Brown Willy

Cornwall Information & Accommodation Guide

Brown Willy

Brown Willy

Brown Willy, in Cornish Bronn Wennili, on Bodmin Moor, is the highest point in Cornwall.

Its Cornish name means 'hill of swallows' and at its summit its height is 1,378 feet (420 m) above sea level.

The nearest towns are Bolventor which is 2.5 miles away and Camelford at 4 miles (6.4 km)
The River Fowey rises nearby.

Brown Willy has two man-made cairns on its summit. They are believed to date from the Bronze Age and are well preserved, probably because of their remote location. Cairns from other sites have often been dismantled and used to build dry stone walls. The North or Summit cairn stands next to an OS triangulation point. It has never been excavated but local folklore suggests that it was the burial place of a Cornish king.

The cairn's place in the landscape in relation to the nearby Stannon Stone Circle has suggested that there may be some astronomical alignment. From the centre of Stannon Circle the autumn equinox sun rises over the North/Summit Cairn.

Brown Willy has long been considered a sacred place. In recent times it has become one of the sacred mountains of the Aetherius Society, charged with a holy energy, which contributes to positive change.

Unlike other high hills on Bodmin Moor, such as Rough Tor, Brown Willy has no obvious signs of settlement on its summit. Its lower slopes have yielded evidence of ancient occupation - 17 houses have been identified on its eastern slope and 23 on its western slope.

In 2012 a campaign was launched by Chris Hines, one of the founders of Surfers against Sewage, to change the name to its Cornish translation to avoid the giggle factor of the current name but there was little support for the idea.

An annual run held on New Year's Day features Brown Willy. The run of 7 miles, begins and ends at Bolventor.

A visit to Brown Willy can be undertaken on a circular walk which also takes in Rough Tor, Little Rough Tor and Showery Tor.

The former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, mentions Brown Willy in his poem, 'Summoned by Bells':

Here, in his deafness and his loneliness,
My father's sad grey eyes in gathering dusk
Saw Roughtor and Brown Willy hide the view
Of that bold coast-line where he was not born

Brown Willy and the high ground of Bodmin Moor is responsible for a weather phenomenon called the Brown Willy effect. This involves heavy showers developing in this area which then travel a long distance downwind producing extremely heavy, localised rain and in some instances, severe flash flooding. The flood that Boscastle suffered in 2004 is thought to be an example of the phenomenon.

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