Castleigg is one of the best known neolithic stone circles in the UK. It is located close to Keswick in the northern Lake District, and is overlooked by Skiddaw, Blencathra and the mountains of the Helvellyn Range, giving it a very dramatic setting that is a blessing to any landscape photographer. However its proximity to a popular tourist town and its dramatic setting also present a photographic challenge, as it is very popular. Obtaining a clear shot, free of tourists is almost impossible, so one either has to visit at ‘unpopular’ times, during inclement weather or resort to Photoshop to remove tourists and children climbing over the stones!
The circle was built about 3000BC, making it one of the oldest in the UK and one of only a small number of neolithic sites (most others date from the later Bronze age). The circle is 30m (97ft) in diameter, and comprises 38 stones up to 2.3m (7.5ft) in height. As is common with stone circles, there is a formal entrance portal, and a single outlying stone to the west of the main circle, but Castlerigg also has an unusual inner rectangle of stones, a feature that is almost unique. The purpose of these early circles is not know. Unlike the later Bronze Age circles, neolithic circles were not used for burials, but probably had religious or astronomical significance, or they may simply have been some form of meeting place. Whatever the purpose, the builders of 5000 years go have left a wonderful legacy for today’s landscape photographers – probably not something they thought of at the time!
Postcode: CA12 4RN
From the centre of Keswick, take the main Penrith Road (A5271) that heads east alongside the River Greta. Where the road turns to the south and starts climbing, turn off left on the A591 owards the A66, but then turn immediately right onto a small road called Eleven Trees. After 0.7 miles, there is space to park on the left, and Castlerigg Stone Circle is through a gate in a field on the right.