The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick, Cumbria

NY2913 2362. Castlerigg stone circle or the Druid’s Circle stands on a flat hilltop close to Castle lane just south of Goosewell farm, 1 mile north of the A591 at Castlerigg village and 2 miles east of Keswick. Although referred to as a circle, it is actually oval in shape and probably dates from the late Neolithic to the early Bronze-Age periods 3,370-2,670 years BC. There are some excellent panoramic views to be had from the circle of the distant mountains of the lake district.

All of the stones and boulders ranging from small and large ones that make up the circle are glacial erratics made of metamorphic slate; these would have been moved into a suitable circular position. There are between 38-40 standing stones (also called carles) the correct number being difficult to count, 33 of the stones are standing while the rest are recumbant. Inside the circle 10 stones form a rectangular cove or sanctuary, the eastern section of which connects with the outer circle (perimeter), and is regarded as quite an unusual feature. At its most widest point the circle measures 32 metres (107 feet) in diameter and at its narrowest point it is 29 metres or roughly 100 feet.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria

The height of the stones varies from around 1 metre to 2.3 metres, with 8 of the tallest stones being at the northern and southern sides and weighing between 15-20 tonnes. At the north-east side of the circle there is an entrance or portal between the stones which is 3.3 metres wide. Some 90 metres to the south-west near to a wall there is another boulder, or outlier, that may or may not be connected to the circle itself.

We can never really be certain what the circle was used for. It may have been a place where ritualistic ceremonies took place, or it was used it as a sort of astrological observatory for watching the skyline and calculating the movement or alignments of the sun, moon and stars, especially at the soltices. Shamanism – the spirit world was something the ancient peoples were interested in, coming to the circle to say prayers to their dead ancestors. One of the stones at the eastern side is said to be magnetic in nature, the whole site acting, perhaps, as a kind of powerpoint. A number of leylines are said to pass through the circle.

Arbor Low, Middleton, Derbyshire

SK1603 6355. To the east of the A515 Buxton road and along a rough track at Gib Hill farm, near Middleton, is the 3,000-4,000 BC Neolithic henge monument known as Arbor Low. It is actually a stone circle although the stones here are recumbant and some are now broken. In all there are 50 limestone blocks situated upon a plateau on a high, oval-shaped bank 2 metres high. Within that, at the centre, seven more recumbant stones lie in what is referred to as “the cove”. The stones from a nearby quarry measure from 1.6 metres to 2.1 metres in length and, the largest of these is said to weigh 10 tons.

There are two causewayed openings in the outer bank and silted up ditch at the north-western and south-eastern sides which are probably portals (entrances), and a lower bank and ditch runs from the henge to Gib Hill farm to where there was perhaps the beginnings of a second henge? And attached to the south-eastern portal there is a round cairn of Bronze-Age date, this was excavated in 1845 when funery items were found in the cist; and at Gib Hill 320 metres to the west of the henge another Bronze-Age burial mound can be seen from which funery remains were excavated. During archaeological excavations back in 1901 a number of artefacts were excavated from the cove within the stone circle – an antler pick, oxen teeth, flints, scrapers and an arrowhead.

Arbor Low, Derbyshire.

We do not know whether the blocks of stone ever stood upright or were they just propped up in  fairly shallow holes, although no trace of any holes have been found, so the mystery of Arbor Low must remain. The henge site here at Arbor Low was a place where pagan and tribalistic rituals were carried out by prehistoric settlers who lived close by. One can well imagine that. There are said to be up to 50 ley-lines intersecting or passing through the henge, something the ancient people who dwelt in the area would have been well aware of with regard to alignments and the energies of the earth.