On lonely, dramatic Bodmin Moor lies one of the most iconic sites in Cornwall: the Cheesewring. This granite tor gets its name from a cheesewring, a traditional gadget for squeezing the liquid out of cheese. It's also possible the name originally comes from a device used in cider making – in some parts of the county, the apple pulp is known as cheese.
Seven slabs of rock make up the thirty-two feet high Cheesewring, with the smallest and lightest rocks at the bottom, and the thickest and heaviest (measuring over 30ft across) at the top. It often seems to just hang above the moor; one of the rocks even has a hollow in the top, like a huge stone chair. On a clear day, the views over Cornwall and Devon are spectacular. Nearby Cheesewring Quarry once supplied the granite used as cladding on London's Tower Bridge.
If you're wondering about the smaller structure to one side, they're something of a stone red herring. They were put there at the start of the 1900s, to support the landmark and stop it from collapse. If you look closely, though, you'll see they're really quite ineffectual – they don't even come into contact with the Cheesewring itself.
Given the bizarre and improbable form of this giant stack of granite quoits it would be only natural to assume they didn't get there by themselves. However, legends aside, they are an entirely natural phenomena and the Cheesewring was formed by the weathering action of this exposed spot over the millennia. Of course, this wouldn't be Cornwall if there wasn't a tale or two to tell, and local legend has it the Cheesewring resulted from a battle between a giant and a saint.
Way back in the mists of time, when Christianity was first introduced to the British Isles, the land was inhabited by giants, who mostly lived at the top of mountains and hills. The giants were less than happy about the saints invading the land. One of the larger giants was called Uther, and he was tasked with ridding the land of the saints. A saint called Tue suggested a rock-throwing competition to determine the outcome.
Uther threw first, and he easily threw a rock as far as the top of nearby Stowe's Hill. Before Tue took his turn, he prayed; when he picked up his first huge slab of rock, he found it was surprisingly light. They took it in turns to throw a dozen stones, which stacked up in perfect formations. Uther threw a thirteenth rock, which rolled down the hill. Tue picked it up – and as he did so, an angel appeared, and placed it on top of his pile of rocks. Uther conceded defeat - most of the giants agreed to become Christian after this display of supernatural power.
Many of the stones of Cornwall are known to be exceptionally lively on occasion: another local legend holds that the Cheesewring's top stone magically spins around three times whenever a cockerel crows.
There's a small opening at the base of the tor, like a cave, reputedly the home of 18th-century stonemason Daniel Gumb (or Gunn). Daniel loathed the thought of paying taxes so intensely that he lived in the cave with his family; you'll still see an inscription from 1735 carved above the entrance.