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

Nine Stones of Altarnun

Stone Circle


Following Mr Hamheads directions I visited the Nine Stones of Altarnun yesterday. Although I only live about 3 miles away as the crow flies I’d never seen them before, always finding something else to see or do at the time. What a mistake that was for it is one of the most charming and charismatic circles I have ever seen. Set in a wild Cornish windswept moorland landscape you can be forgiven for believing you are the only person alive when stood amongst them.
Mr H’s directions are completely accurate from North Hill but I will direct you initially from the A30 between Launceston and Bodmin where I guess most ‘outsiders’ will be approaching from if choosing to take his preferred route.
You leave the A30 on your left via the B3257 alongside the Bodmin Road Service Station near Plusha signposted Callington and Plymouth if approaching from the east. After about 3 miles you come to Congdon Shop crossroads. Turn right here onto the B2354 signposted Liskeard. About half a mile on the right is a lane signposted Trebartha/Bastreet. Take this and continue (past my house) until reaching a crossroad a further mile on. Cross straight over (gatehouse to Highpark Lodge on the left far corner) where two signs tell you the road will come to a dead-end. Just continue and you’ll come to signs directing you to Bastreet. You will pass a sawmill on the left then up the rising ground until you cross over the cattle grid and you are nearly there. After a couple of hundred yards you’ll see North Bowda farm on your left and shortly afterwards on your right the Stone Cross as described by Mr H midway up the rising ground. Park up here on the sides of the moorland road although it can be somewhat boggy in the Winter months.
And so I began my walk. My aim had been to only actually ascend Ridge Hill as the weather when I left home was very wet and windy so I thought I may make the circle on a better day. I still had my cameras but left the tripod behind as I didn’t expect to be using it. I reached the stone cross, took a couple of photos and moved on up to the top of Ridge Hill. I don’t know the history of the cross and wondered if it marked the position of a grave. As you get higher up the hill, the granite stones lying around increase until you realise you are in a world of stone circles/dolmens/cairns paradise for the builders of such things. No mystery here as to where the building materials originated from. On reaching the top I took a right for 100 yards and visited the cairn (marked as a tumulus on the OS map) on the eastern side of the hill. A wonderful thing to see 22.7m in diameter but sadly much abused with granite blocks strewn all around the site where removed. Not being a person that approves of standing on stones used to build monuments with such as this, but on this occasion one can’t really avoid it because you can’t tell them apart from other such stones lying around. Partial excavation of the cairn in the nineteenth century revealed a central slab over a cremation burial, surrounded by concentric rings of slabs in the cairn's mound. At the present time it appears to have been utilised (for sheep possibly) with a central standing stone and stonework built off it. I wonder if the central stone is original.
Looking northwesterly you have East Moor laid out beneath you with Fox Tor in the distance. It was at this point that I was about to return to my car but suddenly the dark threatening clouds parted and a huge shaft of light lit up the whole of the moor beneath me. And there it was…the Nine Stones lit up like floodlights on a stage! That was it, I just had to go the whole mile and complete the journey while the weather was relenting even though I was only wearing a semi-waterproof jacket. On approaching the stones as you descend the gradual slope from the cairn you become aware that the entire flat area around the circle has been cleared for some distance around it and sits there in the most wonderful of settings. Remote to the eye, atmospheric, lonely, almost forgotten were my first thoughts, but somehow welcoming on arrival. My Border Collie Chief who is my constant companion on walks is very receptive to ancient sites and often shows a ‘mistrust’ to some but not here. We never saw another person or animal and it was so healing to the soul to just take it all in and reminds you why we do what we do. The stones on this occasion were individually and collectively set in water and probably are most of the year as the area can be quite boggy in parts. Stones reflecting in surrounding water always adds to the magic for me although on this occasion the surface of the water was very disturbed by the wind thus knocking out the reflection effect. I stood in the centre and phoned my cousin in Jersey on my mobile to tell her where I was and she said…’Blimey that site must give off good vibes as you sound like you are stood next to me’!
I stood there looking around and wondered what on earth our ancestors saw out here to encourage them to build in such a desolate but on the other hand beautiful looking place. So bleak, lonely and windswept but obviously of great importance in its time. I shot a video but the wind was so ferocious that it is spoilt. Fine if you turn the sound down but as I tend to speak for England on my vids it spoils it somewhat!
Heading back I took the same route directly to the cairn on Ridge Hill as I had taken on the way down and midway up the northern slope I discovered an unmarked standing stone broken off about 18” above ground level. It was virtually on a dead straight line between the circle and the cairn which are about ¾ mile apart. Leading up toward this broken stone were the signs of a slightly raised revetted stone curb earthwork revealing itself out of the turf. This was not shown on the map either yet continued for about 80 yards as far as I could determine.
On reaching my car, guess what? Yep, down came the rain so I reflected on how lucky I had been as I’d not taken full waterproofs with me as I wasn’t expecting to attempt the whole walk.
A moderately easy walk with just the first stretch beyond the stone cross offering any sort of challenge due to its length rather than its steepness. Visit the Nine Stones if you possibly can, you won’t regret it I promise you.
Posted by Sanctuary
5th March 2012ce
Edited 6th March 2012ce

Comments (9)

Yay, excellent stuff Roy. This one has been on the ever-lasting list for ever (well, since Burl came into my life). Sounds like it's definitely one to get to.

The weather can be kind to stone seekers. Sometimes.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
5th March 2012ce
It's a lovely circle alright and the stones have been sitting in large pools of bog water for as long as I can remember. There is a stone row to the South of Fox Tor which runs to the cairn on East Moor. There is also a row of boundary stones, for North Hill & Altarnon Parishes, incorporating the central stone from the circle.
I used to carry on over East Moor to Godaver Downs and along the edge of the woodland - there's a way through to Godaver Circle.
You did well with the weather !
Meic Posted by Meic
5th March 2012ce
Start as you mean to go on, Roy. Some field note.

Couldn't have picked a better circle to start with, either.
5th March 2012ce
Excellent fieldnote Roy, am also looking forward to seeing your photos. tjj Posted by tjj
5th March 2012ce
Nice notes Roy...glad you have finally got out onto the moor!!!!

Meic...when did you last go to Godaver...I don't think it is still possible to access it from East Moor...unless you know better. It's the one circle on the moor I have yet to visit (due to access)
Mr Hamhead Posted by Mr Hamhead
6th March 2012ce
Mark, is that Godaver circle shown at the southern tip of the Halvana plantation? Posted by Sanctuary
6th March 2012ce
It was a few years back now, 2007, I found a track through the forestry, SX213763 which went through to Smiths Moor (after a left and a right). Then I just followed the edge of the plantation to Goodaver. The fence was broken,so it was easy to get through. Obviously not too sure about now, but the forestry track should still be there.

I'm enjoying the pics Roy.
Meic Posted by Meic
6th March 2012ce
Thanks Meic. I liked one so much I doubled-up on it and now don't know how to remove it!! A few more to come yet. Posted by Sanctuary
6th March 2012ce
Thanks Roy,

I devote some space to Altarnun in my ebook, you might find the sunburst reference interesting, in view of your own experience and being local to both church & megaliths?

Posted by megalith6
8th January 2013ce
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