Ah, Castlerigg. What is left to say that hasn’t already been said about this famous stone circle? I won’t even try.
As we were in the area (Cumbria that is!) the call of Castlerigg proved too much and I just had to visit. Despite the gorgeous weather there weren’t as many people here as I expected and parking was easy enough. I walked through the gate and my pace quickened as I got closer to the stones. This really is a stunning location for a stone circle – easily the best I have ever been to.
Oddly enough though the circle itself was smaller than I remembered. It’s funny how your memory can play tricks on you. The scenery was as good as I remembered!
I noticed several areas where turf has been laid to no doubt counter the foot wear from the very many visitors this site attracts each year. Hope it doesn’t become a big problem?
The final day of our week is a grey, drizzly thing. We head to Maryport aquarium rather than into the hills. But I can't leave Keswick without a final trip to Castlerigg, seeing as it's so close. Waterproofs donned, I head out into blustery, wet gloom as the light starts to fail.
Once again, there's a car parked when I arrive, but its occupant is leaving as I cross the field. A stark contrast to the sunkissed dusk and dawn visits earlier in the week, but there's much to be enjoyed about Castlerigg in an autumn downpour. Firstly, there's no-one else here. Secondly, attempts at photography are greatly hampered by splodges and an instantly wet lens each time I point it anywhere above the ground. So I concentrate on squelching around and enjoying the stones and their setting.
Much of the glorious backdrop is hidden today, a few grey shapes visible but not much else. Blencathra hides its unmistakable profile away in cloud. I'm pleased to be down here, rather than up there (for once).
Three visits and I'm still no nearer to understanding this place - three hundred visits might not help. The enigma of the square internal setting will continue to elude. But the visits, coupled with aerial viewings from Blencathra and from Lonscale Fell, have highlighted how cleverly placed the circle is. The setting is not on a high elevation, in the context of the mountain backdrop. But it has elevation over the immediate surroundings, being placed on the top of a small hill that ensures the views all around are unrestricted to the mountains.
After about 20 minutes, another car pulls up and a solitary occupant emerges. I take this as my cue to leave, to let them have the circle to themselves as I have.
A last viewing across the field and I'm off, happy and sad, wet but warmed inside.
Since my sunlit evening visit on the weekend, we have climbed Blencathra and had an aerial view of the circle from Gategill Fell Top. The intervening days have showed the other side of Lakes weather, with gale force wind, heavy rain and a hailstorm the order of the two days. But the forecast is good for today, a single weather-window amongst the wet for us to climb Skiddaw from Wainwright's recommended route via Ullock Pike. I'm also keen to see Castlerigg at sunrise and so I leap out of bed (in itself almost newsworthy) at some ridiculous hour to make sure I'm there to see it. I leave the house just before 6, which turns out to be about forty minutes too early for the time of year.
And so it is that I arrive at the gate just after six, in complete darkness with only my rubbish headtorch to light the way. I'm not entirely surprised to find a car already there. As I cross the field to the circle, I make out the indistinct figure of my fellow visitor and I make my way around the perimeter of the circle. As I enter the circle, mumbling a "morning" in my not-working-this-early voice, the figure gets up and leaves. Sorry.
But I do at least get the circle to myself, in darkness that is almost complete. A few flash-lit photos are taken, mainly point and guess efforts as I've switched my torch off. The walk up the hill had got me quite warm, but as I stop to await the dawn I'm glad of my thick fleece and gloves. Finally a faint light is coming over High Rigg. At which point the first of several new co-visitors arrive. During the next 20 minutes or so another three or four people arrive, all with tripods and proper cameras. The opportunity for a sunrise photo here is obviously not going to be wasted. It's interesting to watch the proceedings in the grey pre-dawn. I had been leaning against one of the stones, but as the light starts to creep over the hilltops I detach myself from it and leave the circle. All of the photographers are super-respectful of each other's positions and none of them enter the circle. All are positioned to greet the dawn, giving things a strangely religious feel. One of the photographers, a Scot, recounts how she had climbed Latrigg the day before and walked through the woods to take photos of the autumn leaves. I think back to the filthy weather we had yesterday and metaphorically doff my cap (it's too cold to actually do so). My photo attempts are limited and I wish for the tripods and SLRs of my fellow visitors. At least it's easier for me to change position!
The sunrise is a slow affair, the faint sliver of blue giving way to pre-dawn grey. The top of Blencathra is clear of cloud, a good sign for our Skiddaw walk later. A pink-lilac illluminates the west, and the conical shape of Great Mell Fell becomes a focal point. It's a beautiful sight, pretty as can be. The pink-lilac turns to a streaked orange and the stones become sharper. Some thicker cloud rolls across, hiding the very tops of the hills to the southeast. Within an hour, the spectacle is over, but boy has it been worth coming to see. I head off back to the house and breakfast. In a couple of hours we'll be off for our walk and despite some cloud it looks like a good day for it. Can't wait.
