Last Photographed: Friday 6th April 2007
Other Names: The Devil's Nine Stones, The Nine Stones
Winterbourne Abbas is a small stone circle of about eight metres in diameter. It consists of nine stones, seven of which measure under a metre in height. The two larger stones flanking the entrance are around 2 metres and 1.8 metres in height. Both are quite distinctive, with the shorter stone resembling a stumpy tooth.
According to local folklore, the stones are actually the sleeping forms of the Devil, his wife and their children. Another legend recounts how the stones were once children who were turned to stone by the Devil when he caught them playing five-stones on the Sabbath (although the Devil's interest in the Sabbath is a little unclear!).
The stones of Winterbourne Abbas nestle unobtrusively alongside the insanely busy A35. This road poses a major obstacle for the would-be visitor. It's possible to park at the nearby Little Chef and walk along the grass verge to the circle, but the ground is uneven and the short journey unpleasant and dangerous. Alternatively, a small lay-by exists almost directly opposite the circle, adjacent to a farm entrance. There's sufficient room to park here, and the stones are a short hop across the road - although patience and care are required when waiting for a gap in the traffic.
Once over the road, the visitor crosses a drainage ditch by means of a concrete slab serving as a bridge. Entering through a gate in the cast-iron fence, the sense of isolation (despite the proximity of the A35) is quite striking. The recent felling work carried out by English Heritage has had surprisingly little impact on the ambience.
There's something particularly striking about this circle. In an odd sort of way, the road actually increases the sense of magic here. There's something decidedly otherworldly about finding this cluster of stones nestling in their own little nook by the side of a busy, modern highway. A short visit, but worth making a detour for.