Brown Willy Tor and Rough Tor, on Bodmin Moor, are the two highest hills in Cornwall. With Brown Willy reaching 420 metres above sea level and Rough Tor, 400 metres above sea level.
Nik and I have not long realised that although I have walked to the summit of Rough Tor on several occasions, I have never done Brown Willy Tor. Nik has been to the summit a couple of times but for some reason, I never got there. So that became our days’ mission. I couldn’t live so close to the famous Tor and not walk to its top.
Both Tors sit on Fernacre Estate which holds the grazing rights to the land. So expect to see cows, sheep and horses while you walk. All of these animals tend to watch you from a distance so they aren’t a problem for walkers.
Brown Willy Tor has been considered a sacred place for thousands of years. The summit cairn is thought to be the resting place of an ancient Cornish King. Although it has never been excavated and there is little evidence of this.
There are two man-made cairns at its summit. Brown Willy North Cairn is a man-made pile of rocks dated from the Bronze Age. This sit beside the Trig point. At the autumn equinox, the sun is said to rise from nearby Stannon Stone Circle, over Brown Willy North Cairn and align with With Rough Tor. Leaving some people to believe that the Cairns and stone circles have an astronomical purpose.
Brown Willy is also regarded as a sacred mountain by members of the Aetherius Society. A UFO religion founded in 1954 by George King.
The Tor has had several names over the years before settling on Brown Willy. However, in 2012 a campaign was launched to have the hill’s name restored to the original Bronn Wennili on the grounds that it would be “slightly more attractive to residents and tourists than Brown Willy“. The campaign failed after Cornish residence objected.
Rough Tor is composed of the summit and logan stone, a neolithic tor enclosure, a large number of Bronze Age hut circles, and some modern monuments.
Approximately one mile northwest of Brown Willy, Rough Tor is the second biggest Tor in Cornwall. Brown Willy being the biggest. The site is actually made up of three tors. Showery Tor, Little Rough Tor, and Rough Tor.
You can see signs of old settlements and field systems showing how populated the area was. At its summit, there was once a Neolithic Tor Enclosure. On the southern slopes of Rough Tor, there are the remains of a large number of stone hut circles, set around three or four enclosures that may have held stock. Along with the remains of the field systems.
The summit of the tor was once the site of a medieval chapel, built into the side of one of the cairns, dedicated to St. Michael. Recorded in the 14th century, it’s the only known hilltop chapel on Bodmin Moor.
Near the summit is a memorial commemorating the men of the 43rd (Wessex) Division who lost their lives in the Second World War.
From the car park, you first come to Rough Tor. As we’d both been to the top of the three tors that make up Rough we followed the path over the lowest point. We were after all on a mission to get me to the top of Brown Willy.
I have never had any problems walking up the tor, but it would seem that two years of not being able to get away and 3 months of being locked in the van has made me unfit. My legs were definitely struggling and this wasn’t even the difficult bit. As we had to walk down the otherwise of Rough Tor before climbing to the top brown Willy I was a little concerned that my legs might drop off by the end of the day.
As it turned out the walk to the top of Brown Willy Tor was more of a steady climb and I barely felt it. It was a lovely sunny day (mostly), but the wind was strong and pretty cold. We took a while to get to the summit because we were enjoying the scenery and taking photos. We have no photographic proof that I made it to the top because as I reached the trig point a huge gust of wind caught me. I’m sure I’ve mentioned my fear of heights a few times, haha. Therefore, I very quickly took myself down a level and left Nik to get his photos.
As we had to climb halfway up to get back to the car, we had to go to the top of Rough Tor.
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The days’ Photos
Click the images below to enlarge