some scenarios indicating that sea levels could rise by up to a meter by the end of the century .”
He continued: “To give this some context, in the last century sea levels rose by 14cm along the southern coast of England.
“Climate change is accelerating the problems facing our coastal heritage and creating huge challenges for organizations like English Heritage who want to protect it.”
Woodside added: “Rising sea levels and more regular storms pose a real risk to the future of many of our sites.”
£40,000 needed to repair damage
The area of Tintagel has been inhabited since the late Roman period, but it was not until the 12th century that chronicler Geoffrey of Monmoth claimed that it was where King Arthur was conceived.
His mythological account of the history of the kings of Britain, Historia Regum Britanniae, cemented Tintagel’s place in the national imagination.
It is believed that this newfound celebrity inspired Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to begin building a castle there in the 1230s.
English Heritage said the site has always battled erosion, with parts of the castle already falling into the sea in the 14th century.
But it recently said parts of the cliff directly in front of the visitor center had been lost, affecting the viewing area and coastal path.
It hopes to raise £40,000 to repair this and the damage caused by last winter’s storms.
Other castles in danger
Other castles considered to be among the most vulnerable to coastal erosion include Bayard’s Cove Fort near Dartmouth in Devon, which was built in Tudor times to defend the entrance to the Dart estuary.
Its location, on a rocky riverbank, makes it vulnerable to flooding.
On the island of St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly, the Garrison Walls are also at risk.
Hurst Castle in Hampshire, an artillery fortress built by Henry VIII, saw a large section of its 18th-century east wing collapse in February 2021 after the sea undermined its foundations.
Just down the coast, Calshot Castle – another of Henry VIII’s fortifications – is fighting erosion, but its low-lying area also puts it at risk of flooding when sea levels rise.
In Cumbria, 14th-century Piel Castle stands on a rapidly eroding low-lying island about half a kilometer off the coast of Morecambe Bay.
Woodside said: “Hundreds of heritage sites in the UK and around the world are increasingly at risk.
“If these coastal properties are to survive the coming decades, we must strengthen their walls and build sea defenses to protect them. It is for this reason that we are launching a public appeal to raise funds for this vital conservation effort.”