Slaughterbridge and King Arthur’s Stone

Last week on Cornwall Sunday, Tintagel was the headline act, the place where the legendary King Arthur was conceived. Only right then, to also feature the place where his life ended (or did it?).

On our way from Bodmin Moor to Port Isaac, we drove along a small Cornish road, the B3314. Between the villages of Camelford and Tintagel, we happened to pass a sign for the Arthurian Centre. It seemed like a fun stop, particularly for a restless 8-year-old, so I did a quick U-turn.

That turned out to be a good decision, she enjoyed it heaps. Of course, she would have enjoyed any stop – she finds road trips quite boring. But the Arthurian Centre has a large playground with a castle (of course), tea and cakes for sale, brasses to rub, and a children´s Grail Trail.

At Arthurian Centre, Slaughterbridge, Cornwall IMG_2792

For grown-ups, there´s an exhibition room with panels, photos and texts covering the 1 500 years of history surrounding the elusive king – a nice mixture of legends and historical facts. And best of all, there´s a nature trail, leading to Slaughterbridge and King Arthur´s Stone.

Slaughterbridge

Slaughterbridge, Cornwall

Difficult to imagine this peaceful field was once the setting of a fierce battle, isn´t it? There´s historical evidence suggesting battles have been fought here in ancient times, but was it the legendary Battle of Camlann in 537?

Our friend, Geoffrey of Monmouth (the 12th century author of History of the Kings of Britain), thinks so. This is what he has to say about the Battle of Camlann:

Arthur was filled with great mental anguish by the fact that Mordred had escaped him so often. Without losing a moment, he followed him to that same locality, the River Camlann, where Mordred was awaiting his arrival.

Accounts of the battle talks of the little river turning red with blood, of Arthur and Mordred fighting hand-to-hand on a bridge across the river. Arthur slew Mordred but was already fatally wounded by Mordred´s poisonous sword. From here, various endings are offered. In one, Arthur staggers to his death right here. In another, he is brought to Avalon, a place with healing properties (possibly the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast).

By some accounts, Mordred was Arthur´s nephew. Others have claimed he was Arthur’s illegitimate son by his half-sister, the sorceress Morgana. Today´s family relationships can be bad enough, but those of old seem somehow more dramatic, don´t you think?

Arthur´s Stone

Continuing past the battlefield, across the grounds of Worthyvale Manor (mentioned in the Domesday Book), we arrive at Lady Falmouth´s Secret Garden, created about 250 years ago, around the pièce de résistance: Arthur´s Stone.

King Arthur´s Stone, Cornwall
Arthur’s stone, seen from the bridge above the creek

Well, a memorial stone from his era, at any rate. It´s a large stone, almost 3 metres long, and it´s inscribed in Latin. The incomplete inscription reads something like LA (TI) NI IC IACIT FILIUS MA (…) RI, and its meaning has been hotly debated through the centuries. Is it merely “Latinus lies here, son of Ma (…) ri”? Or is it LATIN HIC JACET FILIUS MAGNI ARTURI – here lies Latin the son of Arthur the Great?

King Arthur´s Stone, Cornwall

Interestingly, the stone is also inscribed in Ogham, an ancient Celtic script, dating it to 6th century, the time of Arthur. Irish archaeologist, Robert Macalister, suggested Ogham may have been a gesture alphabet for secret communication between Druids. Here´s the vertical version of the Ogham alphabet:

Ogham script, King Arthur´s Stone, Cornwall

It reminds me of the Viking era runes we have up here.

Geoffrey of Monmouth isn´t the only one to wax lyrical about this place. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote this on a visit here on 7 June 1848:

Camelford, Slaughterbridge, clear brook among elders. Sought for King Arthur´s Stone, found it at last by a rock under two or three sycamores. The Stone, a nine foot pillar lies in a dank and picturesque setting by a stream. It is an inscribed memorial stone of the sixth century.

Travel tips

If you´re in Cornwall this summer, see if you can time your visit to July, when the Festival of British Archaeology 2012 takes place. Archaeology students and lecturers from Winchester University will be digging at Slaughterbridge all through July, and you can join them. At the Arthurian Centre, there will be two Living History Weekends this summer – 28/29 July and 11/12 August – complete with battle re-enactments, archery competitions, falconry and much more.