We arrived in the Lakes in glorious autumn weather, with clear blue skies and sunshine the order of the day. After a quick shopping trip into Keswick, we headed back to our base for week, just outside of town and wonderfully only a 10 minute walk from the stone circle. It was getting to late afternoon and I couldn't wait to get my first sight of the circle, especially on such a perfect evening.
As I climb the steep road up towards the circle, the sun's softly filtered light plays on the slopes of the unmistakable Blencathra. Pausing to look backwards, it's sinking low over the Western and Northwestern Fells, so I hurry on, keen to get there for sunset.
It's has been a beautiful day, so it's no surprise to find a number of cars parked near the entrance. Walking up the field, the tops of the stones are the first thing to appear, then a inconceivably dramatic backdrop of mountains and fells come into view. The circle is pretty thronged, something that would usually have me silently cursing, but the setting is so overpowering that instead I grin stupidly at the wonder of it all.
I circle the circle from a distance, round the boundary walls and fences, stopping to look at the small outlier. Eventually I head into the melee, for a closer look at the stones themselves. No time-knawed rocks these, they are, in the main, round-shouldered, smooth-faced beauties. The peculiar oblong setting inside the circle draws me particularly, although I don't have any idea why.
The sun sets over Causey Pike, a brilliant orange ball amidst scant fluffy cloud. What a sight.
Most of the people drift off, only a few lingering past the sunset. Eventually, as the dusk deepens, I have the circle to myself for a wonderful while.
The ease of access and ever-present crowds will prevent this ever being as close to my heart as the more remote moorland circles, but for sheer drama and setting, this one takes some beating. I will be back.
Staying for week at the small village of Grange in the Borrowdale valley near Keswick. When a friend asked me several months ago to share a walking holiday in Lake District I jumped at the chance - unbelieveably I had not visited before. At last I would be able to visit Castlerigg, named by so many as their favourite stone circle.
As we approached Keswick on Saturday, the rain as forecast, had started - I spotted the sign for Castlerigg so we did a detour to make it the first the thing to be seen. I was childishly excited as I ran into the circle in the rain - with just sheep for company and surrounding hills shrouded in low cloud it, seemed a remote isolated place.
It rained all Saturday night and yesterday morning it eased a little so we walked to the top of Castle Crag, a nearby hill. By the afternoon the rain had stopped to be replaced with cloudy, sunny intervals ... so we headed back to Castlerigg to see it in different weather. Not wanting to do a long walk in case the weather changed again, my friend parked on the A591 (the road out of Keswick) and we walked from 'High Nest' through the meadows to Castlerigg. I became acutely aware of the surrounding fells as cloud shadows and sunlight played on their steep slopes. It was Sunday afternoon, the sun had come out after heavy rain so needless to say there were quite a few people wandering around the circle - which made no difference at all to the impact my second visit had on me. This beautiful stone circle with its small cove of inner stones - surrounding on all sides by the high Cumbrian hills blew me away. I live near Avebury, have been to Brodgar and Boscawen-un, both of which affected me deeply. Castlerigg is up there with them. It is set on a plateau above Keswick in an amphitheatre of hills including Skiddaw, Blencathra (Saddleback) and Lonsdale Fell; in some ways seems to mirror them. I stood for a long while at the far side of the field watching the shadows race across the fells all around the stone circle.
Right now, I'm typing this in the attic room which is also my bedroom in the riverside cottage where we are staying (curses, there is a computer and wifi link there too). The rain is falling in white sheets and the River Derwent has swollen to scarey proportions. The drama is spectacular ... no doubt we will venture out soon - perhaps go down to Grasmere as walking is out of the question until the rain subsides. Up here in the Lakes - almost unspeakably beautiful to this particular southerner - once again Nature rules and puts everything in perspective.
Over and out ... photos to follow when I return home.
My favourite stone circle. The views are simply stunning. I had a 'jaw dropping' moment the first time I visited this site. I had read a lot about it before visiting and I am pleased to say that it not only met, but exceeded my expectations. The circle itself is a joy to behold, but the setting is something else.
It's been about 18 months since we last visited and rather stupidly, we went up last week, during the Easter holidays. I am not sure but I think this is the only stone circle I can think of that has an ice-cream van parked by it! It was heaving, as usual, which I was prepared for and once again I was infuriated by the folk who were climbing all over the stones.
Mark asked a group to show a bit of respect, as 2 teenagers kept climbing on the stones, shouting at their parents to take pictures of them ("this one will look great on Facebook" said mum!!)
