Stone circles are amongst the most tangible and durable connections to the past. They have fascinated me ever since I was a young teenager and saw Stonehenge. We were on our way to Girl Guide camp in the New Forest, travelling overnight by coach from Cheshire and reached Stonehenge just before dawn. I was just about awake as we scrambled down from the coach and made our way over the field to be at Stonehenge as the sun came up. It was magical.
We were the only people there and in those days Stonehenge was fully accessible. I’ve been there since, and seen it on TV but I am so glad I had that experience before full access to Stonehenge was available, before there was a carpark and a visitor centre, shop and cafe. Now you can only view the stones from a short distance away along a tarmac pathway – after you’ve planned your visit in advance, parked your car and been driven 10 minutes by a shuttle bus, because entry to Stonehenge is by timed tickets. (Access is free at the solstices.) I understand the need for all this but it still makes me shudder.
When I discovered that there is a stone circle near Keswick I was keen to go there whilst we were staying in the Lake District last week. Although there were more people at Castlerigg Stone Circle than I would have liked I really did appreciate the informality of the site. There are no restrictions and you can wander around the stones as much you like. I suppose you’d have to get there at dawn or at least a lot earlier than we did to be there on your own.
Castlerigg is set on a plateau near Keswick, surrounded by hills, including Skiddaw and Blencathra. There is no carpark, visitor centre or shop – and I hope it stays that way. You can park in a little lane, where there was an ice-cream van selling delicious home-made ice-cream on the day we were there.
This was our first sight of the stones:
Stone circles are ancient monuments. There are over 50 stone circles in the Lake District, made with locally available stones. Nobody knows what their function was, although there is much debate about whether they had a ritual and religious use, an astronomical significance or an economic function.
Castlerigg dates from around 5,200 BC which makes it older than the pyramids! Here is part of the circle. It is about 30 metres in diameter, which makes it quite difficult to take photos of the whole circle:
As you can see that the stones vary in size. The tallest stone is 2.3 metres and the largest weighs about 16 tonnes.
And here are two photos of parts of the interpretation boards:
Castlerigg Stone Circle is described A Guide to the Stone Circles of the Lake District by David Watson, published in 2009 with colour photographs, maps and directions to the sites. The cover photo shows Castlerigg Stone Circle.
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9 thoughts on “Castlerigg Stone Circle”
Wonderful shots! Thanks for sharing the photos and facts….
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I must visit this place. I’ve been to Stonehenge and the Lake District many years ago, but never visited Castlerigg. Thanks for posting this.
Nice blog today of our trip to the Northern Fells
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What an absolutely beautiful place, I’ve never heard of it before. I just love that first photo especially. I’ve not been to Stonehenge, we had thought of going last year, but the parking, access and all that rather put us off on what would have been a quick visit. How wonderful to spend time at this very special place.
Margaret – Those really are lovely ‘photos. Stone circles like these are fascinating and, dare I say it, mysterious connections to our past, and that’s part of their appeal, I think.
Thank you for sharing your lovely photos. I love the Lake District but I’ve never been here.
MY husband and I visited the stone ring at Avebury, as an alternative to all the whoop-la at Stonehenge. It was far more intimate and private communal with the past. The Castlerigg stones look beautiful! What a beautiful setting.
Castlerigg is one of my favourite stone circles – your photos are a great reminder of a special place.
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