50 Gems of South Devon
Come with me and explore beautiful South Devon
Scorhill Stone Circle, Dartmoor
Britain is littered with prehistoric sites including stone circles, standing stones, and henges, which hint at the lives and cultures of the people who inhabited our islands over 2,000 years ago. Although there are many theories for the existence of these ancient monuments: as celestial calendars, to commemorate the dead, or for other ceremonial purposes – we may never know for sure. This only adds to their mystery and a sense of wonder at the huge time and effort expended by our ancient ancestors in building them.
As with many upland areas in Britain, Dartmoor has its fair share of ancient monuments, with fourteen stone circles scattered across its barren moorland landscape, although there are likely to be many more lost in the mists of time. One of the largest, most intact, and arguably Devon’s finest is the Scorhill (also known as the Gidleigh) Stone Circle, situated on the high moor at Gidleigh Common. Scorhill Circle was constructed by the people of the Bronze Age, between 2100 BC and 650 BC, and today contains twenty-three standing stones. It is thought that there may have originally been up to sixty standing stones, but, as with many stone circles, many stones have been damaged or even removed over the millennia. The Scorhill Circle forms parts of the so-called ‘Sacred Crescent’, a curved line of stone circles on the northeast side of the high moor, from Whit Moor Circle in the north to Grey Wethers in the south. The curve of stone circles forms a crescent with around 2 km between each site, suggesting deliberate planning. Although, of course, we will never know the real reason, one suggestion is that the sites marked out the edge of two ancient settlement boundaries, and the circles acted as ceremonial meeting places for those communities. As with many ancient sites, legends have grown up around the Scorhill Circle. One is that it is home to a fierce ogre who had a passion for sheep, and any which strayed within the stones would be killed and eaten. There are more recent reports of horse riders who say they are unable to get their horses to enter the circle, although as yet there have been no sightings of the ogre. The Scorhill Circle sits at the bottom of a natural amphitheatre, far away from civilization (and a mobile signal!) and it’s easy to see why our ancient ancestors chose such a beautiful and remote location for a ceremonial site. Although as with all such sites we will never know precisely why it was built, the fact that when looking out from the centre of the circle on midsummer’s eve, the sun sets over the tip of the largest standing stone, hints at the wonder of the world around us that may have motivated our ancestors to create such evocative sites. Scorhill Circle can be found at grid reference SX 65455 87400, a few miles from Gidleigh.
This is an extract from my new book, ’50 Gems of South Devon’ recently released by Amberley publishing. If you want to read about the other 49 Gems, you can pick up a signed copy HERE with free UK P&P using code ‘visitsouthdevon’ at the checkout until the end of Sept.