Stannon Moor

A circular walk around Stannon Moor near St Breward with panoramic views of Bodmin Moor, passing stone circles, burial chambers and other prehistoric monuments to a massive granite boulder balanced on Louden Hill which gently rocks if you sit on it.

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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.

Reviews

I loved this walk. Would recommend a clear day though!

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 PL329QA. 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.
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots (marshy even in summer) and a stick to probe marshy ground with

OS maps for this walk

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)

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 on your left, continue a short distance ahead along the track uphill 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 off 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 tallest 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 a group of 4 triangular standing stones (ring cairn) comes into view, head for this.

    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, continue parallel to the wall on the left to join a grassy track leading through a gap in a line of stones and heading towards the summit of Roughtor, poking above the skyline. Continue until the track passes a circular bank of earth with embedded stones (hut circle).

    The low stone walls remaining as hut circles were once the foundations of a round house. 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 circle, 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 or Logan Stone. 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 initially towards the dip where the outline of Roughtor meets that of Brown Willy to its right. As you near the bottom of the slope, head to the largest rock you can see: a triangular rock balanced on a flat bed of rock. Note that after prolonged wet weather, the lowest point of the valley can be very marshy so take some time to select the least marshy place to cross and probe the ground ahead if unsure.

    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, the water drains in the River Camel and to your right, water drains into the De Lank.

  9. Look in the direction of the clump of trees below the rightmost peak of Brown Willy and slightly to the right of this, locate the largest rock you can see (somewhat closer than the trees). Head to this rock which is located near a line of boundary stones.

    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 from a big blob of magma (known as a pluton) which intrudes into the existing rocks. The huge mass of molten rock stores an enormous amount of heat so the magma cools very slowly below the surface of the Earth, allowing plenty of time for large crystals to form.

  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. When you reach the standing stones, turn right in the direction of the large 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 hill, 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 a standing stone with an inscribed cross (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 onto the open moor and head directly away from the farm. As you cross the brow of the hill, head initially towards the farms half-way down the hill on the opposite side of the valley. As you car then comes into view, to the right of these, head towards this. As you near the bottom of the slope, head to the causeway spanning a marsh and cross this to complete the circular walk.

    The lake in the pit of former china clay quarry at Stannon is now used as part of the public water supply by South West Water. A floating pump reaches out a short distance from the shore into clear water. The amount of water drawn from the lake is restricted to only dropping the water level by a few metres to avoid collapses of the steep lake banks which would stir up sediment and make the water unusable for a period of time. However, the wet surrounding moorland is able to replenish the water in the pit at several million litres per day.

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. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

Take a photo and 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.

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