Our Favourite Villages: Cerne Abbas, Dorset
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Cerne Abbas is a charming village known across the world for the Cerne Giant – an 180 ft ancient naked figure sculpted into the chalk hillside above the village. The origins of the ‘Rude Giant’ are a mix of fact and speculation. Some believe that he represents the Roman god, Hercules, while others believe he is a Pagan fertility symbol (for obvious reasons). However, as there are no historical records before 1694, it has been argued that the Giant depicts a more recent historical figure, the most probable being Oliver Cromwell.
Cerne’s name is taken from the river Cerne, derived from the Celtic word for cairn, or pile of stones, while the Abbas suffix (Latin for an abbot) stems from the village’s former Benedictine Abbey, which was founded in AD 987 but sadly destroyed in the 16th century. Remains of the abbey can still be seen today and are well worth a visit. Despite the loss of the abbey, the village managed to prosper with Cerne’s fresh underground water supply fuelling a highly successful brewing trade. The beer was sold as far afield as London and was even exported to the Americas. Due to this industry, Cerne Abbas at one time boasted no fewer than 15 public houses with a population of only 1500. Water power spurred many other small industries, including milling and silk weaving.
Today, the village survives thanks to its tourist industry, enticing people from all over Britain and across the globe to view the huge ‘Rude Giant’. Visitors can enjoy food and drink in picturesque surroundings in pubs such as The New Inn, The Giant Inn, The Royal Oak and Abbotts Tea Rooms.