I do appreciate that not everyone feels the same way about these places but it does bother me that they will climb all over the stones, with no regard to the damage they may be doing. Ah well, best just stick to the more remote places, then I won't get wound up!
THE RECTANGULAR ENCLOSURE INSIDE CASTLERIGG STONE CIRCLE
I've been to Castlerigg many times over the last 20+ years. Two brief visits in late April 08 reminded me about the rectangular enclosure within Castlerigg. No other stone circle, apparently, has one of these, and officially it's of unknown purpose.
In 1984 or early 1985 I visited with my good friend the late Steve Whitaker, and his interest in the area led me to figure out at least part of the secret of the rectangular enclosure, which I may say was very exciting.
I confirmed my findings as much as possible at the time with help from the Lake District National Park information office. Research in old documents confirmed that others found the same things many decades ago, and reported them in learned journals, but the facts had been forgotten.
I thought the findings, or rediscoveries, were a small sensation, but the National Park people didn't seem to think it was worth adding the information to their documentation of the circle, and so the secret has remained a secret.
I've gone back to the subject now, and I'm looking for some missing pieces of information. As soon as I have enough clear references, I will post an account here. I am hoping for an acknowledgment from the local Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, the National Trust or the Lake District National Park before going public with the facts.
It's not an earth-shattering finding, but I think discovering the function of a unique and previously "unexplained" stone circle feature should be of some interest.
Visited 21st December 2007 for the Solstice sunrise (ok technically I think we were a day out this year)
Arrived at 7.00am in the pitch black, the sky was clear and Venus was very clear in the sky. We were even treated to a brief meteor shower above Venus.
Some of the stones are roped off at the moment as is the santuary to allow the grass to recover.
Due to the hills don't trust predictions of local sunrise times, if you actualy want to see the sun as it creeps above the horizon you need to add about 45 minutes to an hour to official sunrise time
That said it was worth being there early as there are some wonderful light & shadow effects on the surrounding hills as the sun rises
We were finally treated to a an amazing sunrise at about 9.15
We spent a full two and a half hours at the circle chatting with others and taking in the majestic views, before finally retiring to the cafe in the car park as you enter Keswick - highly recomended after freezing your nuts off at Castlerigg ;-)
Finally thank you to LivingRocks, who we spent ages chatting with and has kindly posted the photo I requested to remind me of the stunning sunrise
Spent two very cold and very peaceful hours here this morning.
Only a couple of hikers wandered through in that time.
Sun shone through a 'Turner' sky, lighting up the snow covered tops of Skiddaw & her sisters.
Too cold for tourists, though I suppose having travelled 100 miles to get here, I am one of those.
My 4th visit, and can recommend turning up on a morning, and obviously out of season, if you want to just share this circle with the mountains & the sheep.
One of the best sites for scenery I've been to, and today was no exception (until the snow arrived, and I beat a hasty retreat).
A whole new meaning to the phrase 'chilled out' today.
Night of the 21st December 2005, the nearest we could make it to a Winter Solstice pilgrimage. Many miles after a day's work.
It's amazing at night. We knew we wanted to go, but never imagined it would be so dark, devoid of people, so incredible a sight silhouetted against the sky between the mountains. It's truly a different place out of hours, and far more enjoyable.
a composite photo posted of the stones, one of the Southern stones with a (biodegradable?...looked like) wreath on it.
Visited on Beltane 2005 A stunning site as always. Although ive never managed to get it to myself it still feels good here. On leaving the circle i heard a young American lad ask his mum why it was built and she promptly replied just think of it as a huge Digital wristwatch son!
My mate used to rent a flat on the farm about 100 yards down the lane from Castlerigg, and said there was a constant stream of visitors, by night as well during summer.
I've been there countless times, and I've rarely had it to myself, except during a storm, when it comes into its own. Mind you, the mountains disappear behind the clouds then.
I love looking at it from the surrounding peaks, trying to pick it out, finding the rough area, then resorting to binoculars, from which you can see it clearly.
The setting is perfection, raised above the valleys to the south, east and west, only blocked in to the far north. The far north? That's where the sun and moon don't appear, isn't it?
Is there a more perfect setting for a stone circle?
If you ever find yourself despairing of getting this circle to yourself, but can't get there when there's no-one else about, try the following:
Put a blanket over your head, get a 1500kW rechargeable lamp, and hop about from stone to stone, whilst trying to angle the lamp in just the right way to find the spiral carving, mutterring 'No.... Nope, nope, not this one either...' to yourself as you go.
Apparently, this works. When I put the blanket over my head, there were about 15 people, when I re-emerged, there were just the folk I'd visited with, looking a tad embarrassed.
