Tor

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A tor is a rock outcrop formed by weathering, usually found on or near the summit of a hill. In the South West of England, where the term originated, it is also a word used for the hills themselves – particularly the high points of Dartmoor in Devon and Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.

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The word 'tor' is also used in southern Wales, particularly on the rocky coastlines such as the Vale of Glamorgan and the Gower Peninsula; on the Gower one of the sandy beaches near Oxwich Bay is called "Tor Bay" because the beach is framed by a huge outcrop of carboniferous limestone. Tor (Cornish tor, Old Welsh twrr, Modern Welsh tŵr, Scots Gaelic tòrr, meaning hill[1]) is notable for being one among a mere handful of Celtic loan-words to be borrowed into vernacular English prior to the modern era – such borrowings are mainly words of a geographic or topographical nature, also including crag (from the Welsh word craig, meaning "rock") and "avon" (from the Welsh word afon, meaning "river").

Tors are composed usually of granite or metamorphic rocks. Tors can also be found around any previously erupted volcanoes (although Devonian and Carboniferous outcrops are also found), though occasionally of other hard rocks such as quartzite, and are the result of millions of years of weathering. In prehistoric times, when the land was covered in forest, rain water seeped into the ground and gradually weathered the bedrock through its natural cracks, or joints. Once the land became exposed, the weathering was accelerated, particularly during the Ice age when freezing water expanded in the cracks. The result can be seen today in dramatic rock formations.

Weathering has also given rise to circular "rock basins'" formed by the accumulation of water and the repeated freezing and thawing – a fine example is to be found at Kes Tor on Dartmoor.

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