Enjoy a scenic walk around this Stone Age National Monument.
Turn to the right at the top of the turnstile steps and ascend the steps to see the remains of the Alpine Hut between two great boulders. The Commemoration Wall bears the names of High Rocks climbers who have achieved international fame.
In this area stood the popular teahouse of the 18th century – see more detail under “History”. There were romantic gazebos or summer houses among the trees and French Horn players would blow their loudest notes to awake the remarkable echo. A feast was held here in 1815 to mark Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.
A little path across a small clearing leads to the stairway to Little Rocks. Look for water percolating from the rocks near the wishing well, and test the legend that anyone who collects three drops in the bare hand can have one true wish granted.
To the right below the path is the Devil’s Oak, this tree stood against the full force of the hurricane in October 1987, holding firm to the rock when giants all around were falling.
The path winds gently upwards to the first bridge of the Aerial Way – note the Toad. Just behind the rocks which guard the meadow you will find the famous wishing rock. Take the two bridges spanning the Fairy Glen into the Iron Age fortress. The great rocks provided natural defences on one side and earth ramparts with ditches protected by rows of sharpened stakes secured the other three sides. The area has been excavated and recorded, but covered again to preserve a valuable site from erosion by weather.
Go down into a gully and up a short stairway to the High Rocks themselves. The crooked bridge from Observation Point crosses one of the fortress’s natural openings. The walk follows the edge of the cliff and down approximately 50 steps to the base, where there is clear evidence of Mesolithic and Neolithic occupation.
If you stand on the lowest step, the first of four Stone Age shelters excavated is immediately to the left. Hunting parties would have hung skins on the overhanging rock to make a rough shelter. Excavation has revealed holes used for roof support poles, arrowheads, spear barbs and pottery. Some of the finds are now on show in Tunbridge Wells Museum.
A short flight of steps leads to the Bell Rock. The claim that its sound when struck hard can be heard in Tunbridge Wells has never been demonstrated. The Bell Rock is best known for an inscription dated 1702 placed there by a lady whose little dog fell to its death from the summit.
Tickets available at the High Rocks Inn oppositeSee also: The History of the High Rocks Ancient National Monument