If you want to actually find the carving, check out Stan Beckensall's info, or that on the Rock Art in the British Landscape website. I wish I'd done that, then I'd have seen the spiral, but it wouldn't have been as much fun...
I had ridden my bike through 300 miles of rain, from my first visit to the Avebury complex, and was nearing home. Still charged with energy from the experience, my mind and body in turmoil, I headed north, through the Lake Distict, looking for Castlerigg. I had never been before, although I only live an hour away, but I immediately felt 'at home'. At Avebury, I was a visitor, these were stones laid by my forefathers, and they knew me. There were few others here, when I arrived, but everything calmed down as I stood back and sent out some smoke. The sun came out and the drying of the air brought people flooding up the hill. In my mind's eye, I could see them in the cafes of Keswick, nursing cups of tea and watching the skies. Did they all throw their chairs back en masse, and scrabble for the exits? Walking into the circle, I felt the familiar signature of circles up here; the pull of the eye to the horizon, the foreground and background, but no middleground; the echo of festivals and celebrations past, or yet to come. Finding the exact middle of Castlerigg is a simple, but wonderful task. Site yourself roughly in the middle, look around you at the silhouette of the stones until you find one that matches a shape on the horizon, then move back and forward on this axis until more stones start to line up with other prominent features.When you have done that, try stooping down. More stones line up. Now, stand up and take in the view. The landscape becomes more immediate, more familiar, more home. At Avebury, I was challenged to contemplate that which is beyond my ken while, at Castlerigg I was reminded who I am. I left here at a relaxed pace, dry and warm, and headed for home.
[visited 31/5/4] My second visit here, the first being as a tourist many years ago knowing nothing about stone circles. Last time the surrounding hills were covered in mist & cloud and we left slightly disapointed not to have seen the expected supporting cast. This time however I was blown away. The circle is here to service the axe trade (amongst other things) but thats secondary to the placing, this circle was here and is here because of the amazing views. If you only saw one circle in your life, this one would not leave you disapointed.
Of course it is with its downside, tourists are highly prevalant and its ease of access means more dedications & bizarre stuff left in the name of belief. There was a weird circle of plaster druidesque figurines not 6 inches high in the centre of the circle and I didn't get a second alone here, but that changes nothing. I loved this so much I could share it with thousands and not care...
After another busy break with the family in the Lakes, I managed to squeeze in a brief stop off at Castlerigg. Unusually for me, I was armed with a camera as I invariably have the bad luck to fnd myself in the ideal photo op with no means to grab the image! The weather had been typical April, overcast to rainy to drizzly and i wasnt holding out much hope. As Castlerigg is fairly accessible - ie having visited the lakes many times and seen many signs pointing in its direction from the town centres, i wasnt expecting much - TMA photos in the Gazeteer didnt impress me much and JC suggested that CR would present differing monuments depending on the viewpoint, so I went off with a quite blase attititude. As we approached, the weather began to deteriorate, and having taken the wrong turn out of Keswick (despite all the signs!) we came at it after a long drive. Several circuitous turns later, the sky had closed in and it had begun to rain heavily. The lane next to the monument was packed with cars, and my heart sank as I realised that it would probably be a busy venue. I climbed out of the back of the car, trying not to look like a rubberneck and sallied fort - sure enough, there were a few people taking pics and a couple of new agers ligging around taking in the vibe. Despite all this, I was hugely impressed, and scurried off through the mud to a vantage point where i could grab a shot in good ligh before the heavens opened. I had pinched the new digital camera from the office, and had been hammering away snapping right and left and by the time i reached CS the batteries were on their last legs! I grabbed a shot - apologies for blandness and duplication! - and they quit out, so i was grateful for the shot.
Overall, the site was absolutely stunning, framed by Blencartha and Skiddaw still topped with snow and dressed with a garland on brilliantly coloured lichens, the stones sat on that windy hillside as if they had always been there. The impression of monumental scale and the feeling of 'oneness' with the landscape was awesome. it was if the pancreator had paused here, while labouring to form the surrounding landscape and set down a mug of tea on the new tabletop of earth and left a ring behind, indelibly marking the ground for all time.
As with all the (few) sites ive visited, it left me with a lasting impression, not a visual bu an emotional one - of ancient time and huge scope and weight, the feeling that I was transplanted to a time before time and the ground had barely ceased its tremors as the last stone had been raised. Fantastic.
Well, this is our first attempt at a fieldnote, so bear with us! We are Dorothy and Lucy and we aim to include useful information on access for disabled people in our notes. We are both disabled people ourselves.
We visited Castlerigg on 29th September 2003.
Note - Car Access via Castle Lane from the A591 Thirlmere Road is very narrow with no passing places. We recommend access from
the A66 (from Penrith) - follow the signs to Castlerigg from here. We have not tried the route from Keswick, via A5271 and "Eleven Trees" minor road .
