Travel: Castlerigg Stone Circle in England`s Lake District
Circle of enigma
The stone circle at Castlerigg in England`s Lake District is believed to be the earliest of its kind in all Europe.
Last night, I dreamt I went to Castlerigg again. These, of course, are the wistful dreams engendered by the times we are living in, but Castlerigg is one place I really would like to revisit.
Located a stone`s throw away from Keswick in Cumbria, it comprises a large stone circle on a flat-topped hill. It is also known as Druid`s Circle, which of course, immediately conjures up images of Celtic seers gathering to perform mysterious rituals in mysterious surrounds.
The stone circle is not a perfect sphere yet not a scattering of monoliths in random pattern, either. The day I visited, there was a cool breeze blowing, the sky held huge banks of gray cloud and altogether, the gray-green-stone landscape made for a magnificently moody ambience. Standing inside the circle, our guide pointed out some of the highest peaks in Cumbria, like Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Blencathra and High Seat.
This prehistoric site was probably constructed around 3200 BC and predates Stonehenge. It is one of around 1,300 stone circles to be found in the country. There are about 40 volcanic rock boulders, the heaviest weighing 16 tonnes, the tallest standing at 7.5 feet.
The legend goes that it is impossible to count the actual number of stones in Castlerigg; due to soil erosion, several small stones have appeared besides the larger ones. It is believed that these smaller stones were used to support the larger ones at the time of construction.
Another legend has to do with strange light phenomena at the site, white light-balls that move slowly over the stones at specific times, probably part of some natural phenomena related to fault lines.
Why was this stone circle set up? Is there some symbolic significance to the circular arrangement or was it pure happenstance? What was it used for? And by who? These questions have no definitive answers even today, and that only adds to the cryptic allure of the stone circle. Its solar alignment means that Castlerigg is used in solstice celebrations, though another theory propounds that, in a major departure from other stone circles, it has a lunar alignment.
Keats and Coleridge have penned poetry on this stone circle, which is a hugely popular tourist attraction set in an area of eye-popping beauty.
While you are there, check these out
- The many different lakes, Derwentwater being closest to the stone circle.
- A guided trek in the lower, less punishing part of the Fells.
- Go glamping in the vicinity of the stone circle.
- Visit the poet William Wordsworth`s house and the postcard-pretty St Oswald`s churchyard in Grasmere where he is buried.
This appeared in the Sunday Express Magazine of 20 June 2021.