English Heritage has received a £2.5m donation from Julia and Hans Rausing towards the forthcoming footbridge at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, the charity has announced. Opening in summer 2019, the new footbridge will help people to better understand the dramatic Cornish castle, improve access, and help to preserve and conserve Tintagel’s archaeology and ecology.

The £2.5m gift is the largest single private donation ever received by English Heritage.

Sir Tim Laurence, Chairman of English Heritage, said: “Thanks to Julia and Hans Rausing’s generosity, people will be better able to understand and enjoy Tintagel Castle. It is an inspiring gift for an inspiring site and we are extremely grateful to them. As a charity, it is only with the support of our visitors, members and donors that we can ensure our historic landmarks continue to provide a fascinating and exciting experience to all-comers.”

Julia and Hans Rausing said: “It is a pleasure to support English Heritage and Tintagel Castle. The new footbridge is a great feat of design, fitting into the landscape, and providing new views of the site’s architecture, whilst improving access for many visitors.”

A thousand members of the public have also donated to the bridge, each marking their £5 contribution by signing one of the Cornish slate tiles which will form the walkway of the bridge. Julia and Hans have also signed a slate and their generosity along with the ‘Sign a Slate’ donations means that English Heritage can now invest more of its own funds towards the protection and conservation of historic sites throughout Cornwall and beyond.

Today the remains of the 13th-century Tintagel castle can be seen on both the mainland and the jagged island jutting into the sea but Tintagel’s divided landmasses were once united by a narrow strip of land. The castle remains on the island are currently reached via a challenging steep staircase but the new footbridge will follow the path of the original land bridge, allowing visitors to experience the castle as its historic inhabitants once did.

Designed by Ney & Partners engineers and William Matthews Associates Architectural Practice, the new footbridge will be a striking feat of engineering. Set 57 metres above sea level, the bridge will consist of two independent cantilevers of approximately 30 metres length each that reach out and almost touch in the middle. At the centre, a narrow gap (40mm) has been designed to represent the transition between the mainland and the island, the present and the past.

The bridge has been designed to be as slight as possible in order to be as unobtrusive as possible and also to reflect the historical land bridge. So significant was the original narrow access that it gave rise to the stronghold’s name, the Cornish Din Tagell meaning ‘the Fortress of the Narrow Entrance’.

Tintagel Castle welcomes almost 250,000 visitors each year and the new footbridge will help to reduce congestion – especially at peak periods – and provide a step-free route onto the island helping more people to enjoy their visit to the castle.

The bridge at Tintagel Castle is part of a larger £5m programme of works by English Heritage which will also improve the footpaths around the site, helping to limit the impact of visitors on the castle’s unique archaeology and ecology.

Work on the bridge began in October 2018 and Tintagel Castle remains closed to the public throughout the build. The castle with its spectacular new bridge will re-open to the public in summer 2019, marking a significant chapter for the future of both Tintagel Castle and English Heritage as a newly established charity.

Access to the island across the new footbridge will be by timed tickets only. Tickets can be pre-booked through the English Heritage website from spring. A limited number of tickets will also be available to purchase at Tintagel Castle on the day.

For more information, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/tintagel