Car parking - there is a long, lay-by (prone to puddles if wet).
Nearest disabled people's toilets - Keswick (approx 2 miles away)
Access to the stones - cross the road, access the field through 3 separate wheelchair-user accessible gates (though they do self-close). The circle is approximately 100 yards across a grass field, up a slight incline. Manual wheelchair users may need assistance. The grass is kept quite short by grazing sheep.
Cost -The site is owned by the National Trust, payment by donation.
The stones are spaced in a way that access between them is quite easy. (Thanks to the Ancients – who were obviously taking access into account!). The circle is approximately 100 feet in diameter.
Note: there is not much opportunity for solitude as there is a constant stream of visitors. We were told, on an earlier visit, that early morning or the evening would be best.
We arrived mid-day on Lucy's 40th birthday amidst descending gloom and cloud cover on the tops - light rain but not very cold. Our hearts sank as the layby looked very busy and there were several parties of people at the stones. As if by magic, they all disappeared a couple of minutes after we arrived and we managed to get a few minutes with the stones on our own. The stones are very cuddly, inviting and female - and in this amazing setting. The sky brightened slightly and the full awesomeness (is there such a word?) of the setting was revealed - St John's-in-the-Vale, Skiddaw, Blencathra, High Rigg, Castlerigg Fell, High Scar and the other surrounding mountains. The magic of the place made me grin from ear to ear – says Lucy.
As the delightful Jane said, last Saturday it was one bloody visitor after another. Hordes of 'em. In addition, there was very bad light, threatening to turn into that sort of insipid gloom that works to suck every last vestige of contrast from a scene. But I speak as a photographer.
As a visitor of megalithic sites, it was wonderful to return to Castlerigg after a seven year absence. Then, I was seeing it for the first time on a cold, overcast winter's day. The whole place was very muddy, populated by sheep, and punctuated by the occasional hardy soul clothed in Gore-Tex and a strong constitution. It was idyllic, breathtaking and magical.
I had forgotten just how small and diminutive it seemed, surrounded by the imposing mountains and dramatic, rolling skies. Small, and perfectly formed. The sheep were still there, but had moved off a little, and I was looking forward to getting some more interesting photos with the different type of light.
The stormy rolling clouds were hinting at the possibility of some gorgeous soft modelling light, and with the insane obsession only a photographer possesses, I laid in the extremely damp grass, avoiding as best I could sheep turds and muddy patches. The light glimmered, and instantly the stones began to sing, poetry against the plunging valley now lit with soft sunshine. Perfect!
Scrabbling up, covered in muck, I swiftly moved to get a shot of the massively female stone that formed part of the intriguing cist within the circle - exquisite, exquisite light; long lens; harmonious picture, here it comes . . . as did four garrulous Spaniards, who sauntered into shot, lit fags, hung around, sat on the stones, took pictures sporadically - and NEVER when the light was at it's best, aarrgghh! - before ambling disinterestedly off to their car. Ten minutes of hanging about as if they were outside a coffee bar in Madrid. I ask you. The pain!
I wouldn’t mind, but it’s a long old drive from Oxfordshire, and as a non-driver, it’s even harder to get places. So with that, and the regular flow of people, this wasn't quite the experience I was hoping for. Heigh ho. And that was it, really. The light went, the stones didn’t have quite their previous essence, and I returned to Jane and our group, swearing never to buy another Seville orange. Meanwhile, Jane was reclining on a heavy duty Eastern rug, having knocked out a lovely painting without any humans cluttering it up. I’m sure these water-colourists have it far too easy . . .
A welcome evening return to Castlerigg this time, a sunny summer evening brings out the tourists though, there were kids clambering over the stones, a frisby throwing competition in the middle and even a group of elderly couples with a fully laden picnic table at the site. Not too much of a problem for me though as I was here this time to look at the carvings on the stones particularly the elusive spiral – second attempt, second failure. I managed to find the other 4 known marks, 2 of them are very faint and none are spectacular. There are several other stones that *may* have carvings that have yet to be recognised but the geology of the rock makes imagining cups, rings and grooves on their surface too tempting.
Working from Fitzcoraldo’s plan of the circle, Stone 1 has the spiral on the inward facing side (facing towards the setting sun), Stone 2 has a faint wide ring, I thought I could see a central cup too but Stan doesn’t mention it. Stone 3 has a lozenge or hatching pattern but there are natural marks in the rock right next to it, while Stone 4 has a quite deep but difficult to spot partial ring and a cup at it’s top edge. Stone 5 is the easiest to see and is a clear narrowly cut lozenge.
