Castlerigg Stone Circle
Off Nest Brow Road (A591)
Cumbria CA12 4RN
Castlerigg Stone Circle is in a stunning location above the Cumbrian village of Keswick on Derwentwater. It has panoramic views of the valley and the surrounding mountains of Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Grasmoor and Blencathra.
This pre-historic circle is one of the earliest in Britain, being raised about 4,500 years ago during the Neolithic period. Don’t expect a huge monument of dressed and interlocking stones like Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. This is a much simpler affair with 38 stones measuring from 4-7 feet (1.3-2.1 metres) in height.
The stones are of a local metamorphic slate and form a flattened circle measuring 107 feet (32.6 metres) at its widest and 97 feet (29.5 metres) at its narrowest. There is an approximately 11 feet (3.3 metres) wide gap in its northern edge, which may have been an entrance. The heaviest stone has been estimated to weigh around 16 tons (14.5 tonnes).
The most unusual feature is a rectangular setting of a further 10 stones within the circle abutting is eastern quadrant. This feature is a later addition and the archaeological evidence suggests that Castlerigg was used by many generations of people over a long time period.
Theories about Castlerigg
The reason for building the circle in this spot is unknown but it has been noted that the sunrise during the autumn equinox appears over the top of Threlkeld Knott, a hill just over 2 miles (3.5 km) to the east. Some stones in the circle have been aligned with the midwinter sunrise and various lunar positions.
The more accepted theory is that it was built by the Neolithic farmers as a meeting place and is linked with the Neolithic Langdale axe industry in the nearby Langdale fells. It is theorised that the circle acted as a meeting place where these axes were traded or exchanged.
All over Britain, ritually placed stone axes have been found indicating that axes could not be exchanged or traded without some sort of ritual ceremony. It has been suggested that Castlerigg stone circle could have been the space in which these rituals and ceremonies were enacted.
The early farming communities were engaged in 'transhumance' farming. This means they moved their settlements seasonally, spending winter on low fertile land by the coast and the Eden valley, and moving to the upland grazing on the high central fells each summer.
Castlerigg's location suggests it may have been a meeting place, where communities travelling east from the coast and west from the Eden valley would have met before travelling to the summer pastures and axe factories in the central fells. The valley bottoms would have been heavily forested in that period, making the ridgelines the easiest way to get around.
The fact that we know so little about this obviously significant site just adds to its mystery and appeal. It is open all year, free to visit and the National Trust has installed interpretive boards at various locations.
We would recommend a visit.
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Tripadvisor here:
Although the site is always open, obviously it is wise to choose a fine day if possible to get the best views. You will need to walk across an open field from a narrow lane. The co-ordinates for the site are: Latitude 54.602575N Longitude 3.099041W
Contact & Further Information
- By Car
1½ miles (2.4 km) east of Keswick
along the A591 road and Castle Lane. Parking is in a lay-by off the side of the lane. At busy times a field is also made available for parking.
- Mountain Goat Tours
The excellent Mountain Goat Company has a daily minibus tour that includes Castlerigg Stone Circle
- The Ten Lakes Spectacula Tourr to Ullswater, Buttermere, Borrowdale and beyond. We can thoroughly recommend this company from personal experience. Web Mountain Goat Tours
- By Bus
Stagecoach in Cumbria X4/5 from Penrith railway station to within 1 mile (1.6 km). Always check the time of the return bus with the driver and where it stops.
Google Maps - Castlerigg Stone Circle