Cerne Abbas

One of the most famous landmarks in the UK, the huge chalk figure of the Cerne Giant overlooks the historic village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset. Dating back to 987AD, the once thriving market town of Cerne Abbas in Dorset is today a quiet village made up of quaint homes, thatched cottages and traditional inns. Surrounded by heavenly pastoral scenes and unique chalk downland, this sleepy village invites visitors to enjoy its countryside setting, history and of course, fascinating landmarks too!

Once dominated by an important Benedictine Abbey, the village of Cerne Abbas tells of a long and prosperous history. Renowned for its natural spring water which was believed to cure all ills, it was once home to 15 watering holes-come-inns and developed many industries, including milling and weaving. Having well-preserved its historic roots withs its abbey ruins, 13th century church and time-honoured facades (including the Grade I-listed 16th century Pitchmarket), it is also particularly well known for one other ancient landmark…

Standing proud at 180ft tall, the world-famous Cerne Giant is Britain’s largest chalk hill figure and perhaps one of the most widely recognised in the world. Seen from different viewpoints and in different lights, the Giant varies from a stark white to a pale outline. Probably the best viewing point, the Giant’s View car park allows you to see the Giant as a whole, while there is also a short walk leading up to his feet too. One thing is certainly unmissable though, and that would be his, ahem, generously proportioned appendage.

Depicted as Nature intended, the naked outline of the Cerne Giant has been the subject of some debate and has given rise to many discussions as to his origins. While many believe that he may represent a likeness of the Greco-Roman hero Hercules, others believe he could be a symbol of spirituality or a Pagan symbol of fertility. While local folklore has long favoured the latter theory, some have also suggested that the figure may have been carved as a mockery of Oliver Cromwell.

Located above the Giant, a rectangular earthwork enclosure called the Trendle can also be found. As with the Cerne Giant’s origins, the reason for the Trendle’s creation is unclear, but it is thought to date back to the Iron Age. Forming a major part of the community, it is still used today by local Morris Dancers as a site for May Day celebrations. Ensuring that the Giant is properly preserved, the chalk is replaced every decade or so, a massive undertaking carried out by the National Trust.

After extensive research, in May 2021 it was revealed that archaeologists now believe that the ancient naked figure was created during the late Saxon period. If you would like to visit Cerne Abbas, you can easily spend a few hours wandering the village’s streets before veering off to see the Giant himself. He’ll be hard to miss!

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