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Castlerigg Stone Circle

Near Keswick, Cumbria

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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.

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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:

"…for a mile before we came to Keswick, on an eminence in the middle of a great concavity of those rude hills, and not far from the banks of the river Greata, I observed another Celtic work, very intire: it is 100 foot in diameter, and consists of forty stones, some very large. At the east end of it is a grave, made of such other stones, in number about ten: this is placed in the very east point of the circle, and within it: there is not a stone wanting, though some are removed a little out of their first station: they call it the Carsles, and, corruptly I suppose, Castle-rig. There seemed to be another larger circle in the next pasture toward the town".

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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See Also:

Stones Circles

The discussion on the purpose of stone circles

Further information Grid



Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick, Cumbria

Ceremonial County: Cumberland

Grid Reference:


Map Link:

Google Maps aerial photograph

Aerial photo:  



Best Times to Visit:

Out of season, this circle is very busy all the time, even those going at night have reported others there. Lots of people present in tourist season.




English Heritage managed by the National Trust

Other useful websites:





Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:  


Planning Grid


Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick, Cumbria

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

1.5 miles E of Keswick.

The circle is signposted from Keswick to the South of the A66.


Access to the stones - cross the road, access the field through 3  self-close gates. The circle is approximately 100 yards across a grass field, up a slight incline. The grass is kept quite short by grazing sheep.


Car parking - there is a long lay-by (prone to puddles if wet).



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Circle, panoramic views of Helvellyn and High Seat mountains.

What to take:


Nature highlights:








Opening times:

All Year


Free (there is a National Trust donation box for those who want to leave something)

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: Access to the stones - cross the road from the parking layby, access to 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.
Special Needs Facilities: Nearest disabled toilets in Keswick (approx. 2 miles away)
Children Facilities: None, is a good location for children
Dogs Allowed: Dogs allowed on leads.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park Section: Stones Circles Key:
Page Ref: castlerigg_stone_circle Topic: Stone Circles Last Updated: 08/2012


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