Last Photographed: Sunday 8th June 2008
White Moor stone circle has a diameter of 20 metres, and consists of 18 stones in various states of repair. It is believed that there were 19 stones originally, and before restoration work in the 19th Century, only 13 stones were visible. Of the stones that remain, the tallest stone is around 1.3 metres in height (compared to an average of around 0.9 metres).
White Moor circle stands close to Hound Tor. A Dartmoor legend tells how huntsmen rode out one Saturday, riding around the hill until the stroke of midnight, at which point they were turned to stone for breaking the Sabbath. The hounds can still be heard baying, it is said, on particularly stormy nights. Hound Tor is also an alternate name for White Moor circle, which stands on its slopes.
The chances are you'll never see this circle. It's remote and very difficult to get to. However, for anyone determined enough to brave the journey, the reward is outstanding. Standing at a secluded megalithic ruin in a remote part of Dartmoor, looking around at views that stretch for miles in every direction, truly surrounded by wilderness, you'll have one of those rare chances to capture the feeling that such sites might once have evoked in Neolithic times.
The only way to begin any meaningful discussion of White Moor circle is to describe the approach - and the first thing to say is that it should only be attempted in the best of weather (unless you're a very experienced and confident walker). Even in good weather, I wouldn't advise an inexperienced walker to attempt this by themselves. This is a remote site, and there's a good chance that the injured walker could be stranded for a long time without seeing another soul.
Initially, after parking up (a challenge in itself!), the first part of the walk is a steep, uphill climb. Eventually you'll come to the stone rows at Cosdon which set the mood nicely. The scenery's already impressive by this point, and you'll just be getting a taste for the remote wilderness that will soon engulf you.
From Cosdon stone row, the walk levels out slightly. However, after a short while, you'll encounter the main problem with this journey - the Raybarrow Pool. On the Ordnance Survey map, this quagmire can be seen bordering the trail on your left. This is highly inaccurate. The marshy bog-land extends right up the hill, and the bridleway cuts directly through the middle of it. In good weather, this is a major obstacle. In bad weather, I imagine it's extremely dangerous. I can't stress this highly enough: it's not an exaggeration to say that in bad weather, you could easily die out here.
After many failed attempts, I was unable to find a navigable route through the marsh. I very nearly gave up at this stage. Below and above, this unforgiving swamp seemed to dissect the trail at every point. Sometimes it would seem as though I'd identified a solid path through the marsh, only to have the ground turn to swamp again in front of me. And this was in dry, sunny, August weather.
Eventually, I had to back-track a fair way in order to climb the hill to the right and swing up and around the marsh. This may seem as though it would have been the obvious solution from the start, but the nature of the foliage that covers the slope made breaking away from the beaten trail an arduous exercise.
After about two and a half hours of walking, I finally reached the circle. It's impossible to separate the image of the site from the sense of achievement felt when it finally comes into view. While it might be complacent for a pampered modern-day Westerner to think of this as a real adventure, it certainly felt like it to me. I can't imagine many people making the effort to reach this site, and that opinion would seem to be borne out by the relative scarcity of information that's available on-line.
The circle itself is striking. Nothing can really do justice to the bleak beauty of this place. The landscape lends the perfect backdrop to the stones, and the whole scene takes on an aspect that's greater than the sum of it's parts. Circle, scenery, seclusion, and a sense of adventure, all combine to make this one of the most enthralling and rewarding sites that you could possibly hope to visit.