Tarr Steps – Somerset, England - Atlas Obscura

Tarr Steps

This ancient bridge made of stone slabs is said to be reserved for the devil to sunbathe. 


The longest and oldest bridge of its kind, the Tarr Steps in England’s Exmoor National Park is made of a closely connected series of stone slabs that date back thousands of years and are rumored to be where the devil sunbathes. 

Known as a “clapper bridge,” which is a type of span built out of flat stone slabs lain end-to-end and supported by stone stacks, the Tarr Steps are maybe the best known example of this type of construction. It is unclear exactly when the bridge was first created but it could date back as far as 1000 BCE. The 17 massive stone planks/slabs that make up the path of the bridge each weigh up to two tons and have managed to survive down the millennia. Spanning the River Barle, the bridge has long been both a simple way of crossing the river, as well as an attraction for tourists looking to take in a remarkable piece of history.

Even though it has managed to survive down the millennia, that is not to say that it hasn’t had its fair share of wear and tear. A number of times, strong storms have managed to wash some of the slabs down river despite their massive size. This is usually helped along by debris that is washing down river. However, the huge rocks have always been recovered and replaced in the bridge. To combat this, a guard wire has been installed upstream from the bridge, and each of the stones has been numbered so that they can be more easily recovered and replaced should another disaster occur.

The ancient bridge even has its own myth. According to local legend, the bridge was built by the devil as a place to lay out and take in some rays, but he was eventually run off by a local parson. There is no trace of the devil left at the bridge, but it is still an impressive sight, and a fine way to get across a river.

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