The ground slopes away to the valley of the nascent River Plym. Between my vantage point and there, an incredible array of monuments and animals is laid out. Cows, sheep and horses fill the space, interspersed with very large upright stones dotted here and there. I've found the rows, at any rate.
But the ground above the "ritual" complex is itself packed with archaeology. Settlement enclosures, round houses and cairns vie for position. One of the first cairns I come across (cairn 15) has some unusual upright stones in its mound, which appear to be in-situ. It's right next to a hut circle. As ever, I don't have the knowledge to really understand the phases of what I'm looking at, which came first and whether the living were sharing their space so closely with the dead. One cairn, much bigger than the rest (cairn 18), is a good spot to view the rest of the site below.
From atop the cairn, the layout of the rows becomes clear, together with their proximity to the even larger Giant's Basin cairn. Three large terminal stones are readily visible, as are three cairn circles in a line at the northeast of the rows. A large herd of cows and another of horses are clustered around the tallest of the terminal stones and other cows and sheep are busy grazing across the site. There are no people to be seen and I get the impression of being an intruder into this primal space.
But the sun is shining and I've travelled a long way to come here, so I'm going to carry on intruding for a while longer yet. The NW of the three cairn circles doesn't have a row of its own, although a low outlier some way to the southwest (which I don't try to find in the bracken today) may indicate an intention that it was to have. This cairn is surrounded by a couple of rings of small slabs, suggesting a complex constructional method.
The central cairn circle has a more obvious outer ring of uprights, and is at the northeastern end of one of the three stone rows that form the complex. The centre of the cairn exhibits the usual central doughnut of excavation. A walk along the row ends in the first (and smallest) of the three enormous terminal stones. This one is a tapering slab, 2.3m high, placed edge on to the row and leaning slightly.
I head towards the southwestern row's terminal stone, but a group of bullocks are getting increasingly lairy around it (once they start trying to shag each other, it's time to back away). So instead I cut across to the Giant's Basin cairn. I do get a good look along the southwest row though, worth noting particularly as it's a double row for part of its length. At its northeastern end is another cairn circle. The slabs at this end of the row have fallen and lie prostrate near the cairn. In addition, there is a small cist between the cairn circle and the Giant's Basin cairn – talk about packed with archaeology! Row 2, well-seen from the Giant's Basin, ends in the largest of the three terminal stones. At over 4m tall, this is the tallest standing stone on Dartmoor. Today, four-legged acolytes, cows and horses, surround it. I don't get too close for fear of upsetting a ceremony of sorts. Its row is the shortest of the three and also ends in a cairn circle, another decent mound surrounded by an incomplete ring of slabs.
I'm awestruck by this amazing place. The primal energies of the animals seem to do it justice and once again I'm filled with the sense that I'm a passer-by, a temporary presence in an ageless space. The bullocks have gradually headed along the southwestern row now, so I skirt their proceedings and make for the now-vacated south-west terminal stone. It's a lovely symmetrical, tapering 3m slab, again facing edge-on to the row.
What a place. I finally leave the complex, heading towards Ditsworthy Warren. I hope to come here again, this is a site to treasure.
One of the most visually impressive of Dartmoor's unique stone-row complexes, both because of the size of the end stones and also because, being set down in the Plym valley, the entire complex can be viewed in its entirety.
The ritual hypothesis would seem to be supported by its proximity to the river and also the nearby dwelling sites. Dartmoor's well preserved complexes such as this and Merrivale are, to me, among the most thought provoking and enigmatic prehistoric monuments in the UK.
After a five hour drive down motorway and across the moors I almost yelped with joy to finally get to these stones, the sunshine was glorious and the stones tall, well, three of them were. I parked near the scout hut, walked straight to Wittenknowles settlement on the low hilltop and back down the other side, all in all, a fifteen minute walk.
The tallest menhir in Devon is here about 14 feet tall I think, and so much more, cairns with rings of stones, a beautiful cist (you'll know which one) long lines of stones sometimes double rows, and the large barrow(giants basin) overlooking it all. Throw in the sound of running water, some birdsong and a lovely sunset and your in a megalithic paradise, plus I had the whole place to myself. Although the stone rows are more likely to be roughly aligned towards the winter sunset
A good couple of hours are needed to appreciate it fully.
There are twenty two cairns spread around the hillside of the complex.Five of these still contain kists two of which are in the centre of quite substantial mounds.The other three are very small to almost nonexistant, as with the one at the north west edge of the Giant's Basin.
The best way to access the site is to park near the so called scout hut at SX579673.Space here is very limited so an early arrival would be best.From here you walk across the stream ahead of you and head up the hill towards Eyelsbarrow.A s you pass the scout hut[now used by the Royal Navy for training purposes] there is a leat,cross this and then turn right and go in a south easterly direction towards Whittenknowles Rocks.You will come apon a quite well preserved settlement here,well worth spending some time looking at.To the west side of the settlement there are the remains of two medieval long houses built amongst the walls of the prehistoric dwellings.From here you should be able to see the antiquities of Drizzlecombe so you can head down hill towards them.There is however a small amount of wet ground to cross as you come upon the tin workings around the Drizzlecombe.This is not too difficult to cross and can be done, with a little care ,keeping your feet dry.
This is such an amazing complex, but I made the cardinal sin of not having hardly any time to visit. It definately does deserve a few hours, and it a bit of a trek to get to.
Directions - Again, I basically agree with the travel instructions on the Megalithic Walks link below, but be slightly warned that despite this being marginal land everywhere there don't seem to be hardly any spaces to actually park at his so-called car park!
For the less mobile, or for those who want a more a sure footed route towards Drizzlecombe an alternative route for part of the way is to walk along the well made track towards Ditsworthy Warren House. This track starts from a fork just as you come towards the car park and winds around Gutter Tor and over to the house.
As you round Ditsworthy Warren House, you will soon seen the Drizzlecombe complex in the distance, which emphasises just how large two of the stones are. Don't be tempted (as I was, like a kid seeing a sweet shop) to head straight for the stones in the distance. It can get pretty marshy that way. As you head down the hill bear slightly right, it's definately a bit drier that way.
I can't say much about the Drizzlecombe complex except please visit, and please allow some time to marvel at all the various remains in the area. The complex is in a remarkable bowl with various hills and minor Tors hemming it in.
This, for me, is a must-see site. It is more than possible to see Drizzlecombe, Brisworthy, Ringmoor and possibly Shaugh Moor and Yellowmeade in one day.
The complex lies on a valley floor near a river and is well worth any effort to reach it. There are three cairn cirles, each with its own stone row. Two of these rows have very tall (3 metres?) stones at the non-cairn end. They really do make an impressive site. Situated between the rows and the river is 'the Giant's Basin' standing a good few metres high it must have been an impressive mound before looting/excavation (?) ripped it open.
There are other cairns in the area, particularly on the hillside between the complex and the path from the carpark.