Stannon Moor

The walk starts on Bodmin Moor where tarmacked roads give way to farm tracks. The route passes the Stannon stone circle, prehistoric settlements and a burial chamber and heads up Louden Hill to the logan rock from which there are spectacular views. The walk then heads towards Rough Tor, to the remnants of a settlement on its slopes, then turn south to the Fernacre stone circle, before swinging west passing numerous cairns, and another stone circle along the flanks of Steping Hill and Candra Hill, and returns via the Middle Moor wayside cross.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.2 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: the drive to Stannon House
  • Parking: On the grass at the edge of the lane next to the turning to Stannon House. Turn down the small lane leading off the hairpin bend between St Breward Church and Tuckingmill. Follow the lane, ignoring any junctions, until the road turns into a track just after the sign for Stannon House. Satnav: PL329QA
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots (marshy even in summer)

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Ancient stone circles of Stannon and Fernacre
  • Neolithic settlement remains on Louden Hill and Roughtor
  • Panoramic views of Roughtor, Brown Willy and Bodmin Moor
  • Megalithic burial chamber on Louden Hill

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. From the junction with the drive to Stannon House, continue a short distance along the track until you can see the stone circle on your right.

    Looking across the barren granite landscape of Bodmin Moor, it may seem strange that so many settlements can be found here from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. About 10,000 years ago, Bodmin Moor was almost entirely covered in forest, and the Neolithic tribes would have lived in forest clearings. During the Bronze Age, the majority of forest was cleared for farmland. The burning and grazing, over several thousand years, has resulted in poor soils which are naturally quite acidic due to the granite rocks. This, together with the exposure to the wind, is why the few trees on the moor today are generally stunted.

  2. Bear right of the track to the middle of the stone circle.

    The Stannon stone circle, situated on the moor to the north of St Breward, has between 64 and 68 stones laid out in an irregular ring. Originally, there may have been as many as 82 stones. The circle is thought to have had a calendric function, as there is a convincing astronomical alignment from Stannon to Rough Tor and Brown Willy. Around May Day and Lammas time, the sun rises through the gap between the two summits of the tor. At the Equinoxes, the sun rises over the summit of Brown Willy.

  3. From the centre of the stone circle, head parallel to the banks on your left, in line with the large round stone on the edge of the circle. After a short while, you'll see several boundary stones surrounded by clumps of reeds; head for the largest of these.

    It is not fully understood what function the stone circles served, although excavation of some monuments has shown an association with burials. Some circles also appear to have been used to mark the passage of time and seasons, which is indicated by the alignment of stones with landmarks, to mark important solar or lunar events such as the sunrise and sunset at the winter or summer solstice. Where excavated, they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (2400-1000 BC).

  4. Bear left very slightly and continue ahead in the direction of the multiple summits of Brown Willy just visible over the skyline. As you cross the brow of the hill, head for a group of 4 triangular standing stones - this is a ring cairn.

    The piles or rings of stones known as cairns, were built for a variety of purposes: some ceremonial including burials, some practical such as markers in a calendric sundial. Although much speculation has taken place, the reason for the construction of each is now unknown. When radiocarbon dating was done on nine of the cairns on Bodmin Moor, eight gave average date ranges between 2162 to 1746 BC, suggesting the early Bronze Age was the main building period. The remnants you see today are in many cases a small fragment of the original structure as the rocks from many cairns have since been "re-purposed" for use in drystone walls, buildings, roads etc. The Cornish word for cairn is karn or carn (from karnow, meaning "rock piles") and Cornwall (Kernow) itself may actually be named after the cairns that dot its landscape.

  5. From the cairn, bear right slightly to join a grassy track heading towards the summit of Roughtor, poking above the skyline. Continue until the track passes between some circular banks of earth with embedded stones.

    The low stone walls remaining as hut circles were once the foundations of a round house built. The granite foundations were likely to have been set into cob (mud and straw) walls which provided insulation and draft exclusion over bare-stone walls. A conical thatched roof on a timber frame rested on top of the walls. Heating was via a central fire which required some care with the thatched roof - presumably roof fires were not unheard of! These buildings varied in size from a just over a metre in diameter up to 10 metres. Some had walled enclosures attached and a few also had internal partitions.

  6. From the hut circles, ignore all paths and head directly towards the rocky summit of Roughtor. As you reach the brow of the hill, you will see a large rock outcrop in front of Roughtor. Head for this.

    The rocky circles either side of the path are the remains of prehistoric huts. Just past the two hut circles on the right side of the path is a large rock on the skyline. This is the Louden Hill burial chamber.

    Dolmens, also known as quoits, are a type of megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone. These were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in many cases that covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone "skeleton" of the burial mound remaining.

  7. From the rock outcrop at the top of Louden Hill, bear left along the ridge to a large rock balanced on a bed of granite (Logan Rock).

    From Louden Hill and Logan Rock, there are panoramic views over Roughtor and Brown Willy. Note the line of boundary stones coming down from Roughtor and also the stone circle on the moor, to the right of Brown Willy, as you'll be visiting these shortly.

    When you reach Logan Rock, push down on one edge...

