The stone circle at Castlerigg (alt. Keswick Carles, Carles, Carsles or Castle-rig) is situated near Keswick in Cumbria, North West England. One of around 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles and Brittany, it was constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition that lasted from 3,300 to 900 BCE, during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages.
Various archaeologists have commented positively on the beauty and romance of the Castlerigg ring and its natural environment. In his study of the stone circles of Cumbria, archaeologist John Waterhouse commented that the site was "one of the most visually-impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain."
Every year, thousands of tourists travel to the site, making it the most visited stone circle in Cumbria. 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 some of the highest peaks in Cumbria: Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Grasmoor and Blencathra (the mountain in the background).
The stones are of a local metamorphic slate, set in a flattened circle, measuring 32.6 m (107 ft) at its widest and 29.5 m (97 ft) 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. The circle was probably constructed around 3200 BC (Late Neolithic/Early Bronze-Age), making it one of the earliest stone circles in Britain and possibly in Europe. It is important to archaeoastronomers who have noted that the sunrise during the Autumn equinox appears over the top of Threlkeld Knott, a hill 3.5 km to the east. Some stones in the circle have been aligned with the midwinter sunrise and various lunar positions.
The original motivation behind the construction of Castlerigg, its subsequent use and how this may have changed over time, is not known for sure. Current thinking has linked Castlerigg with the Neolithic Langdale axe industry in the nearby Langdale fells, with the circle acting as a meeting place where these axes were traded or exchanged. Ritually deposited stone axes are frequently found all over Britain, suggesting that their use went far beyond their mundane practical capabilities. Because of this, any exchange or trading of stone axes may not have been possible without first taking part in a ritual or ceremony. Castlerigg stone circle could have been the space in which these rituals and ceremonies were enacted.
Blencathra in the background, also known as Saddleback, is one of the most northerly mountains in the English Lake District. It has six separate fell tops, of which the highest is the 868-metre (2,848 ft) Hallsfell Top.
In common with much of the Northern Fells, the Kirk Stile Formation of the Skiddaw Group predominates. This is composed of laminated mudstone and siltstone with greywacke sandstone and is of Ordovician age.
There has been considerable mining activity beneath the slopes of Blencathra. Threlkeld mine lies at the base of Hallsfell. From 1879 to 1928, it was a profitable venture for the raising of lead and zinc ores and is believed to hold further reserves should the economic situation improve. Saddleback Old Mine had workings near Scales Tarn and at Mousthwaite Comb. The mine was driven for lead but in the 1890s raised mostly limonite. This was marketed unsuccessfully as a pigment and the mine closed in 1894.
Blencathra is a popular mountain, and there are many different routes to the summit. One of the most famous is via Sharp Edge, a knife-edged arête on the eastern side of the mountain. Sharp Edge provides some good scrambling for those with a head for heights. Hall's Fell ridge, on Blencathra’s southern flank, also provides an opportunity for some scrambling, though of a less serious nature.
The Lake District, also commonly known as The Lakes, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous not only for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells) but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets.
The Lakes were designated a National Park on 9 May 1951, becoming the second National Park in the United Kingdom after the Peak District. It is the most visited national park in the United Kingdom with 15.8 million annual visitors and over 23 annual day visits. It is the largest of the thirteen National Parks in England and Wales, and the second largest in the UK after the Cairngorms.
Historically shared by the counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire, the Lake District now lies entirely within the modern county of Cumbria. All the land in England higher than three thousand feet above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest lakes in England, Wastwater and Windermere, respectively.