If Stonehenge is the most famous stone circle in Britain, the Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick in the Lake District, must be the most atmospheric. Situated in an open bowl between rolling hills, this Megalithic construction appears as a perfect picture postcard. This is the land of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Romantic poetry; but many millennia before, it was home to an equally creative race.
The Castlerigg Stone Circle, also known as Keswick Carle or Druid’s Circle, is one of the oldest in Britain. It was built in around 3,000 BC and comprises 38 stones of various heights placed in a slightly oval shape. The largest stone is over 8 feet tall, but the majority of them are less than 5 feet high. Although five of the stones have collapsed, it is a site in remarkably good condition.
It has a feature unique among stone circles in Britain. Inside the ring of rocks, ten smaller stones are placed in a rectangle in an arrangement called ‘The Cave’. There is also a slight mound in the centre, which, it has been suggested, is a burial chamber. However, the site has never been properly excavated, and perfunctory archaeological studies have only ever uncovered charcoal deposits.
Like Stonehenge, the site has qualities which make it suitable for use as an astronomical observatory, although an unpolished stone blade found near the circle suggests it may have been used as a centre of trade for the area’s Neolithic axe industry. There is also a local legend that says the stones were never built to any design, but were actually men turned to rock by fear of a local monster.
In all likelihood, it probably formed a focal point for the local community, and may have been used for a combination of commercial, religious and tribal purposes. For now, we can only admire the stunning sight of this early man-made structure placed in an area of unique natural beauty.