10 Splendid Stone Circles in Cornwall
Cornwall is one of the six Celtic nations which include Brittany, the Isle of Man, Wales, Scotland and Brittany. Cornwall has been inhibited since as early as the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. The Dumnonii tribe being its earliest inhabitants. This makes the Cornish people a distinct ethnic group that can trace its roots back before Roman Conquest. And thus the settlement of Britain in the 5th and 6th century. The Stone circles mentioned below is just some of the ancient cultural figures dotted throughout Cornwall:
This ellipse of 19 stones found in Penwith is one of the prettiest stone circles in the area. It name translates from Cornish into “the pasture of the farmstead at the elderberry tree“. At the centre of the 19 stones is a stone shaped as an axe. This stone was supposedly erected before the other 19 stones. The centre stone has two reliefs of axes at the bottom. “Beiscawen” is mentioned in a version of the Welsh Triads as one of the three main ‘Gorsedds’ of Britain. Gorsedd’s are the traditional name for the meeting places of druids.
Boskednan Stone Circle
The Boskednan stone circle is also called the Nine Maidens or the Nine Stones of Boskednan. Surveys suggest that there might have been close to 22 stones in the circle originally. According to a local Archaeologist however the fact that there was 22 stones and now only 11 should have no bearing on the name. This is becasue the symbol of the nine has always held mystical and magical connotations. The stones were originally placed in a perfect circle taking up a full 70 feet in diameter. The stones are characteristically smooth granite blocks. To get to the Boskednan stone circle you need to pass the Mên-an-Tol. These are three standing stones in a row with the middle stone being round with a hole in the middle. In ancient Folklore the stones are said to have a Fairy Guardian who can perform magical cures.
Craddock Moor Stone Circle
Craddock Moor stone circle consists of sixteen stones that have all fallen down. It has been suggested that there were initially twenty six or twenty seven standing stones but due to quarrying in the immediate area, it’s hard to determined what the original circle looked like. Craddock Moor stone circle is about half a mile NW of The Hurlers. Legend has it that the Stone Circle was named after an ancient British King Caradoc. He was known in Arthurian legend as a trusted Knight of the Round Table.
Duloe Stone Circle
Duloe Stone Circle is the smallest Stone Circle in Cornwall. Some have suggested that it might be a small family shrines, instead of one that was used for community gatherings. The circle is unique in that it is made of brilliant white quartzite stones that are placed in an oval shape. The stones are in a pattern of alternating small and large stones. The whiteness of the stones can still be seen today. The largest stone weighs over 12 tons and is 8.7 ft high. The closest little town, Stonetown, was perhaps named after the stone circle at Duloe.
Fernacre Stone Circle
Fernacre Stone Circle is an impressive 44m by 46m in diameter. This makes it one of the biggest stone circle in Cornwall. The inner faces and tops of the stones is unusual as they are rough and irregular. Compared to other stone circles in Cornwall which are all smooth stoned. Coupled with this, there was possibly as many a 95 stones in total when it was built but there are only about 65 stones left standing. Many of the stones lean at odd angles and some of them have fallen over. The tallest stone measures 4.3 ft high with the longest fallen stone measuring 6.9ft. It has been suggested that the stone circle could have a calendrical function as its position, in line with Brown Willy, marks the equinox sunrise.
Situated between two hills and two rivers, The Hurlers is one of the most fascinating stone circles in Cornwall. The stones are said to be men that were turned to stone as punishment for playing a game of Cornish Hurlers on a Sabbath. The Hurlers are three sets of stone circles with the diameters of 35m, 42 m and 33m . To the west of the Hurlers are two solitary stones called the Pipers who are said to have suffered a similar fate as the Hurlers. That is playing musical instruments on a Sabbath and being turned to stone. The Hurlers date back all the way to 1500BC.
The Merry Maidens
Also known as the Dawn’s Men, the Merry Maidens is one of the most perfect complete stone circles in Cornwall. Close to the Merry Maidens is two standing rocks called the Pipers. The legend surrounding the stones has to do with the translation of the Cornish name Dans Maen into English. Dan Maen means Stone Dance and it is said that nine fair maidens were dancing on the Sabbath and were thus turned into stone. The legend goes on to explain that the Pipers are so far from the maidens as they were the ones playing the music for the maidens to dance to. They heard the church bells ringing for Sabbath and started running towards the church when they too turned into stone.
The Nine Stones of Altarnun
This collection of stones is also known as the Altarnun Stone Circle. The fact that the stones are set in a moorlands means the stones are in water most of the time. This lends a certain mysticism to them. With only nine stone’s the circle is one of the smallest on Bodmin Moor. The hut circles to the NE and S of the circle suggest that the Altarnun stone circle has been here since the Bronze Age.
Stannon Stone Circle
Another one of the Greats of Cornwall, Stannon Stone Circle is a staggering 140 ft by 133 ft in diameter. It consists of 47 upright stones, 30 lying down with displaced 2 stones. There are also 4 outlying jagged stones that together make up the whole area. There are many cairns of Stannon Hill and alignments can be made from Stannon Stone circle to both Fernacre circle and the Louden circle. A line can be drawn from the Stannon circle via Fernacle Circle close to a large cairn on the northern side of Brown Willy. There is also similarly an astronomical alignment from Stonnon circle to Rough Tor during May Day and Lammas time. This can be seen when the sun rises through a gap between the two summits of Rough Tor.
The Stripple Stones is a Bronze Age stone circle situated on the Southern slope of Hawk’s Tor in Blisland. The stones are surrounded by a circular ditch and vallum that forms a level platform of more than 173 ft. The circle itself is 145.5 feet in diameter and has a giant horizontal menhir in the centre that is about 12 ft long and 5ft at its widest point. The number of stones in the circle has been estimated between 28 – 37 original stones. The alignments of the Stipple Stones has been fascinating people for decades. The Vallum has 3 semi-lunar projections which face NW, NE and E. The location of the central stone, if upright would show Mayday Sunet, Equinox Sunrise and the main Northern Moonrise. It has also been suggested that the NE projection would’ve aligned with Capella in 1250 BC if seen from the Centre stone.
We hope you enjoyed our coverage of the Stone Circles in Cornwall. SeePlaces will be covering a lot more of this mystical place in the future! Don’t forget to click here to book your accommodation when visiting Cornwall.
Picture credits: 1. Boscawen-Un Stone Circle 2. Boskednan Stone Circle 3. Craddock Moor Stone Circle 4. Duloe Stone Circle 5. Fernacre Stone Circle 6. The Hurlers 7. The Merry Maidens 8. Nine Stones of Altarnun 9. Stannon Stone Circle 10. Stripple Stones