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Sites and places associated with Arthurian legend

The following is a list and assessment of sites and places associated with King Arthur and the Arthurian legend in general. Given the lack of concrete historical knowledge about one of the most potent figures in British mythology, it is unlikely that any definitive conclusions about the claims for these places will ever be established, nevertheless it is both interesting and important to try to evaluate the body of evidence which does exist and examine it critically. The earliest reference to Arthur is in Aneirin's poem Y Gododdin (c. 594). While his fame may have increased in the intervening years, the facts about his life have become less discernible.

Arthur's courts

The following are real places which are clearly identifible in a text and which are mentioned in Arthurian legend and romance as being used by Arthur as a place to hold a court. In the romances Arthur, like all medieval monarchs, moves round his kingdom.

Unidentified sites

Camelot

Various places which have been identified as the location of Camelot, including many of those listed above. Others include:

  • Tintagel Castle, Tintagel, Cornwall. Also the home of Merlins Cave.
  • Cadbury Castle hill fort, referred to as a location for Camelot by John Leland in 1542. "At the very south end of the church of South-Cadbyri standeth Camallate, sometime a famous town or castle. . .The people can tell nothing there but that they have heard Arthur much resorted to Camalat...". A well on the ascent is known locally as Arthur's Well; the highest part of the hill is known as Arthur's Palace, these names being recorded as early as the late 16th century.
  • Colchester, a town in Essex, England (or its Roman antecedent Camulodunum) has been cited as one of the potential sites of Camelot. Though the name "Camelot" may be derived from Camulodunum (modern Colchester), the Iron Age capital of the Trinovantes, and later the provincial capital of Roman Britannia, its Essex location close to the east coast - and so very close to the earliest Anglo-Saxon settlement - places it in the wrong Anglo-Saxon kingdom.
  • The ex-Roman fort of Camboglanna on Hadrian's Wall
  • Campus Elleti in Glamorgan
  • Caerwent
  • Camelford in Cornwall
  • Camelon Fort at Falkirk
  • Saltwell Park, in Gateshead
  • Viroconium
  • Chard, Somerset
  • Graig-Llwyn near Lisvane
  • Camlet Moat near Trent Park, by Enfield Chase, London
  • Slack, near Huddersfield, Like Colchester, the Romans had a fort named Camulodunum there.
  • Cadbury Camp
  • Roxburgh in the Scottish Borders, proposed by Alistair Moffat in his work 'Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms'.

Norma Lorre Goodirch suggests in her book, King Arthur, that Camelot simply means Castle of the Hammer, which she suggests Arthur was called, thus could be any castle which he temporarily made his base.

Avalon

In Liber Rubeus Bathoniae of 1428 a link is drawn between Arthur and Glastonbury as the site of Avalon:

At Glastonbury on the queer,
They made Artourez toumbe there,
And wrote with latyn vers thus,
Hic jacet Arturus, rex quondam, rexque futurus
(Here lies Arthur, the once and future king).

Glastonbury is conceived of as the legendary island of Avalon. An early Welsh story links Arthur to the Tor in an account of a conflict between Arthur and the Celtic king, Melwas, who was said to have kidnapped Arthur's wife Queen Guinevere. In 1191, monks at the Abbey claimed to have found the graves of Arthur and Guinevere to the south of the Lady Chapel of the Abbey church, which was visited by a number of contemporary historians including Giraldus Cambrensis. The remains were later moved, and lost during the Reformation. Many scholars suspect that this discovery was a pious forgery to substantiate the antiquity of Glastonbury's foundation, and increase its renown. Others have suggested that the monastery was desperately short of funds at the time, and staged the "discovery" as a means of increasing pilgrimage (and thus, offerings and alms from those coming to see the remains of the famous king). If the latter supposition is true, then the deception worked - after the discovery, the abbey became wealthy for some time to come.

An alternative explanation has been suggested, that Arthur was originally buried on Abbey property at Nyland Hill and the remains translated to the Abbey itself during the abbacy of Dunstan in the 900s.

A cross was extant in Wells, not far from Glastonbury, on which were inscribed the Latin words HIC IACET SEPVLTVS INCLITVS REX ARTVRVS IN INSVLA AVALONIA (trans. "Here lies interred the renowned King Arthur in the Isle of Avalon"). However, many modern scholars suggest that the cross was a forgery - the Latin used being of a dialect common to the period of discovery (and not to the period when Arthur would have been buried). The fate of the cross after the 18th century is unknown.

A possible location of Avalon consistent with the theory of a northern Arthur, is the Roman fort of Aballava. Aballava, also called Avallana, was at the western end of Hadrian's Wall near the modern settlement of Burgh-by-Sands, Cumbria.

Bardsey Island has also been identified as a possible Avalon.

Reputed Arthurian battle sites

Twelve of Arthur's battles were recorded by Nennius in Historia Brittonum.

Places with other associations to Arthurian legend

See also

References

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