Charles and Camilla open new footbridge at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall officially open the Tintagel Castle footbridge. Geoff Caddick/PA Wire Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The Duchess of Cornwall joked about “not looking down” as she crossed a new footbridge spanning a perilous gap between cliffs with the Prince of Wales.

Camilla made light of the drop to the crashing waves, almost 200ft below, as they strode across the walkway at Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

The prince became the first Duke of Cornwall in at least 400 years to enter the historic medieval fortress in the way its builders intended after he opened the new footbridge.

The visit was part of a day-long tour of the county by Camilla and later she unveiled a new helicopter for Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, by pulling back a Covid-19 tartan facemask on its nose-cone, before two paramedics raced off to an emergency call.

Charles cuts the ribbon to officially open the walkway Credit: Geoff Caddick/PA

After the prince cut a ribbon to officially open the bridge the couple walked across and the duchess told her husband: “I’m not looking down, I’m looking above.”

The original walkway was narrow so, it was claimed, three knights could have defended Tintagel Castle against an entire kingdom.

But the link collapsed in the 15th or 16th centuries meaning tourists were confronted with a demanding trek up and down a steep path in order to access the fortress.

The sleek new bridge of steel, oak and Cornish slate over a 190 ft gorge was built as part of a £5 million redevelopment of the site and opened to visitors in August 2019.

It follows the line of the original route between the 13th-century gatehouse on the mainland and the courtyard on the jagged headland or island jutting into the sea.

The new walkway spans a dramatic part of the Cornish coastline Credit: David Levene/PA

Tintagel Castle belongs to Charles’ private Duchy of Cornwall estate and was placed into State Guardianship in 1931 by the future Edward VIII.

Today it is cared for by English Heritage.

Charles and Camilla were able to take in the glorious sea views from the attraction’s viewing point after they had crossed.

On their way back down the coupled signed slates to insert into the bridge, which features around 40,000, many signed by local donors.

Tracey Reed, the project lead on behalf of English Heritage, said: “The duchess was asking me if the bridge wobbled when you go over it but I told her it was fine.

“She said she had a great head for heights but I wonder if she was being a bit sarcastic.”

The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with a crew member as she launches the new helicopter Credit: Chris Jackson/PA

Later the duchess was not fazed when the alarm sounded during the unveiling ceremony of the new £7.5 million helicopter, and she said to the paramedics: “Oh you have to go, of course.

“Not in this one? This always happens.”

Paramedics Thomas Hennessy Jones and Martin Bunt flew off in the trust’s ageing MD 902 Explorer, which will be replaced by the new aircraft, to Falmouth where a patient had suffered head injuries and a seizure.

Camilla has been the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust’s patron since 2010 and opened the base in Newquay two years later.

The trust is the oldest air ambulance in the UK after launching 33 years ago.

She was given a tour of the state-of-the-art helicopter, designed to give paramedics a 360-degree access to the stretcher, and joked “Shall I lie down?

“Don’t cart me off.”

Camilla was also presented with a bottle of Heli Gin and met six-year-old Leya Raper, who was saved by the air crew as a baby and has since raised more than £1,000 for the charity.

  • Watch Steve Hardy's report on Charles and Camilla's visit to Cornwall