Castlerigg Stone Circle

This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.

Surrounded by the fells of Skiddaw and Blencathra to its north and Castlerigg Fell, High Rigg and Clough Head to its south, this ring of 38 stones, set within  a ring of mountains, has stood at Castlerigg for about 4,500 years since it was created by Neolithic farming communities.

The archaeological studies suggest that Castlerigg is an early example of a stone circle, as it is not perfectly round - one side is slightly flattened. The square enclosure within the circle appears to have been added at a later date, suggesting that Castlerigg was used by many generations of people over a long time period.

Early farmers

The early farming communities who built Castlerigg stone circle were engaged in 'transhumance' farming. This means they moved their settlements seasonally, spending winter on low fertile land by the coast and the Eden valley, and moving to the upland grazing on the high central fells each summer.

Castlerigg's location suggests it may have been a meeting place, where communities travelling east from the coast and west from the Eden valley would have met before travelling to the summer pastures and axe factories in the central fells. The valley bottoms would have been heavily forested in that period, making the ridgelines the easiest way to get around.

Early tourism

Since the early days of Lake District tourism in the 1700s, visitors have been both intrigued and inspired by this ancient monument and its impressive setting. Although Lakeland scenery appears timeless and unchanging, the stones reminds us that the landscape has in fact been shaped and altered by people for thousands of years.

Early conservation

Castlerigg was so popular with visitors by the 19th century that people had started to chip pieces off the stones as souvenirs. This prompted a movement to save and protect Castlerigg and it was one of the first ancient sites to be bought and given to the National Trust for protection. It was also one of the earliest Ancient Scheduled Monuments ever designated in the UK, giving it special legal protection.

Please enjoy and respect this ancient monument and help us to protect it for future generations.

If you'd like to know more, you can download our conservation plan for this special archaeological site (7MB)