Castlerigg Stone Circle (alt. Keswick Carles, Carles, Carsles or Castle-rig) near Keswick is one of the most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain and is the most visited stone circle in Cumbria.
A flattened circle with 38, 40 or 42 stones, depending on what you count as a stone, it also has packing stones, to keep others up. one account says 38 out of 41 originally. Some are 5ft high. The stones are local metamorphic slate. The circle measuring 32.6m (107ft) at its widest and 29.5m (97ft) at its narrowest.
The heaviest stone has been estimated to weigh around 16 tons and the tallest stone measures approximately 2.3m high. There is a 3.3m wide gap in its northern edge, which may have been an entrance. Within the circle, abutting its eastern quadrant, is a roughly rectangular setting of a further 10 stones (cove). The circle was probably constructed around 3200BC, if correct, making it one of the earliest stone circles in Britain and possibly Europe too. It is important to archaeoastronomers who have noted that the sunrise during the Autumn equinox appears over the top of Threlkeld Knott, a hill 3.5km to the east. Some stones in the circle have been aligned with the midwinter sunrise and various lunar positions. In the early 20th century, a single outlying stone was erected by a farmer approximately 90m to the south west of Castlerigg. This stone has many linear ‘scars’ along its side from being repeatedly struck by a plough, suggesting that it was once buried below the surface and also why the farmer dug it up. It is not possible to say whether this stone was originally part of the circle, or just a naturally deposited boulder.
Every year, thousands of people make the short journey from Keswick to the plateau of Castlerigg Fell and to Chestnut Hill, on which the monument stands. This plateau forms the raised centre of a natural amphitheatre created by the surrounding fells and from within the circle it is possible to see four of the five highest peaks in Cumbria, Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Grasmoor and Blencathra. You are about 700ft above sea level, when here.
It appears there may have originally have been another circle in the next field, now lost.
Stukeley’s account of his visit to Castlerigg is brief and was published in his 'Itinerarium Curiosum' in 1776, 11 years after his death. Stukeley’s visit is important, as it is the earliest written record of the stone circle at Castlerigg:
On a more mysterious level the circle has been the focus of one well-recorded sighting of a strange light phenomena. In 1919 a man called 'T. Singleton' and his friend watched as white light-balls moved slowly over the stones. Strange lights seem to be a recurring theme at ancient sites throughout the world, they may have been one of the reasons ancient man built monuments at specific sites. There has been a lot of speculation as to their nature, it is most probable they are part of some natural phenomena related to fault lines.
Due to the hills to get the local sunrise times, if you 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.
This site is very popular and highly promoted, and you should expect a lot of people about, especially in holiday seasons.
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