The legend of King Arthur has been immortalised in stories told across the centuries. The famous monarch is the stuff of myth and legend – but did you know he may have had more of a connection with Cumbria than you’d think?

That’s right – Arthur Pendragon himself is said to have lived and learnt in Cumbria as a child, with a number of locations playing host to important events in his journey. Join us as we take a look at Cumbria’s Arthurian heritage at sites across the county.

Excalibur in the Lake

King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, is the stuff of legends in its own right -  but did you know it is said to rest in Bassenthwaite lake? The story goes that when King Arthur was on his death bed, he instructed one of his knights to return the sword to the lake it originally came from – Bassenthwaite. Bedivere was the knight in question, and he duly fulfilled Arthur’s wishes. In his poem, Morte d’Arthur, Lord Alfred Tennyson writes of the return of the sword to the water; he wrote these lines while staying at Mirehouse overlooking Bassenthwaite.


King Arthur’s Round Table

Located near Penrith, a circular Neolithic earthwork at Eamont Bridge has been named ‘King Arthur’s Round Table’; it was also believed to have been King Arthur’s jousting arena. The site is a natural amphitheatre, and would have been ideal for Arthur’s knights coming together. Today it is cared for by English Heritage and can be visited during daylight hours.


The castle and court of Camelot was King Arthur’s base, and although there has been much debate about where this would have been, Carlisle is often suggested as the place most likely for the King’s HQ. A number of romances have Arthur holding court in the north Cumbrian city, with Carlisle Castle possibly a notable site. Other Cumbrian locations have also been proposed, including along the Solway Firth and a once contested area along the Borders, now known as Longtown.

Carlisle Castle


Arthurian legend commonly tells of King Arthur’s death at the Battle of Camlann; however, it is often rumoured that he didn’t die, but in fact went into an extended hibernation. The story goes that, having cast his famous sword of Excalibur into Bassenthwaite, a gathering of King Arthur’s loyal knights took the wounded King to the mythical island of Avalon. The representation of Avalon is often thought to be Blencathra, a mountain just 12 miles from Bassenthwaite.

Pendragon Castle

Not far from the market town of Kirkby Stephen stand the Ancient Castles of Mallerstang. One of these, Pendragon Castle, is said to have been built by King Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon. His unsuccessful efforts to divert the River Eden to create its moat inspired the couplet: “Let Uther Pendragon do what he can, Eden will run where Eden ran”.  The Castle is also said to have been the site of his death along with 100 of his men, when the Saxons poisoned their water supply.

Pendragon Castle

Birdoswald and Hadrian’s Wall

Legend has is that a young Arthur trained in a warrior school on Hadrian’s Wall – likely to have been located at one of the forts along the wall. At the other end of Arthur’s endeavours, his last battle took place at Vamlann – also known as Camboglanna. This is thought to be the old Roman name for Birdoswald – a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Now the longest surviving stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, Birdoswald could quite possibly have been the location of Arthur’s last battle as King.

Birdoswald Hadrian's Wall

Aira Force

The waterfall along the shore of Ullswater, Aira Force is said to have been home to Sir Eglamore, a noble Knight of the Round Table. He lived near Aira Force with his beloved Emma. There is a love story, immortalised in William Wordsworth’s The Somnabulist, in which Emma missed her knight so much as he was away fighting in the Crusades that she could not sleep. One night she was sleep walking by the falls dressed in white, when Sir Eglamore spotted her and mistook her for a phantom. When he realised it was Emma, he called out to her, but he startled her and she fell to her death. He was so heartbroken he lived out his days as hermit under the falls of Aira Force.

Aira Force




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