9 August 2003
I'll never get over the setting here. The circle itself is too spectacular and wonderful for words but is still completely overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the surrounding hills.
When we arrived the circle was teeming with people, but luckily, over the half an hour or so we stayed, they gradually dissipated and for the last 10 minutes there were only a few left.
The first time I went I was lucky enough to have the place virtually to myself and I think I've avoided revisiting fearing the crowds…but I found it much less off-putting than I expected.
I'm tempted to wish Castlerigg was harder to get to, but that wouldn't be fair would it? Everyone should see this place. The circle's actually just a (big) bonus…! This is one hell of a special place and I have to admit I'd kind of forgotten that because of its popularity and the crowds. I'll not forget it again.
When I’ve visited Castlerigg in the past it has usually been in the late afternoon, evening or at night time. This is the first time I’d been in the morning and despite the steady trickle of visitors who only stayed for a couple of minutes and then left, I mostly had the place to myself. Something wasn’t right though. Maybe it was the nasty wind whipping grit and soil in my eyes and blowing my tripod over. Maybe the morning sun lit the stones differently – the evening sun gives them a deep rich glow. Maybe it was because I had a list of other sites that I wanted to get round, and maybe it was because I couldn’t find the elusive spiral carving – I had the right stone but I only found out later I was looking on the wrong side – the spiral faces into the circle.
It was the first time that Castlerigg had left me unmoved. Next time I’ll be back in the evening.
Spent the winter solstice sunrise here, whilst expected cloud prevented us viewing the sun, the atmos was great, the mist gave an allmost Arthurian feel to the site. I have visited this site a number of times( first as a a child) and i still think it is an amazing site in a simply wonderful setting. Said hi to Pebblethief as she was there, about 10 or so people there, include a man quietly walking round the circle blessing a baby and a Druidish type in the centre silently observing the solstice. Love it.
My first stone. Visited Castlerigg late on 07/12/02. Dark all around. Not a body to be seen. A moving experience which had to be repeated the next day in the winter sunshine. People milling this time but all tied to the same stillness.
Castlerigg seems to be signposted from every direction and every country road, which is a first. It's obviously a bit of a show site and why not. It is like being at the top of the world. The place was absolutely heaving with all sorts of people and school parties, but heh, quality attracts people. Sure I would loved to have been able to take some nice photos but it just wasn't possible and I'm not that fussed because there are lots of good photos of it around and I still have my memory.
Cracking! I first visited way back in 1982, when I hitch-hiked 'oop naarth' with a friend and a tent and no money, and spent a whole day getting off on the place. (People don't hitch hike anymore do they? Weird.) I remembered it as a solitary place, bleak and empty and yet charming. But last Saturday it was one bloody visitor after another, which pissed off my friend, Treaclechops, who is a photographer and was desperately trying to get a shot without people in, just as the light lifted.. She'd taken one in 1995 which I think is the finest photograph of the place I have ever seen, even better than all the wonderful shots already posted on this page. Upload your photo, Treaclechops!! I was trying to compare it in size to the Rollrights, but was entire unable to get a handle on the scale of it because of the sense of the amphitheatre in which she sits. The many people, including a bunch of overly-loud Spaniards, didn't bother me as I sat on the damp grass sketching out my painting; I simply didn't paint them in. Great groves of foxgloves added a touch of purple and the rolling green of Castlerigg's stage completed the picture. Then it was off to Long Meg....
thursday 23rd may
castlerigg today was very wet and windy! despite the atrocious weather, there were stacks of people coming to and fro, nobody staying very long.. i stood for a long while at the outlying stone by the wall and marvelled at such a grand setting.. i found it to have a wonderfully communal vibe, but yet quite formal at the same time.. very much hope i get the chance to go back again so i can sit awhile on a clear sunny day! the circle seemed to be about the same size as the rollrights, but such incredibly different places.. much much bigger wider stones and a much more open feel framed all around by the mountains.. the rain got a bit much so i stayed and had my birthday lunch in the van, the cake was delicious and for a brief moment before i left, there was a gap in the cloud and the stones lit up like candles! till next time... x
Castlerigg on a warm spring afternoon is perfect. Swarming with tourists - I still LOVE it. It never fails to amaze me how people, with no apparent interests in their ancient ancestors, can come to sites like this and feel it. We came and chilled here for an hour or so, and in that time watched numerous people arrive, approach the site, and proceed to wander round with broad smiles across their faces.
possibly my favourite. had some truly beautiful times; always a pleasure. geomantic setting has to be seen to be believed; stones are on a plateau at the centre of a flower; surrounding petals are formed by surrounding hills.
