Castlerigg stone circle and two bowl barrows


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Allerdale (District Authority)
St. John's Castlerigg and Wythburn
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 29065 23599, NY 29142 23625

Reasons for Designation

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern. Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and laid out carefully, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead. Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. Large irregular stone circles comprise a ring of at least 20 stone uprights. The diameters of surviving examples range between 20 and 40 metres, although it is known that larger examples, now destroyed, formerly existed. The stone uprights of this type of circle tend to be more closely spaced than in other types of circle and the height and positioning of uprights also appears not to have been as important. They are widely distributed throughout England although in the south they are confined largely to the west. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England only 45 examples of large irregular circles are known. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

Castlerigg stone circle remains unencumbered by modern development and is one of the finest examples of a large irregular stone circle in England.


The monument is Castlerigg stone circle. It is located on a plateau of the north-easterly projecting spur of Castlerigg Fell and is divided into two separate areas. The monument includes an oval enclosure of stones which contains a smaller enclosure and two barrows, and an outlying stone. The oval enclosure includes 38 large stones, some standing up to 3m high and some fallen, and 3 smaller stones; it encloses an area measuring approximately 32m north-south by 29m east-west. There is an entrance between the two tallest stones on the northern side. Within the eastern side of the circle, abutting the internal face of three stones forming part of the circle, is a rectangular structure of 10 stones measuring c.7.6m by 3.6m internally. Within the south western side of the circle is a low bank up to 0.1m high which runs in an arc adjacent to the stones for a distance of about 8m. In the north-eastern and north-western quadrants of the circle are two barrows, both approximately 3.5m diameter by 0.05m high and each surrounded by a shallow ditch 0.6m wide by 0.05m deep. An earthen bank up to 7m wide and 0.3m high flanks the northern side of the circle. 70m west-south-west of the circle, and in a separate area, is a stone outlier located adjacent to the field boundary. Limited antiquarian investigation of the rectangular structure within the circle found charcoal, black soil mixed with stone, and a 'dark, unctuous sort of earth' near the bottom of the excavation. The stone circle was taken into State care in 1883.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Anderson, W D, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Plough Markings on Stones, , Vol. XXIII, (1923), 109
Dover, W K, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. Old Ser.' in Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. Old Ser., , Vol. VI, (), 505
Bowman, A., MPP Single Mon Class Description - Large Irregular Stone Circles, (1990)
Darvill, T, MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Bowl Barrows (1988), (1988)
Darvill,T., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Bowl Barrows, (1988)
Fraser, D & Robinson, KD , Castlerigg Stone Circle, 1986, Contour survey, (Unpub)
SMR No. 3000, Cumbria SMR, Stone Circle on Castlerigg, Keswick, (1985)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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