Nestled in the heart of the Lake District, Castlerigg Stone Circle is an ancient site that has captured the imagination of many. Standing on a natural amphitheatre, the stone circle is believed to date back to the Neolithic period and is one of the oldest in Britain.
With its unique features and rich history, the Castlerigg Stone Circle is a true treasure of the Lake District and a must-see destination for anyone interested in ancient history and mythology.
I love stopping by here and, in fact, whenever I am close to it I always find time to pay a visit. There is something truly magical about it. I also love to learn, as you know.
Let’s explore the history, significance, and unique features of the Castlerigg Stone Circle and why it is a destination not to be missed.
The History and Significance of Castlerigg Stone Circle
The origins, history and significance of Castlerigg Stone Circle are shrouded in mystery and speculation. There are many theories about the reason it is here and the purpose of the stone circle, but most experts agree it was built during the Neolithic period, around 3500-3200 BC.
This makes it one of the oldest stone circles in Britain and possibly the world.
The location of this stone circle is spectacular, in the Lake District National Park, on a natural amphitheatre that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Great mountain neighbours stand in the backdrop: Skiddaw, Blencathra and Helvellyn to name just a few.
In fact, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was moved to write about the view at Castlerigg when he visited with his friend William Wordsworth in 1799.
The stone circle consists of 38 standing stones arranged in an almost perfect circle, with a diameter of about 33 metres. The stones are made of local slate and have an average height of about 1.2 metres. The tallest stone is about 2.3 metres tall, and the shortest is about 0.9 metres.
If you try counting them you may miscount. If you count 40-42 you could well be counting the stones that were used as foundations. (The many visitors to the site over the years have lowered the ground around the stones to make them appear.) Or you could be counting inner stones.
The purpose of the Castlerigg Stone Circle is not known for sure, but there are several theories about its function. Many experts believe that it was used for ceremonial or ritual purposes, possibly related to the solstices and equinoxes.
Others think that it was a sacred site for the worship of gods and goddesses, or a place for ancestor worship. Some theories even suggest that the stone circle was used for astronomical observations, as the stones are aligned with the major lunar and solar events.
Features of Castlerigg Stone Circle
There are also some notable stones that are worth mentioning. The tallest stone is located on the eastern side of the circle, and it is thought to have been an entrance stone.
There are further stones beyond the 38 in the circle that form a rectangle within the circle. This is very unusual for a stone circle in Britain and adds to the mystery. Maybe a sign of burial chambers? It certainly gives extra credence to some kind of ceremony site.
This is a large contrast to the not too far away Long Meg and Her Daughters that does not contain any sign of burials.
It is true that some of the stones align at certain equinoxes and also align with some of the mountains and hills.
It was archaeologically excavated as far back in 1882 which only produced findings of burnt charcoal and different soil than what is found there today. Sadly, the samples from this dig have since been lost and cannot be found for modern and more technically advanced analysis.
Where Is Castlerigg Stone Circle?
This stone circle may seem away from it all but in fact it is less than 2 miles east from the town of Keswick in the Lake District, Cumbria.
The nearest postcode for Castlerigg Stone Circle is CA12 4RN.
This quiet spot a couple of miles outside Keswick, Cumbria has attracted thousands upon thousands of visitors who have come for the sights, to explore ancient mystery, to draw/paint or to experience a beautiful sunset amongst other things.
This is an area I love to walk around, too. All the mountains that surround it are amazing and I have them many times. A great lower level walk in the area comprises Tewet Tarn and a super low level ridge walk leading down into St John’s In The Vale is High Rigg.
One thing that can’t be denied here is the sheer beauty of the surroundings. It is a spot that needs to be visited in all weathers and seasons to really feel its essence and place in the world around it.
This day at Castlerigg I found peace, beauty and tranquility in a whole different way. A calm late winter, as the sun was setting, marveling at mile after gorgeous mile around me.
Imagining what may have happened here millennia ago in this very spot.
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