Have a great photo (or set of photos) to share, or do you just want to have a look at cool travel photos from around the world? Come join @LadyExpat and many others at Travel Photo Thursday over on Budget Travelers Sandbox and PhotoFriday at Deliciousbaby

61 Responses to “Slaughterbridge and King Arthur’s Stone”

  1. Annie - FootTracker 9 April 2012 0647 #

    That is sooo cool! I have heard stories about King Arthur, never thought if is was real or not. I do kind wish there is a path down there to the stone.
    Annie – FootTracker recently posted..#1 Hot Chocolate in Town

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 April 2012 1751 #

      There wasn’t a path exactly, but you could always scramble down there. No barriers.

  2. Turkey's For Life 9 April 2012 0811 #

    I think next time we’re back in Blighty (whenever that may be) we really must get back down to Cornwall. Such a long time since we were last there and we love all the myth and legend that surrounds it. Particularly the King Arthur stories.
    Julia
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Turkish Recipes: Turp Otu Salatası (Wild Radish Salad)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 April 2012 1751 #

      Such a fascinating place Cornwall.

  3. InsideJourneys 10 April 2012 0702 #

    What an adventure!
    Those Living History Weekends sound pretty cool.
    InsideJourneys recently posted..Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey

  4. Natasha von Geldern 10 April 2012 1319 #

    Fantastic. I love Arthurian legend and have been to Tintagel. It blows me away that Britain has this ancient stuff lying about in fields.
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..Destination Uzbekistan: Tashkent pitstop

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 April 2012 1752 #

      And so much of it!

  5. Paul 10 April 2012 1544 #

    I really love these posts about legendary King Arthur!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 April 2012 1753 #

      He was certainly an interesting character, whether real or not.

  6. tinafreysd 10 April 2012 1648 #

    You had a great adventure..Thanks for sharing this beautiful photo..

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 April 2012 1753 #

      Thanks.

  7. Francy R 10 April 2012 1705 #

    I love king Arthur’s stories as well as Middle Age and all the stiries about kings, princesses and so on…It’ s the time Iove most…it’s so charming in my opinion!
    Francy R recently posted..Feel the Life of Beijing

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 0050 #

      Yes, it’s an enchanting era. Or at least portrayed as such.

  8. Andrea 10 April 2012 2114 #

    That alphabet is really interesting! I’m looking forward to exploring more of those viking runes you mentioned. Really enjoying all the historical background to go along with these posts – looks like such a great place to explore with kids.
    Andrea recently posted..I Think the Norwegians Are On To Something

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 0046 #

      My kids really enjoyed it, both the grown-up and the little one.

  9. Angela 11 April 2012 1033 #

    Isn’t it fascinating stepping over the same paths where history has been written? I love it, I always try to stop a little and think about what that place means to its nation’s past.
    Angela recently posted..A trip, a photo – The amazing colors of Tyre’s sunset, Lebanon

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 2128 #

      I find I’m often fascinated, mesmerised even, by the history of a place. It draws you in.

  10. Brimshack 11 April 2012 1414 #

    Very cool write-up.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 2124 #

      Thank you.

  11. Alexa Meisler 11 April 2012 2226 #

    I love these stories! I know there are so many different interpretations but I’m still glad you shared them. And I’m glad she enjoyed the experience as well. Nice shots!
    Alexa Meisler recently posted..Organic Hair & Skin Care On the Go with Intelligent Nutrients

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2012 0025 #

      Thanks, Alexa.

  12. Easy Hiker 12 April 2012 0812 #

    Ah, King Arthur. Hasn’t really stopped fascinating us since childhood with stories of magic and gallantry.
    Easy Hiker recently posted..My Seven Super Shots

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1734 #

      and from such a fascinating era…

  13. Muza-chan 12 April 2012 1515 #

    Great story :)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1734 #

      Thanks :)

  14. Vera Marie Badertscher 12 April 2012 1622 #

    How exciting. I DO so want Arthur to be real!
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday: Cambodia at work

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1735 #

      So do I, Vera. So do I.

