The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Western Beacon



Southern dartmoor OS 655 576

Behind the village of Ugborough is the impressive bulk of Western Beacon topped with a system of five large cairns. Its the Southern most hill on Dartmoor and the cairns are aligned so that they have a stunning view over the South Hams and, on a clear day, the English Channel. A nice place to spend eternity. I always approach this site arse about face because the cairns are just up the hill from my back garden. On reaching the site there is an impressive stone row which leads roughly northwards. The stones are on average 4ft high and spaced at about 90 paces apart. They lead from the cairns down the Beacon then up the next hill called Butterdon. On top of Butterdon is another impressive array of cairns. To the right hand side of the summit there appears to be a collapsed stone circle. Its weird looking, if it was a circle then all the stones have fallen inwards, suggesting to me that it was deliberately but not very comprehensively wrecked. The stone row continues Northwards but the stones are much smaller and only a couple of feet apart. They go on for a long way. Any amateur anthropologist could guess that the rows were used as part of a burial procession ceremony leading from the heart of the moor, up hill and down dale ending at the summit of Western Beacon. Sat on top of Butterdon's biggest cairn one day (feeling myself deliberately but not very comprehensively wrecked) I was checking out the alignments with the stone row, and other distant Tors. I had a thought. If you don't know what a Tor is then look at Mr Copes photograph of Bowermans nose on Dartmoor. A Tor is a natural rock formation but it looks completely artificial. Huge flat stones piled on top of each other by nature not by man. So what would an ancient people make of these things ? They would probably think they had been put there by giants, or by gods. So why not imitate them by building their own burial mounds on hill tops ? A stroll across to nearby Ugborough beacon seems to add weight to this idea. That big Tor is in places nearly buried under the remains of a large cairn. Some of the chambers of the cairn look like they have been rebuilt in more recent times but I would guess by the amount of stones up there that the Tor would have been completely covered. The view from Ugborough Beacon also looks out across the South Hams but is somewhat tamed by a golf course. Tossers.
Posted by KPH
17th July 2000ce

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