All of these fantastic sites (though Castlerigg is currently only viewed at a jump or over a gate due to the evil F & M) but in any local shop there is no aknowledgement that any of it exists. Good if you want a bit of tweed or a random fluffy toy but not even a postcard of this ancient eyefest. How can you visit this region and not see this? Wow, I say...yeh, I'll come back when the war is over to run around this good!
Our yearly visit to Cumbria, a regular pilgrimage for that last 25 years, is only complete witha visit to Castlerigg. Driving to it through Keswick it always seems as though it will be too close to the town, but on finding it the sky and the earth seem to open up.
The view is incredible, with the fells as the backdrop, and the inevitable cloud performing their drama above. It always rains when I am there, but we hug the stones and get drenched, such is the beauty of the place.
To understand why the earth and elemental forces have been worshipped you need only stand in the centre of Castlerigg and look out. If we can feel the awe in our shrink-wrapped modern world it can only have been more impressive back when the stones were laid.
Last year, just as Summer was on its way and Autumn was beginning to make its presence known in the colour of the land a small group of friends and myself took a trip (in everysense) to Castlerigg. We camped at a small but funtional site about a couple of miles from the site.
In the day time we trekked up to the circle and were at once blown away by the perfection of the setting. The surrounding vista of hills and mountain hugging the circle was breathtaking. The only downer was the day-glo walkers and tourists swigging coke and squatting on the stones, unintentionally besmirching the vibe. We walked on into Keswick with a view to returning in the evening when the mountain bikes and lunchboxes had gone home.
Late at night, under a sky fit to burst with stars, we imbided a small amount of the ma's own fun-gals and headed back up to Castlerigg. The moonlit site was if anything more beautiful by the lady's light (though we did have a couple of torches). As the atmosphere brought the mushrooms up, the serene joyfulness of Castlerigg impacted on me and I did the only thing reasonable. I danced, with no music save that of the low pulse of the stones themselves. I felt obliged, out of politeness, to introduce myself to each stone and so went around and whispered my chosen name to each and every one. By the time I completed the circle, the stones were whispering back; a kind of shadowy mantra of my name coming back at me! We stayed for about 2 hours, us the stones, the sky, the stars...the cold a minor hinderance in contrast to the sustaining vibe of the circle.
Beautiful. It may not be the biggest, but for sheer setting and evocation of something ancient and magical, Castlerigg is a primo-atmos-circle and I feel I must return.
Last port of call on our tour. We've been here a few times before but not in Winter.
The gates at the entrance to the site were padlocked and a sign was placed asking not to enter the site due to the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease.
Oh well , better do as they ask.
An astounding site. And yes, the setting is all. I went up there on a warm, clear night alone with Eno's 'Appollo' on minidisc to listen to, and had a eeriely wonderful time star-gazing.
The very first impression I got from the site was that it was placed with a genius for psychogeographic accuracy. Photos of the place obviously emphasise the majesty of the surrounding mountains. But what struck me is how humanised and pastoral the area immediately around Keswick is, and how at the circle you feel like you're on a platform that is part of, but above and beyond this landscape, reaching for the sky. I assume the lowlands round here would have been populated in Neolithic times as well. Castlerigg feels like a bridge-point between the human landscape and the mountains that touch the stars. Sitting there under the moon, I gained for the first time an insight into how hills on the horizon may have inspired the creation of stone rings - so people could "pull the horizon in" and humanise it - circles of stones standing for hilly horizons - presumably as something against which to measure the turning cosmos above.
One of the most beautifully situated and richly resonant circles in these isles, and a demonstration of the power of place. Last time I visited Castlerigg I was horrified to see a group of about eight outward bound types all standing on one of the stones struggling to keep on while some idiot of a leader took a picture. Being a riotous type always looking to did-act, I stormed over and gave them a full public dressing down on the profanity of their actions. I informed them of their irresponsibility and inquired if they expected the stones to last for another millennia if treated like that. In full rant mode by now I pointed out that this was a sacred place and I asked them if they would do this sort of thing standing on the altar of Saint PaulÍs Cathedral? This hit the spot and some rather sheepish people agreed (and to their credit apologised to me personally - I was upset and ñvibeingî crazily). The point made I returned to my companions for support thinking I might have ñcreated a sceneî (that most English of mind f*** social mores).
The power of these places is still resonant not least in the effect this had on me, but also because a number of ñnormsî visiting (Castlrigg is on the tourist trail from Keswick - coach loads of them) went out of their way to congratulate me for speaking out agreeing with me totally. Well ego aside, I felt that the fact the stones were affecting the ñnormsî in such a way is a testament the lasting power and beauty of this place - despite insensitive macho outward ñboundersî. There used to be a good (i.e. one tap and a toilet) campsite in walking distance of the stones (see OS Map). Useful for those midnight pilgrimages, but also hairy and alive to modern warfareƒ.that is beware being woken by a Harrier jump jet passing a matter of feet over head - the camp is in a high position - is quite a soul judder. A must visit site easy to access.