  15. Sabrina 12 April 2012 1634 #

    Slaughterbridge? Sounds scary! :) You find the coolest places!
    Sabrina recently posted..Lakes near Rome: Lago di Martignano

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1736 #

      Thank you :)

  16. Jessica 12 April 2012 1641 #

    What a fun place! You always find the most interesting places and include the greatest details in your posts. When are you going to publish a guidebook?
    Jessica recently posted..Stunning Surprises at Winchester Cathedral

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1738 #

      Haha, that would be fun. But I’m afraid our travels are probably too incoherent. It would be a guide book to ‘quirky places with and without kids to here and there’ :)

  17. Lisa 12 April 2012 1826 #

    What a great place to explore and learn more about the legend of King Arthur – my 8 year old would love to visit here.
    Lisa recently posted..Luxembourg Gardens with Kids

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1738 #

      Very kid-friendly and educational in the most fun way, Cornwall is.

  18. Leigh 12 April 2012 1859 #

    When you look out at the peaceful fields it is hard to imagine just how horrible and bloody the battles of centuries ago were. Very informative post Sophie.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1740 #

      It really is. A bit like the poppy fields of Flanders…

  19. Dick Jordan 12 April 2012 2047 #

    Interesting bit of “history.”

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1740 #

      if only we knew whether it (and he) were real…

  20. Cathy Sweeney 12 April 2012 2302 #

    Super interesting, Sophie. The photo of the field and your comment is thought-provoking. Sometimes hard to imagine the violence that’s taken place in these peaceful-looking places.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Cruising San Francisco Bay

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1744 #

      Isn’t it?. Nowadays we seem to be better at creating memorials at these sites.

  21. Jarmo 12 April 2012 2327 #

    That’s a cool little find, I definitely need to do more exploring in good old England since I am spending time there :) All those Arthur legends are pretty cool.
    Jarmo recently posted..Top 10 Reasons Why Ski Trips to the Alps are Awesome

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1745 #

      Ah, you’re hanging out in England for a bit? I never seem to tire of it, always something new to explore.

  22. Raymond @ Man On The Lam 13 April 2012 0411 #

    Very nice find! I’m not sure why I haven’t spent more time in England. Oh wait — now I remember — no $$$. :)
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Travel Photo of the Week — Cockles & Mussels, Alive, Alive, Oh!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1751 #

      London is not exactly a budget destination. But outside of the big cities, prices aren’t too bad.

  23. Pamela 13 April 2012 0429 #

    Wow! I had no idea this existed. I will definitely add this to my list of must sees. Thanks for introducing me to some history.
    Pamela recently posted..Franklin Ghost Town

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1751 #

      You’re welcome!

  24. Mary @ The World Is A Book 13 April 2012 0619 #

    Your Cornwall series has been so informative and interesting and really makes me want to visit. It looks like a great kid-friendly place too.
    Mary @ The World Is A Book recently posted..My Travel Seven Super Shots

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1752 #

      I think your inquisitive kids would really enjoy it :)

  25. Eileen Ludwig 13 April 2012 0651 #

    Fascinating. Love learning or finding out about history by going there. It allows the imagination to explore
    Eileen Ludwig recently posted..Denmark Castle Copenhagen Tivoli

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1753 #

      Well said, Eileen :)

  26. Nancie 13 April 2012 1219 #

    Interesting history, Sophie; and enjoyable read….history and legend :)
    Nancie recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday — April 12, 2012 — A Springtime Tour on the ROK–Part 1

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1753 #

      Thanks!

  27. Steve 13 April 2012 1824 #

    I have to admit, I do feel a little better about my family relationships. As annoying as my nephews can be, I’ve never felt the need to slay one, and as far as I know, none of them have ever come after me with a poisoned sword.
    Fascinating place. Thanks for writing about it.
    Steve recently posted..American Monuments – Canadian Kids

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1754 #

      :)

  28. Becca@R We There Yet Mom? 13 April 2012 2137 #

    I really really enjoy your posts – I always learn so much from them! Thank you so much for linking up today – it was fascinating as usual.

    Have a super weekend!
    Becca@R We There Yet Mom? recently posted..Friday Daydreamin’ – Friday the 13th

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1754 #

      Thank you, Becca.

  29. Meagan @MommyTravels 13 April 2012 2142 #

    That’s very cool. I didn’t realize there was that much to see.
    Meagan @MommyTravels recently posted..Sunrise in Castaway Key

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1755 #

      I find new things every time :)

  30. Jenna 14 April 2012 2358 #

    Looks like a fun place to stop. I would love to go to that archaeology festival this summer!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1756 #

      So would I :)

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