Much of the legend and 'history' pertaining to King Arthur in what is now England is centred around modern day Cornwall. In 5th and 6th century Britain, Cornwall was part of a considerable kingdom called Dumnonia, a region covering modern Cornwall, Devon and parts of Somerset. Few of the early kings or princes of this realm are known by name, but legend has Constantinus, named after an earlier Roman Emperor, as successor to Arthur.
One of the principal Arthurian sites in Cornwall is Din Tagell, modern day Tintagel, believed to have been the birthplace of King Arthur. This particular version of Arthur's entrance into the world was the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose 'History of the Kings of Britain' appeared in AD1136. Here, Tintagel was the fortress of a Cornish Duke named Gorlois and through the wizardry of Merlin, warden of the Pendragon line, Arthur's father Uther Pendragon 'took' the beautiful Igraine and from this unlawful union was conceived the boy destined to be 'the once and future king'.
By the time that the historical Richard, Earl of Cornwall, came to Tintagel in 1233, the wind-swept headland was firmly linked to Arthur as his place of birth and as one of the castles in which he lived and ruled. Richard built his own fortress on this bleak promontory, more for political than strategic reasons, presenting himself as successor to the now legendary Arthur and thus heir to the loyalties of the fiercely proud Cornish people. It is the ragged ruins of this 13th century castle that remains to us today, dramatically clinging to an island promontory connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge - a brief 'walk on the wild side' and you're standing in one of the most spectacular medieval ruins imaginable. However, recent archaeology has uncovered a 5/6th century settlement of considerable size at Tintagel, overlain by Richard's medieval castle. It is now a near certainty that a stronghold with important trade connections was functioning on the site during the Dark Age period when Arthur would have existed. It is feasible to conclude that a fortress existed at Din Tagell commanded by a king called Arthur, and that Geoffrey's lost sources could well have indicated this, while at the same time accepting that the writer spun an imaginary web of mythology around the name of Arthur.
Beneath the 12th century parish church standing on Tintagel headland a series of graves have been uncovered, some of which date from the 6th century AD. The more elaborate graves may have been the final resting place of dignitaries from the nearby royal site of Din Tagell, and this area on the topmost part of the headland may have played a significant role in ceremonies associated with the early Dark Age kings like Arthur. Close to sea level, at the base of the island promontory, is a hollow known as Merlin's Cave, which runs underneath the Castle courtyard for some distance. The magician's dark shade is reputed to haunt the castle complex.