Arthur's Stone, Herefordshire


View south across the stones
Stone-lined burial chamber from the Neolithic period, on a flat-topped ridge between the River Wye and River Dore
Arthur's Stone Lane, Dorstone; HR3 6AX
Arthur's Stone is one of the better preserved of the numerous ancient burial sites in England; a dolmen, or chambered tomb, from the Neolithic period, constructed sometime between 3,700 and 2,700 BC. The site has an isolated, countryside location, reached by a narrow lane, on a flat-topped ridge that separates the River Dore (Golden Valley) from the River Wye, near the villages of Bredwardine and Dorstone, 12 miles west of Hereford. This rural location is typical of such tombs, which were usually built atop high ground with expansive views, and probably used for religious rituals, not just as burial sites.

The name of the dolmen refers to King Arthur, who is associated here only by legend, one theory being that the tomb was erected on a battle site and contained slain warriors, another that the location was merely visited by the king, and indentations in one of the stones were made by a fallen giant who he killed.

The tomb, one of five in the vicinity, is managed by English Heritage, and provided with an information board and a small parking area, with space for two or three vehicles. It is considered to be part of the Severn-Cotswolds group of Neolithic burial chambers, numbering around 200.

The Burial Chamber

The road to the tomb, Arthur's Stone Lane, forks northwestwards off the road between Dorstone and Bredwardine, following the top of the ridge between the two river valleys. At one time the chamber, which has never been excavated, was situated right in the middle of the lane, with carriageways on either side, but the southerly route has been returned to grassland. When built, the stone-lined chamber was covered by an earthen mound up to 25 metres long, with just the entrance visible, though the mound has long since eroded away, leaving just the stones, in two lines along the sides of the burial passage, with a large, broken capstone on top, originally weighing over 25 tons. The (right-angled) entrance passageway is on the east side, lined by other stones, more well-separated. A second, decorative, entrance was positioned to the south, perhaps for use in ceremonies.