Castlerigg Stone Circle
Stone Circle In Keswick, Cumbria
Potentially one of the earliest stone circles in Britain, thought to be constructed around 3000BC, located in one of the finest locations within the Lake District National Park.
By their very nature stone circles tend to be in more remote, picturesque locations but Castlerigg Stone Circle, to the east of Keswick has to be one of the UK's most spectacular. Thought to have been constructed in 3000BC it is also potentially, one of the oldest too. Unlike many Bronze Age stone circles which contain burials or cremations at their centre, Neolithic ones such as Castlerigg, do not contain any formal burials.
Standing at around 30m in diameter and comprising 38 standing stones (there were originally 42) which vary in height from around 1m up to 2.3m, Castlerigg has an open entrance to the circle on its northern side, flanked by two large upright stones. This is usual of Neolithic stone circles, along with an outlier stone, and the outlier can be found to the south west of the circle adjacent to a stile, although this has been moved from its original position. There is a rectangle of standing stones within the circle which is unusual as it has only been found in one other example at the Cockpit, near Ullswater.
There has been no extensive excavation of Castlerigg Stone Circle so it is not known what could lie beneath it. The function of these stone circles is not known either, although it is thought that they were important meeting places for nearby Neolithic communities, whether this was for religious or trading purposes is anyone's guess. Every year thousands of people come to visit Castlerigg, making it the most visited stone circle in Cumbria, so get there early if you want to get parked! It has spectacular views towards Blencathra, Skiddaw and the Helvellyn range which only add to its atmosphere.
It did not really come to the attention of the public until 1725 when William Stukeley made the earliest written recording of the site. It went as follows;
“.for a mile before we came to Keswick, on an eminence in the middle of a great concavity of those rude hills, and not far from the banks of the river Greata, I observed another Celtic work, very intire: it is 100 foot in diameter, and consists of forty stones, some very large. At the east end of it is a grave, made of such other stones, in number about ten: this is placed in the very east point of the circle, and within it: there is not a stone wanting, though some are removed a little out of their first station: they call it the Carsles, and, corruptly I suppose, Castle-rig. There seemed to be another larger circle in the next pasture toward the town.” .
One of the most interesting things about Stukeley's account is that it mentions a second stone circle in the field adjacent! That he doesn't elaborate further has frustrated many historians as it may well have been a flight of fancy or a mistakenly described natural feature, or indeed a long lost stone circle.
Castlerigg Stone Circle has also inspired poets such as John Keats, whose line “Scarce images of life, one here, one there,/Lay vast and edgeways; like a dismal cirque/Of Druid stones, upon a forlorn moor.” is alleged to have been inspired by a visit to the stones. Although it read as though he had not been very impressed by them.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who visited the stones in 1799 with William Wordsworth, seemed more impressed, writing “.a Druidical circle [where] the mountains stand one behind the other, in orderly array as if evoked by and attentive to the assembly of white-vested wizards”.
Castlerigg Stone Circle was taken into guardianship in 1883 and was one of the first monuments in the country to be recommended for preservation by the state. It stands on land owned by the National Trust and is looked after by English Heritage. It is free to visit.
How To Find Castlerigg Stone Circle
Contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.More Places from Andrew
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