|NY 29141 23631 (GPS 1hr 20min).||Diameter 30.5m x 28.7m (Meas.)|
|Visited - many times||No magnetic anomalies|
Castlerigg is quite probably one of the
oldest stone circles in Europe, the circle is estimated to have been constructed
3200BC and bears many of the characteristics typical of early circles. Situated on Chestnut Hill about 2km east of Keswick, the circle itself is spectacular and the site has marvelous panoramic views in all directions.
Castlerigg is also known as The Carles (the husbandmen), and many have taken this as evidence of yet another human petrification legend associated with a stone circle. In fact, the name comes from a misreading of an account by Stukeley of a visit to the circle in 1725 in which he cites a local name of "Carfles", the "f" in the word being an old English "s".
The layout is a flattened ring with 38 of an estimated 42 original stones still present, in addition, ten further stones form a rectangle 4.4m x 8.8m known as "The Cave" which projects into the circle interior at the SE. This type of internal construction in a stone circle is very unusual and there is no indication of what its original function may have been. The tallest stone in the circle stands close to the stone rectangle at the SE, this stone is 2.5m tall and is estimated to weigh 16 tons, it is set radially to the circle circumference and is aligned to the Samhain sunrise. The circle has a wide entrance at the north flanked by two portal stones, these are both substantial blocks about 1.7m high.
Until quite recently Castlerigg was thought to have no rock art, but now carvings have been reported on up to five of its stones. We have examined the supposed carvings and we have to say that we remain unconvinced by most of them. Whilst looking very impressive in published drawings, only one of the "carvings" appeared artificial to us. For more information and photos click on the "Rock Art" button above.
An outlier stands 90m to the SW by the field wall, it had been used for many years as a stile before being set upright in 1913. This stone bears many plough marks on one face and was probably cleared to the field edge when the field was under cultivation, its relationship to the circle (if any), is unknown.
Examination of the site revealed the remains of 2-3 round cairns within the northern half of the circle, these are about 3m in diameter they are very low features today and hard to make out. The cairns probably represent reuse of the site by later people, an incorporation of the circle into their funerary practices.
There is a another Cumbrian circle with many similarities to Castlerigg and this is Swinside. Swinside is about the same diameter as Castlerigg with stones of roughly the same size, it too has an entrance, this time denoted by double portal stones, the two circles are also in roughly the same state of preservation.
Castlerigg is now in state care and lies only a 100m from the road, making it very accessible. The easy access is not without its downside however, this circle has very high media visibility and must feature in virtually every tourist guide to the Lake District. In the summer months the circle receives a veritable horde of visitors, so don't expect to enjoy the delights of Castlerigg in solitude!