This morning let’s look across the pond to Cornwall, which is currently in an uproar over whether additions to a site long associated with King Arthur—including a rock carving of Merlin’s bearded, sleeping mug—amount to unnecessary, tacky “Disneyfication.”

English Heritage—the charity responsible for overseeing many of the United Kingdom’s most historic places—is currently in the midst of sprucing up Tintagel Castle, famously reputed to be where King Arthur was conceived. They’ll soon announce the winners of a competition to design a new footbridge for the site, and they’re working on other “interpretative” touches. You can see the carving (which isn’t actually that big) recently unveiled near Merlin’s Cave for yourself:

The Guardian reports that these changes have not been received as well as English Heritage might have hoped. “If we start carving comic book characters into the geology, where do we stop? This is not Disneyland, it’s Cornwall,” sputtered Cornwall councillor Bert Biscoe in a letter to the organization. He’s not the only person alarmed, either:

A campaign group called Kernow Matters to Us (Kernow is Cornwall in Cornish) expressed horror at the Merlin carving and the other planned works.

In a statement it called the carving “desecration” and said the changes were all about drawing more fee-paying tourists to the site. “Would this be allowed at Stonehenge, or at Dover Castle? What about something engraved in the white cliffs of Dover?” the statement said. The group said it feared that Tintagel could end up like Land’s End – a “tacky tourist attraction”.

The Guardian notes that there’s a certain amount of underlying Cornish frustration about the way Tintagel has been wrapped up with Englishness, as opposed to Cornishness, playing out here. Not that everybody’s mad: “Anything that brings in more visitors has to be good for the village,” concluded the owner of the nearby Cats Whiskers gift shop.

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When are they gonna add a larger-than-life bronze casting of shirtless Adrian Turner in character as Ross Poldark? That’s what I wanna know.


Screencap via YouTube/English Heritage.