Beyond Stonehenge

Lake District
Castlerigg at dusk
Castlerigg at dusk

One of the most widely photographed stone circles in Britain, Castlerigg sits at the foot of the jagged, bleak hills of the Lake District, the scenic north country where Wordsworth and Coleridge once walked. The 38 stones of an original 42 are three to five feet high slabs of local slate that form what might be one of the oldest circles in Europe. At the southeastern edge of Castlerigg, 10 more stones are arranged to form a rectangular enclosure not usually seen attached to stone circles. According to the stone circles scholar Aubrey Burl, theories about Castlerigg's original function range from astronomical observatory to Neolithic axe-trading bazaar to tribal religious center.

To the east near Penrith, Long Meg and Her Daughters stand sentry-like on a long, open slope. The ring formed by the 70"Daughters" is the sixth largest stone circle in Britain, guarded by "Long Meg," a tall sandstone slab further up the hill. There are also boulders larger than the rest of the ring's members marking the east and west cardinal points on the circle. On the southwest, two more large slabs identify an entrance to the ring, with two extra stones further defining the access point. The southeast side of Long Meg, facing away from the circle, is decorated with spirals and rings that have never been deciphered.

Access: Castlerigg rests 1.5 miles east of Keswick, Cumbria. There is a short walk from a marked pull-off along the road. Long Meg and Her Daughters are 6 miles northeast of Penrith near the village of Little Salkeld, adjacent to the River Eden.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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