The Hurlers – Stone Circles, Bodmin Moor

The Hurlers, built around 1500 BC, is a late Neolithic or early Bronze Age ceremonial monument. The stone circles here are some of the best in Cornwall and their arrangement of three circles in a row is unique. Coupled with the dramatic location on Bodmin Moor this is a site well worth visiting.

If you arrive early you might have the place to yourself. I visited in September arriving around 10 o’clock in the morning and I saw four other visitors, a couple of dog walkers, and a diviner all the time I was there.

The Hurlers are situated close to the convergence of two rivers. This would have been a place where traders and travelers would have met. Locations like these were often sites of stone circles.

The Ordnance Survey Explorer 109 Map covers the whole of Bodmin Moor as well as Camelford & Liskeard. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The OS Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.

Visiting the Circles

The circles are located close to the village of Minions near Liskeard. There is a free car park about 1/4 mile from the site (PL14 5LE). The stone circles are a short walk north from the car park across the moor in the direction of the Cheesewring. The path follows the route of the old quarry railway bed to the base of Stowe Hill.

There are no facilities at the site, however, the village has a tea room and a shop.

The weather on Bodmin Moor is very changeable. Make sure you come prepared with suitable clothes as the site is quite exposed and remote. Sheep and ponies often graze the area. To me this was the downside of the site, you need to watch where you are stepping as there is poo everywhere! Dogs are allowed on a lead.

The Hurlers

The Hurlers name collectively describes a group of three stone circles and a pair of nearby standing stones (The Pipers). This area on the south-eastern edge of Bodmin Moor is rich in prehistoric relics, it has a number of cairns, barrows, standing stones, and settlements. Remarkably, as the site is quite close to the road and easily accessible, it is relatively undamaged. This is even more astonishing when you consider it’s thousands of years old.

The three stone circles have been built of similar stones that are dressed and roughly the same height. Some of the stones are straight and rectangular, others have a more bulbous shape, suggesting they might represent male and female figures. The smallest and most southerly circle has only 9 stones remaining upright. The largest and central circle is actually slightly elliptical and has 14 stones remaining upright. A granite path once connected this to the northern circle. The northern circle has 15 stones still standing and is the most complete of the three. All the circles would have had many more stones when they were first built.

The small pits you can see inside the southern and central circles, and a slight bank running across the central circle, are the remains of post-medieval tin mining and nothing to do with the stone circles.

All of the circles have been the victim of stone robbing over the years. Introducing cattle on Bodmin Moor has led to some of the stones falling over. Unfortunately, the stones make good scratching posts for the cows, which leads to the ground being eroded and the stones foundations undermined.

Site’s Function

The site’s exact function is unknown. Like many stone circles, they are a bit of a mystery, but they were traditionally places for community gatherings. It’s possible that the stone circles mark a processional route that ran between the Neolithic hilltop settlement at Stowe’s Hill to the North and Caradon Hill Barrow to the south.

The axis through the centre of the two northern circles aligns directly onto the massive Rillaton Barrow, which is visible on the skyline to the north-east. This Barrow contained the Rillaton Cup – a Bronze Age gold cup as well as pieces of pottery and jewelry. The Cup is now housed in the British Museum in London.

Legends

Local legend identifies the Hurlers as a group of men who played the ancient game of Hurling on a Sunday. Being turned to stone was their punishment for this terrible crime. The two nearby standing stones – The Pipers, were two local men who played tunes on a Sunday and suffered a similar fate.

This Bronze Age site was likely to have been of great significance and possibly used for Pagan ceremonies and rituals. These activities were wholly abhorrent to early Christians, hence the cautionary tale.

Another myth says that the stones of the circles are uncountable. I’m sure this is true!!

Excavations

The site was excavated in the 1930s by Ralegh Radford. He partially restored the two northern circles, re-erecting some of the stones and placing marker stones where stones were missing. There have been other aerial surveys carried out and in 2004 English Heritage conducted a geophysical survey. A survey in 2009 by the Cornwall Archeological Unit indicated that there might also be a fourth circle and two stone rows.

In 1981 the stone circles were scheduled as an ancient monument. Later in 1994, the area protected was extended to include the pipers.

Hurlers Stone Circle – Picture Gallery

The Cheesewring

The Hurlers site is very close to the Cheesewring which is worth a visit while you are here. This tor is a natural geological formation of granite slabs formed by weathering over hundreds of years. Large circular slabs of stone up to 10 meters wide sit on top of each other. Some of the lower slabs are smaller so the whole formation looks like it should topple over.

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