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England’s Lake District is filled with interesting walks & plenty of ancient history. One unique place to visit is the Castlerigg Stone Circle, which is located just east of Keswick. It’s a dramatic construction set in a beautiful landscape, making for a nice little detour if you’re visiting the Lake District.
A visit to Castlerigg Stone Circle
How to get to Castlerigg Stone Circle
There is public transportation from Windermere to Keswick. Bus 555 stops not far from Castlerigg, not long before arriving in Keswick. The stop is called Castle Lane.
For those traveling by car, Castlerigg can be accessed via the A66 or A591. Parking is somewhat limited.
You can also walk from Keswick. The walk from Keswick to Castlerigg Stone Circle takes about 30 minutes.
Entry to the property is free, and you can visit at any time during daylight hours. It’s an especially moving place to be at sunrise or sunset.
The history of Castlerigg Stone Circle
There are around 300 stone circles in the United Kingdom, but Castlerigg Stone Circle is one of the most beautiful & intriguing. Located on a plateau in the Lake District’s Thirlmere Valley, the nearby High Seat, Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Blencathra and Lonscale Fell provide a stunning mountainous background. It’s easy to see why this site was chosen for placing the stones.
Castlerigg Stone Circle was constructed during the Neolithic Period around 3000BC, making it one of oldest stone circles in Britain. The circle is 97.5 feet (30 meters) in diameter, and is comprised of somewhere between 38 & 42 standing stones, ranging in height from 3.25 feet (1 meter) to 7.5 feet (2.3 meters). The variation of the number is due some counting to smaller stones that were likely originally used as packing stones, rather than actually being part of the circle.
Nobody knows exactly why stone circles were built, but they were meeting places of some sort, perhaps for trading or as religious centers. Some stones see special lunar or solar alignments at various times during the year. Whatever the purpose, the view is magnificent. Even ancient peoples would have appreciated a good Instagram spot.
I took Bus 555 from Windermere, leaving me with about a 10 minute walk to Castlerigg. It’s a pleasant walk past verdant fields, though there was almost no shade on a record hot summer day (86°F or 30°C). What little shade that was available in the surrounding pastures was crowded with desperate farm animals seeking solace from the heat.
There are a few signs near the entrance that tell a bit more about the stone circle. Of course, since little is known about Castlerigg, there’s only so much to tell.
Castlerigg Stone Circle is in a cleared field, much like those of the neighboring farms. Sheep roam the grounds, keeping the grass mowed & fertilized. The circle is clearly positioned as a landmark. While the stones might not be much taller than a human, their location on the hill gives them an added prominence.
No areas are off limits at Castlerigg. You can walk all around the stones, or relax up against them if you prefer. You’re far enough from main roads here to be able to enjoy a little bit of quiet.
When I arrived, there were a few people walking around the grounds. Some visitors were using the stones for shade. On one hand, I couldn’t blame them, but on the other, people sitting drinking beer & vaping don’t particularly make for great photos. As always, patience paid off. After hanging out at Castlerigg for a while, there was eventually a period of time where there were few people around, so I was able to take some photos with a view similar to the one from 5,000 years ago.
There was an ice cream truck in the parking lot, which was perfect for the hot day. I of course had to stop for some on my way to Keswick.
The walk to Keswick is downhill from Castlerigg. If you’re only planning on walking one way, that’s the one to pick. Though there is this nice bench to rest on along the way.
The walk past the nearby farms had more shade than the previous road I had walked along to get to the stones. Despite the heat, it was a pleasant day out.
For some, a visit to Castlerigg Stone Circle will be met with boredom. After all, they’re just some rocks. But take in the beautiful Lake District landscape and let your mind wander back in time to wonder just what life was like here so long ago. The circle is a special place in any era, backdropped with some of the most gorgeous views in England.
Traveler. Writer. Photographer. Terrible dancer. 40+ countries & major territories so far, slowly working his way through the rest. Related interests: craft beer, street food, cocktails, culture, sporting events, history, value travel, credit card bonuses, hiking, visiting non-touristy places, bacon, seafood, & cheese