Castlerigg is the most-visited stone circle in Cumbria, and for good reason. For one, it’s well signposted from the A66 and Keswick, and for two, its location is quite spectacular. It lies on a small flat area of a low hill, surrounded by views of Skiddaw, Blencathra, Lonscale, Derwent and Castlerigg fells and as you enter this National Trust site from the road, you can see across the circle to a view of a typical Lake District valley, framed by two massive stones.
There are 38 stones remaining out of an original total of 42, and all but five are still standing. There is a distinct ‘entrance’ and ‘exit’ and small square of stones – which I’m afraid we always refer to as the ‘porch’ – to the eastern side. There’s a rumour that there may once have been some sort of cairn in the centre of the circle, as there is certainly evidence on the ground. It was, however, used as a field for hundreds of years and whatever was there has been ploughed out. Three stone axes were found here in the 19th century.
Castlerigg is one of the earliest stones in the country, dating to around 3,000BCE. It seems that this is another stone circle with significant astronomical alignment, with stones variously indicating the setting of the sun at the midsummer solstice and the rising of the sun at midwinter.