Prehistoric Dartmoor Walks, walking the Stone Rows and Stone Circles of Dartmoor
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Dartmoor Site: Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

This site is featured on the Moretonhampstead: Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns walk. These photos are of the Mardon Down Cairns and Stone Circle (Butler Vol.5 pp147-151). The top of Mardon Down is fairly densely covered with gorse and bracken but the ridgeway track provides an easy route which includes most of the sites of interest. Heading north the first of these is one of an alignment of cairns. Cairn 1 is situated very close to the stone circle. The large flat slab just outside the circle is thought to be the displaced cist cover (this can be seen in the foreground of photo no. 2 below).

Mardon Down stone circle (SX76768719) is the biggest on Dartmoor with a diameter of 38m. The site would have been impressive in its day and is one of the only ones sited on the top of high ground and has a fine view of the surrounding area. Today the circle is fairly dilapidated. Six stones remain upright and another 16 lie roughly in place. There are two massive megaliths one of which is on the north-western part of the circle (see photos below). A short arc of seven stones remains in position on the south-east of the circle (see photos below). The circle was first described by Dr Milles in 1772 who reported around 70 stones. Butler suggests it probably originally consisted of around 61 stones many of which are probably buried under the peat where they originally fell although some have no doubt been robbed out.

Further north along the track are more cairns some of which are just about visible in the landscape but can be hard to make out except for slight saucer shaped mounds. This applies to the ring cairn 2 (c. 20m across) which is about 20m to the left of the track about half way between the stone circle and the Giants Grave. A few metres further on the track is deflected around two large cairns; cairn 3 (c.10m across) and the Giants Grave (Cairn 4 c. 20m across). Beyond the Giants Grave is Cairn 5 which is an impressive cairn circle with a well preserved ring of large pillars surrounded by an outer kerb ring of smaller slabs on their edges. Unlike the stone circle it is marked on the OS Okehampton and North Dartmoor Landranger map (Sheet 191 SX76758768). It is easy to confuse cairn 5 with the less well preserved stone circle which is a few hundred metres to the south.

The Headless Cross, or Maximajor Stone (SX77068781), despite its name, was never a cross. It was a megalith although apparently the current stone is a replacement for the original which was damaged beyond repair by a car. The photo below was taken in May and a carpet of bluebells covers the lower slopes of Mardon Down. The remaining photos are from a clearing in Dunsford Wood at the Clifford Bridge end of the walk to Steps Bridge - they have been included here because they are nice!

The distribution of the sites along the ridge on Mardon Down can be seen fairly clearly with the aid of streetmap.co.uk: Mardon Down on Streetmap UK.

It is worth noting that these sites are described in detail in the Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Volume Five, The Second Millennium B.C. which is the only one of the five Butler volumes still available in book shops unlike the earlier volumes which are out of print and very expensive to buy second hand.

These photos were taken on the 16th May 2011 with a second set taken on 2nd June 2011 which start with the photos of Cairn 5.

See also: Guide to Dartmoor Stone Circles

Bibliography & references

Butler, J. Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities: Vol. 5. - The Second Millennium B.C. (Devon Books, 1997)

External Links

Legendary Dartmoor: The Maximajor Stone

Mardon Down: Cairn 1

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down: Stone Circle

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down: Cairn

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down: Views & Headless Cross (Maximajor Stone)

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Dunsford Wood Bluebells

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down: Cairn 5

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down: Stone Circle

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down: Ring Cairn

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Mardon Down: Headless Cross (Maximajor Stone)

Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns
Mardon Down Stone Circle & Cairns

Page last updated 29/9/14