Castlerigg Stone Circle

Castlerigg Stone Circle rectangle By Steve BulmanCastlerigg, a Neolithic stone circle dating from BC3000, sits 700 feet above sea level on a plateau surrounded by the Lakeland fells of Skiddaw, Blencathra, and Lonscale. This circle, whose purpose is unknown, is one of the earliest constructed in England. Alexander Thom studied Castlerigg and determined that the stones indicated seven solar and lunar declinations. Set to observe these Castlerigg Stone Circle By Brianalignments at different times of the year, it was, perhaps, an ancient temple, although there is no hard evidence to that effect. With open routes from all directions, whether it served as a place for tribal gatherings and trade is also open to conjecture.

Castlerigg Stone Circle By Steve BulmanOriginally consisting of 42 stones, there are now 38 (33 remain standing) ice-worn metamorphic slate boulders, most under five feet in height. Set in an oval shape 90ft in diameter, the stones cover about 1/3 of an acre. One of the stones, at a cardinal point of the circle, contains a strong magnetic field that affects compass needles.

Castlerigg Stone Circle By Barbara BallardThe north side was probably an entrance as there is an opening 11 feet wide with two larger portal stones (8ft tall) marking it off. Sitting within the site on its eastern side, a further 10 stones, in the shape of a rectangle, may be a later addition.

To the southwest of the circle there is an outlying three-foot high stone, whoseCastlerigg Stone Circle By Steve Williamspurpose is unknown. A mound in the circle looks like a round barrow, but it has not been excavated. A Neolithic stone axe, now in the Keswick museum, and charcoal pits were discovered on the hill.

The circle was the subject of one of John Keat's poems, “Hyperion”. He wrote:

“. . . .like a dismal cirque,
Of Druid stones, upon a forlorn moor,...”

Castlerigg Stone Circle scenery By Barbara BallardSet in an amphitheatre of hills with views across the fells, the circle is at its most atmospheric in the late evening or early morning. The view, which encompasses the lonely surrounding mountains, still gives a sense of the long forgotten time when this monument played an important role in an ancient civilization.

Castlerigg Stone Circle is signposted off the old A66 Keswick-Penrith road, 1½ miles east of Keswick near the A591 junction. Roadside parking.

Managed by English Heritage and the National Trust.
Open Site.

Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy of Steve Bulman , Brians Photo Galleries , Steve Williams

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