    A number of large rocking stones exist around Cornwall and are invariably given the name Logan Rock. These are formed by weathering, where a horizontal crack is eroded away leaving a rounded boulder balanced on a block of granite. The word "logan" (pronounced "logg-un") is thought to be derived from the Cornish dialect word "log", meaning "to rock like a drunken man".

  8. From Logan Rock, head in the direction of Brown Willy. As you near the bottom of the slope, cross over the marsh, heading roughly where the slope of Roughtor meets that of Brown Willy. Then head to the largest rock you can see, just on the other side of the marsh: a triangular rock balanced on a flat bed of rock.

    The marsh that you are crossing, lies on the saddlepoint between the Camel and De Lank catchment areas. Which way the streams are running, depends on precisely where you cross the marsh. To your left, all the water drains in the River Camel and to your right, water drains into the De Lank.

  9. Head in the direction of the clump of trees below the rightmost peak of Brown Willy, towards the largest rock you can see, just, on the right of the trees.

    All the rocks here are formed of coarse-grained granite.

    The word granite comes from the Latin granum (a grain), in reference to its coarse-grained structure. Granite forms as a pluton - an intrusive igneous rock, formed from a big blob of magma slowly cooling below the surface of the Earth, resulting in the large crystals. Granite mostly contains slightly acidic chemical compounds, and consequently there is nothing to neutralise acids from plant decay and carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, resulting in acidic moorland soils.

  10. From the large rock by the boundary stones, continue in the direction of the trees below the rightmost peak of Brown Willy, heading for a group of standing stones.

    To the left of the standing stones are the circular remains of a hut.

    On the southern slopes of Roughtor are the remains of a large number of hut circles. The houses and the small enclosures probably represent an economy based on stock rearing, with perhaps a little cultivation of cereals. The extensive field system is likely to be from a later period, representing a time when arable farming was predominant.

  11. Turn right in the direction of the hill in the distance and head for the centre of the stone circle, crossing any rivulets as necessary.

    The stone circle is known as Fernacre.

    The Fernacre stone circle is located on the slopes of Rough Tor. The name dates back to the Middle Ages. It is thought either to mean "bracken land" or "fairy land" as Feren was the old plural of fairy. Fernacre is one of the largest stone rings in Cornwall, with a diameter of approximately 44m by 46m. Only about 61 stones survive, the possible total originally being between 77 and 95. From Fernacre, it has been suggested that a standing stone on Brown Willy marks the equinox sunrise, which is also aligned with two cairns, and sunset over Louden Hill marks May 1st.

  12. From the stone circle, continue ahead, in the direction of the tor, until you reach a track in front of the farm.

    Tors are the result of millions of years of weathering. They started out as a molten blob of rock beneath the surface, which cooled and crystallised into granite, cracking (mostly vertically) as it cooled. Hot water circulated through the cracks, reacting chemically with the rocks and depositing minerals. As the softer rocks above were worn away fairly quickly, the reduction in pressure from the weight of the rock above caused the granite to crack (this time more horizontally). Water, acidic from carbon dioxide in the air, circulated in the cracks, causing weathering. Repeated freezing and thawing during Ice Ages caused blocks of varying sizes to break off. The "basins" on the tops of some of the tors are also the result of repeated freezing and thawing of water which has collected on the surface.

  13. Turn right onto the track and follow it for just over a mile to Middlemoor Cross, where the open moor on the left ends at a walled-in field.

    The track passes a Cairn on the left at SX 13753 79692 (50.587293;-4.63239) shortly followed by another Cairn on the right at SX 13505 79679 (50.587043; -4.63589). A little further along on the left is the remains of another stone circle at SX 13205 79487 (50.585205;-4.640012).

  14. From the cross, continue on the track to reach the entrance to Camperdown Farm.

    There are said to be 360 wayside crosses in Cornwall. In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path. There have been various reasons for erecting these: markers placed along routes used by Christian pilgrims, or as a shrine in reverence, perhaps to a saint who has some connection to the locality. Others mark burial sites, a disaster, a miracle, or some other event that should be remembered. In some cases, they were erected to mark meeting places for Christian worship and later churches were built adjacent to the cross, resulting in the cross being within the churchyard or close by.

  15. At the farm entrance, turn right off the track and head directly away from the farm. As you cross the brow of the hill, head between the farms half-way down the hill facing you. As you near the bottom of the slope, bear right, over a causeway spanning a marsh, to complete the circular walk.

    It may be an urban myth that Eskimos have a large number of words for "snow" but it's cast iron fact that there are at least this many words for "hill" in Cornish:

    • Meneth was often used to refer to Cornwall's higher peaks, or (outside of Cornwall) to mountains.
    • Tor was used for hills with rock outcrops protruding (and for the rock outcrops themselves)
    • Brea was used to refer to the most prominent hill in a district.
    • Ryn refers to a 'hill' in the sense of projecting ground, or a steep hill-side or slope.
    • Garth was used to refer to a long narrow hilltop.
    • Ambel refers to the side of a hill.
    • Mulvra refers to a round-topped hill.
    • Godolgh is a very small hill.
    • Bron means 'breast' as well as hill.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?