By: Blonde Two

It is difficult to go on a Dartmoor walk without finding a cairn.  If you are one of the Two Blondes, it is even more difficult resisting the urge to poke around looking for one.

There is something endlessly fascinating about a pile of stones.  I realise that this sounds slightly mad but think about it for a moment.  There are a lot of stones in even the smallest of cairns and some of the Dartmoor ones are pretty impressive.  For example, Giant’s Basin at Drizzlecombe.  The Giant’s Basin stones are particularly interesting because, not only did someone work very hard to put them there, someone else came along much later and worked very hard at removing some to build rabbit warrens.

Mr Blonde Two built a cairn for me a few years ago.  I don’t think I was dead – I would have remembered that – but he was crossing the Icelandic interior without me and missed me (very romantic but it would be frowned on by some).  We once came across an amazing spot in Scotland, I couldn’t tell you now where it was, but it looked out over a beautiful glen and there were dozens of tiny cairns built by the roadside.

The cairn on Yar Tor (SX678 739) is an interesting one.  My first attempt to visit it had failed back in January, on account of it being very dark and extremely misty.  I went back in the daylight a couple of weeks ago and found out that it is high on the tor and has a lovely spiral shape.  I am sure that it did not start off life in this formation so again, piles of stones that have been formed and reformed by different pairs of hands over the years.

Another easy to find discovery was the two cairns on Chinkwell Tor (SX729 783).  These are not the traditional “dead-person-in-a-hole” prehistoric cairns that are so common across Dartmoor.  I don’t think they are even “beware-foolish-navigator” cairns.  No, these are more like “amazing-place-let’s-pile-some-rocks” cairns.  Mr Blonde Two and I were convinced that the stone cross on top of the nearest one must have been glued on.  We weren’t mean enough, however, to try and knock it over in order to find out.

Chinkwell Cairn


Whether you approve of modern cairn building or not, finding a cairn while you are out on a walk is always a fascinating experience.  No matter how old it is, how it got there or how appropriate it is, each one has a story behind it.  Somebody’s loved one, somebody’s visit, somebody’s life – no-one moves a load of stones around without a reason (stones are heavy).  Next time you come across one, sit for a minute and soak up the atmosphere.  I have no doubt that there is a story behind each one just waiting to be told …