Standing 53 metres (174ft) tall on the edge of the Blackdown Hills, the Wellington Monument is the world’s tallest three-sided obelisk, built to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
If you book a tour, you can climb the 232 steps of its spiral staircase for expansive views over the Blackdowns, the Quantocks and Exmoor. The monument stands in an area of grassland surrounded by veteran oaks, beech, and sweet chestnut trees which provide nesting for birds and bats. A leafy 500m walk along an avenue lined with beech hedgerows leads from the car park (small fee payable for non-National Trust member) to the monument. Beyond the monument, woodlands provide paths for an easy, 1 mile walk.
At one side of the monument stands a cannon. The original site plans included 24 cannons captured from the French army during the battle, but they never materialised. In 1818, 16 cannons were brought to Exeter to be transported to the site, but 10 were sunk into Exeter Quay as bollards, one was sold to pay for the storage fee of the original 16, and the remaining four were found to be naval cannons from Scotland and had never been near Waterloo. In 1910, four of the Scottish cannons were installed but were removed during WWII to be used as scrap metal. Rediscovered in Exeter Quay in the 1980s, the sole surviving cannon now sits.
Originally constructed in the 1840s, the monument has been plagued by financial and technical difficulties throughout its history. We recount the monument’s woes in our blog – In Search of The Obelisk.
What to watch for:
In early summer, common spotted orchid flowers in the grassland where you can spot dragonflies and a variety of butterflies, including common blue, and marbled white and green hairstreak; in the woodland, nuthatch, tree creepers and great spotted woodpeckers feed. In autumn, the beech hedgerow avenue provides striking colour.
Getting to Wellington Monument:
Exit M5 at J26 and follow the signs for Wellington. At the roundabout take the first exit onto A38. After approx. 1 mile (3.2km) turn left onto Monument Road. Follow this road and at the top of a steep hill you’ll come to a crossroads, turn right. Entrance to the car park is approx. 218yds (200m) on the right.
Booking a Tour:
Operating in spring and summer only, you can book a tour online (not available until spring). The tour will begin with a safety briefing and an overview of the history of the monument. You will then be issued with a hard hat and radio for you to climb the narrow staircase and enjoy the views at the top.
NB The spiral staircase is narrow and has narrow steps so flat shoes with enclosed toes and heels need to be worn.
Around the Wellington Monument. As easy, 1 mile circuit takes you beyond the monument and down steps into the woodlands. See National Trust directions