I make no secret of my love of Cornwall, and on every trip there are certain sites that I return to again and again. The Merry Maidens is one of those sites, located on the B3315 between Lamorna and Treen at OS Grid Ref SW432245.

Although now largely a 19th Century reconstruction, the Merry Maidens is often described as a ‘perfect circle’. This geometric shape is very unusual in ‘stone circles’, which are very rarely truly ’round’, most being elongated or ovoid in shape.

The circle is surrounded by other monuments with the Pipers, two large standing stones to the northeast being the most often mentioned. These are the stones attached to the legend, supposedly being the musicians playing for the girls dancing on the Sabbath who were turned to stone. The Pipers are not inter-visible with the circle, the story being that they ran away when they heard the St Buryan church bells ring. The alignment of the two stones with the circle, SW-NE suggests an astronomical significance.

Gun Rith, on the other hand is very visible from the circle, standing in a field just across the B3315 road to the west. Indeed, the footpath through the circle has been cut in recent times to point directly at Gun Rith, which fell a few years ago and was re-erected in place against the hedge where it had previously stood.

Merry Maidens and Gun Rith

Gun Rith can be seen against the hedge in the distance, in direct line of the mown path through the circle.

To the southwest are the Boscawen-Ros stones, one in a field, the other now part of a field boundary hedge, and both much smaller than their counterparts, the Pipers, to the northeast. A second circle of similar size was recorded by Borlase, somewhere nearby to the east/southeast, but no trace of this now remains. A large Bronze Age barrow cemetery lies to the south-west of the circle, and beside the B3315 road a short distance to the west of the circle are the disturbed remains of Tregiffian barrow – a possible Neolithic entrance grave. The cup-marked stone at the entrance to the barrow is now a replica, the original can be seen in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.

Like many areas of West Penwith, there’s a lot to see in a comparatively small area!