A Scavenger Hunt in the Moor

Today began with rain, which was okay, because my dad and I planned to drive two hours west to Bodmin Moor. Originally, I’d intended to visit Cadbury Castle, a Bronze and Iron Age hill fort that is believed to be a possible location of Camelot. Excavations have revealed that Cadbury Castle was in use during Arthur’s time—as well as hundreds of years earlier.

We actually ended up visiting Cadbury Castle late Thursday afternoon, which was a good thing, because it was already remarkably muddy, and we wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere close if we’d waited until today. That being said, it was still difficult to visit, because so much of it was fenced off and the signs were not particularly clear. Since it is quite literally a hill, general tourists pass it over; so Arthurian enthusiasts have to actively seek it out. Nonetheless, my dad and I climbed up one of the slopes and still got a good sense of what the hill fort was like.

I could completely imagine King Arthur sitting astride his horse overlooking his kingdom from atop of the hill. I seem to be spending a lot of my time this week doing just that: imagining things. Everywhere I go, even if it’s not directly related to King Arthur, I can’t help but imagine what it must have been like, in the past.

This is probably a good thing, because it allowed me to get very excited about today. I had absolutely no museum/castle/cathedral/etc. visits planned for today. I simply planned to visit landmarks. Along the drive to Bodmin Moor, my dad and I took a few detours to see some towns. Westtownians might be particularly interested by how we stopped at the ruins of Launceston Castle, where George Fox was imprisoned with other Quakers for eight months in 1656.

After visiting Launceston, we eventually managed to find our first planned destination, Dozmary Pool. The GPS refused to guide us to a lake, and didn’t recognize any of the roads that were near the lake. We figured it out eventually, and I can honestly say it was completely worth it. Dozmary Pool is a potential home for the Lady of the Lake, and it’s believed that Sir Bedivere threw Excalibur into Dozmary Pool following Arthur’s fatal wound at Camlann. The lake was gorgeous. Bitterly cold, with exceptionally strong winds, but stunning. It was surrounded by grazing sheep and low mists, in the middle of nowhere, and truly gave off a mystical, ancient vibe. I’d read that the best time to visit was at dusk, but I was afraid we’d get lost if we visited when it was nearly dark, however with the on and off rain, the mists were just the right amount of gloomy to paint a picture of a time long past.

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Following Dozmary Pool, we drove down to Fowey, Cornwall. This wasn’t Camelot; it was King Mark’s land. He generally featured in the legends of Tristan and Yseult. Yseult was Mark’s bride from Ireland, but she fell in love with his nephew (and a knight of the Round Table), Tristan. We visited a few sites associated with King Mark, Tristan, and Yseult in Fowey, but the most significant was the Tristan Stone, which marked Tristan’s grave and dated back to 550.

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Finally, we drove north to Camelford, where we are staying the night. While at a pub for dinner, we ended up having the most interesting conversation with one of the bartenders who gave us instructions for the best way to visit Tintagel Castle tomorrow. She even took us out to the Moor to see some of the hills and to her family’s farm, where we saw the lambs. It was probably one of the weirdest but best interactions I’ve ever had with anyone—she was incredibly spontaneous, and, as one of the pub patrons described her “a bit mad”. But if anything, it certainly taught me that good things can come from going with the flow.

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Sarah

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