Tor cairn on High Willhays summit


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010592

Date first listed: 11-Jan-1995


Ordnance survey map of Tor cairn on High Willhays summit
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Okehampton Hamlets

National Park: DARTMOOR

National Grid Reference: SX 58043 89220


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and, because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provides direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards. The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time. Tor cairns are ceremonial monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age (c.2000-1000 BC). They were constructed as ring banks of stone rubble, up to 35m in external diameter, sometimes with entrances and external ditches, and roughly concentric around natural outcrops or tors. In some cases a kerb of edge-set stones bounded the inner edge of the bank, and the area between the bank and the outcrop was sometimes in-filled by laying down a platform of stone rubble or turves. Excavated examples have revealed post-holes and pits within the area defined by the ring-bank, some containing burial evidence, and scatters of Bronze Age artefacts concentrated around the central tor. Tor cairns usually occur as isolated monuments, though several are associated with broadly contemporary cairn cemeteries. They are very rare nationally with only 40-50 known examples concentrated on the higher moors of Devon and Cornwall, where their situation in prominent locations makes them a major visual element in the modern landscape. As a rare monument type, all surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.

The tor cairn on High Willhays summit survives comparatively well and is one of only four known examples on Dartmoor where the ring banks are attached to the face of a tor. Archaeological and environmental information relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was erected survives within this cairn, which is situated on the highest point on the moor.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


This monument includes a tor cairn situated on the summit of High Willhays, the highest point in southern England. The cairn includes two semicircular banks attached to the eastern face of a large rock outcrop. The outer ring bank survives as an 18m long, 2m wide curving earthwork standing up to 0.8m high on the outer edge and 0.2m high on the side facing the tor. The central length of the inner ring is visible as a 1.4m wide and 0.7m high double faced orthostat wall, which survives elsewhere as a buried feature denoted by a 0.5m high lynchet. The area enclosed by the ring banks measures 13.5m north to south by 5.5m east to west.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 24158

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Turner, J R, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in Ring Cairns, Stone Circles and Related Monuments on Dartmoor, , Vol. 48, (1990), 37
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX58NE43, (1983)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard,

End of official listing