Gotta agree with Marky mark the setting has it , the fells the dales.
It gripped me in a willie the shake stylee, "this other eden demi- paradise.... this precious stone set in the silver sea", that whole speech filled my brain, willie always has the right way of putting things. my kids had a sheep shit fight.....perfect .
The best thing about Castlerigg is the amazing setting - on a plateau high above Keswick, surrounded by mountains.
Went up at 10pm and was surrounded by dozens of bats as we climbed up the steep road. the serenity was only spoiled by an RAF Hercules flying low level over us, but even that was beautiful in its ancient/modern crossover kinda way...
The only folklore I've read is that it's impossible to count the stones and come up with the same number on two consecutive occasions.
Old hat - how many stone circles have that old chestnut accorded to them?
This site, as so many of the entries above have said, is so clearly chosen for the fantastic way the mountains encircle this plateau. You can walk round and round and everywhere you see alignments of the stones with the mountains, echoes of the shapes in the skyline. This is the place to convince you that the landscape is sacred, that the space outside the circle is as important as whatever went on inside it. There have been many studies of the possible astronomical alignments here too - though personally the alignments with the landscape seem enough for me.
The circle is known as the Druid's Circle, but I haven't found any traditional stories which relate to the site. A relatively recent story concerns the experience of a Mr Singleton and his companion, who in 1919 saw some strange balls of white light moving among the stones.
From The English Mechanic, October 17th, 1919:
"Some years ago, during Easter, returning to Keswick from an ascent of Helvelly with a hotel acqauintance, we saw lights, no doubt will o' the wisps. It was so dark that we had to probe for the road walls with our sticks, when we were at a point near which the track branches off to the Druidical Circle (the stone circle of Castlerigg).
Then, all at once we saw a rapidly moving light, as bright as the acetylene bicycle lamp, and we instinctively stepped to the road boundary wal to make way for it, but nothing came.
As a matter of fact, the light travelled at right angles to the road, say 20 feet above our level, possibly 200 yards or so away.
It was a white light, and having crossed the road it suddenly went out... when we saw a number of lights, possibly a third of a mile or so away, directly in the direction of the Castlerigg stone circle, but of course much fainter, due to the distance. The lights were moving backwards and forwards horizontally; we stood observing them for a long time. Whilst we were watching... a remarkable incident happened, one of the lights, and only one, came straight to the spot where we were standing, at first very faint.
As it approached the light increased in intensity. When it came quite near I was in no doubt whether I should stop below the boundary wall, as the light would pass directly over us, but when it came close to the wall it slowed down, stopped, quivered and disappeared. The light was globular, white with a nucleus, possibly six feet or so in diameter, and just high enough above the ground to pass over our heads."
Bright oval lights were also seen more recently at the circle, in 1997 (admittedly by some people who were having 'a laugh and a drink')
In his 1843 book, The Wonders of the World, in Nature, Art, and Mind, Robert Sears quotes "the celebrated female writer" Mrs Radcliffe . This is what Mrs Radcliffe had to say about Castlerigg.
"Whether our judgement was influenced by the authority of a Druids choice, or that the place itself commanded the opinion, we thought this situation the most severely grand of any hitherto passed. There is, perhaps, not a single object in the scene that interrupts the solemn tone of feeling impressed by its general character of profound solitude, greatness and awful wildness. Castle-Rigg is the centre point of three valleys that dart immediately under it form the eye, an whose mountains for part of an amphitheatre, which is completed by those of Borrowdale on the west, and by the precipices of Skiddaw and Saddleback, close on the north. The hue which pervades all these mountains is that of dark heath or rock; they are thrown into every form and direction that fancy would suggest, and are at that distance which allows all their grandeur to prevail."
"Severely grand" I'll take a large portion of that please.
"Castlerigg in Cumbria was until quite recently without any recorded rock art. The author (Stan Beckensall) recorded one cup marked stone built into a modern wall nearby, and then two students from Newcastle University, Nick best and Neil Stevenson, photographed a spiral on one stone in late afternoon sunlight in 1995. later they found incised lozenge motifs on two other stones, and I found a cup and ring at the top of another."
British Prehistoric Rock Art
h2g2 a BBC forum for writing about anything and everything - this fascinating piece about Blencathra was written by someone calling him/herself Tufty Squirrel (Cumbria is renowned for its red squirrels as well as the wonderful Castlerigg)
The Nuardiag presents Martin Wainwright and photographer Christopher Thomond watching the sunrise at Castlerigg stone circle during the winter solstice, mostly audio stream but with jpeg slideshow thing to accompany.