The Mên-an-Tol (meaning ‘stone of the hole’ in Cornish) is a small formation of standing stones in Cornwall, believed to date to the early Bronze Age. It consists of 3 upright granite stones – a circular stone with its middle holed out (1.3 metres wide) with two standing stones to each side (1.2 metres high) in front of and behind the hole, and one other standing stone nearby.
History of Mên-an-Tol
It’s believed the westernmost standing stone was moved and brought into a straight line with the other two stones sometime after 1815. There are also 6 recumbent stones, and 3 cairns – one to the southeast and two to the north.
There is speculation that these 4 stones helped formed an ancient circle (further large stones were discovered lying just below ground nearby) – if so, it’s likely that the stones were rearranged. Alternatively, the stones may have once formed a chamber tomb, used in fertility rituals. The holed stone could also originally have been a natural occurrence.
The site was first archaeologically investigated by William Borlase in 1749, whose drawings show the stones weren’t in a line like they are today, but formed an angle of about 135°. He reported that farmers had taken away some stones from the area.
Further suggestions ensued and in 1993, the Cornwall Historic Environment Service published a detailed report suggesting the standing stones originated from a stone circle consisting of 18-20 stones. The holed stone could be part of a nearby portal tomb, or once stood at the centre of the stone circle, serving to frame specific points on the horizon.
Today the stones remain firmly in their ‘new’ place, with theories as to their original purpose still debated.
Mên-an-Tol is believed to aid fertility – local legend claims that if a woman passes through the holed stone 7 times backwards at full-moon, she’ll soon become pregnant. The local moniker the ‘Crick Stone’ alludes to another legend that passage through the stone 9 times will cure a child of rickets.
Getting to Mên-an-Tol
The Mên-an-Tol is located near the Madron to Morvah road in Cornwall, about 3 miles northwest of Madron.
It’s relatively easy to park nearby, and although Mên-an-Tol is a little walk from the main road (up a slight incline uphill, along a wide track), the walk is well worth it, with great views over St Michael’s Mount.
Penzance is approximately 5 miles/17 minutes by car along the B3312, or a 1.5 hour walk.