Cerne Giant, Dorset, England

Cerne Giant, Dorset, England. Photo Nilfanion

The Cerne Giant’s best view other than from an aircraft. Photo Nilfanion

What is The Cerne Giant?

The Cerne Giant is a rampant, naked 60 metre male carved into the chalk hillsidenear Cerne Abbas, an old village about 8 miles (13kms) north of Dorchester, in Dorset, England.
The photo shows as much of the giant as you will currently see unless you rent air transport; the carving becomes a lot more indistinct from close up. For scale you can see a couple of hikers at the top of the hill on the left.

Viewing the Cerne Giant

This is as close as you can officially get to the giant since the National Trust installed light wire fencing to keep out hikers and horny couples and preserve the figure from erosion.

The giant grass-carved perspective from here is less than thrilling, though the overall view is gorgeous. A marked, circular hiking trail called the Giant Walk – 3 miles/5kms long – runs from Cerne Abbas village, past the giant and along the Dorset Downs, where orchids and butterflies (especially the Adonis Blue) are common sights in season.

Cerne Giant illustration shows:

england - cerne giant map

A photo of a Cerne Valley painting of the Cerne Giant produced by Dorset County Council.

1) The main road from Dorchester, the A352. Dorchester is the nearest town, 8 miles (13kms) south, while Maiden Castle a huge iron age (i. e. earth and turf) fort, is one mile beyond that.

2) A small, temporary parking area (otherwise known as a lay-by) from which you will get the best possible view of the Cerne Giant.

3) A bigger, nearer car park that is suited for those who intend to take a walk.

4) The giant’s enclosure.

5) Cerne Abbas village and start of the Giant Walk. Some of the village’s sights are: The remains of 10th century Cerne Abbey, some 16th century Tudor houses, Kettle Bridge – a stone and flint bridge, and the 13th century Church of St Mary and punishment stocks.

Stonehenge, Avebury and other ancient sites are not far away in Wiltshire, the next county north-east of Dorset.

Why was the Cerne Giant created?

1) He was cut out 4, 000 years ago in honour of a Celtic fertility god, Cernunnos. Above his head is a maypole mound that was central to pagan May Day festivities until 1635, when the church decided that the wild, all-night, get nekkid scenes that were enjoyed by locals in the adjacent woods should be discouraged.
Legend has it that barren couples who wish for children should copulate on the giant genitalia – preferably after dark in case passing sheep lose their appetites.

2) He was carved 1, 500 years ago in honour of the Roman god Hercules.

3) He appeared a mere 350 years ago and is a caricature of Oliver Cromwell, a brilliant and influential though brutal leader (1599-1658) who gained enormous power during the English Civil Wars, espoused religious freedom and was offered the king’s crown – but refused.

The reason that the giant’s origin is unclear is firstly that the only elements remaining in the area are grass and chalk which have been around for months or millenia, so carbon dating is not an option, and secondly the earliest written record of the giant that survives was from the 18th century.

Dorchester is the nearest town, 8 miles (13kms) south, and Maiden Castle a huge though simple iron age fort is one mile beyond that.