St Breock Downs Monolith
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The largest monolith in Cornwall
The stone was probably erected in the late Neolithic or mid-Bronze Age (roughly 2500-1500 BC). It stands inside a cairn, or mound of small stones, measuring 33 feet across.
The stone fell down in 1945, which gave archaeologists the chance to investigate what lay beneath it. The stone was found to be set upon a layer of small quartz pebbles. A pair of shallow depressions were scooped into the pebbles. at other sites similar hollows have been found to contain the ash of cremated remains, but at St Breock they were empty.
After archaeologists had finished investigating under the stone, it was re-erected in its original location. Only about 10 feet of the stone now show above ground; the remaining 6 feet are buried beneath the surface.
What was it for?
The simple answer is that we don't know, though we can guess that the stone a ritual function. The area is rife with other prehistoric features, including barrows and another, smaller, standing stone. It seems reasonable to assume that all the Bronze Age monuments on the Down ere linked in some way.
The monolith features heavily in local folk tales, and was used as a boundary marker for St Breock's parish. It is located very near the Nine Maidens Stone Row site.
The official English Heritage information for the monolith mentions a footpath to the stone. The information is incorrect; there is no footpath and no obvious way to get to the stone. There is a finger post on the Rosenannon road, poiting into the field, where you can see the monolith on top of the slope, but there is no immediately obvious way to access the stone. The field is protected by not one but two layers of fencing and barbed wire, so it is pretty clear that English Heritage has quite different ideas about access than the local farmer does.
Now having said that, if you go up the minor road to the top of the field, where a lane leads to the nearby wind farm, there is a gateway into the field. Though the gate was tied up when we visited, there was no sign saying to keep out, and since English Heritage clearly thinks there ought to be access to the Monolith, I climbed over the gate - carefully - and set off across the field, where I could see the Monolith in the distance.
It took about 5 minutes easy walk across the field, which was not planted with any crops, so I'm pretty sure I wasn't disturbing anything the farmer might have been doing. The Monolith really is a most impressive sight, and the views are exceptional on a clear day. It does feel rather odd to see the ancient stone almost in the shadow of modern wind turbines in the next field, though.
I should add that even if you don't fancy climbing the gate like I did, you can still see the Monolith clearly from the lane beside the field, though it is a good distance away.
About St Breock Downs Monolith
Address: Rosenannon, West Country, Cornwall, England, PL30 5PN
Attraction Type: Prehistoric Site
Location: On St Breock Downs, roughly 4 miles south west of Wadebridge, off the minor road signposted to Rosenannon
Website: St Breock Downs Monolith
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Opening Details: Open access site, usually accessible at any reasonable time
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Nine Maidens Stone Row - 2 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Egloshayle Church - 3 miles (Historic Church)
Castle an Dinas Iron Age Hillfort - 4 miles (Prehistoric Site)
St Columb Major, St Columba's Church - 4.5 miles (Historic Church)
Pencarrow House - 4.6 miles (Historic House)
Padstow, St Petroc's Church - 5.5 miles (Historic Church)
Prideaux Place - 5.7 miles (Historic House)
St Enodoc Church - 6 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to St Breock Downs Monolith:
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Nearest Tourist Information Centre ('as the crow flies')