Charlie and I could see the stone circle marked on the road map just outside Keswick. It was depicted by a small picture of a standing stone. We soon picked up on the brown (tourist information) signs pointing the way, and pulled into a sleepy single track lane, lush with deep green foliage. At a certain point, the road widened so you could park up at the side and I pulled in our little car. A lonely ice cream van was sitting at the far end devoid of customers, as curious an artefact as the stones we were about to view.
One car door after the other was slammed shut and we nipped across the road and up some steps. Before us lay the circle – ringed in megalithic stones, the grass cut and dry. And all around us, the mountains sat brooding and dark. Unlike Stonehenge which sits in a fairly mediocre landscape – this was spectacular. The clouds hovered low on the brink of rain, growling in a deep grey. Layers of charcoal and lead rumbling over one another, tumbling down mountain sides, heading towards the emerald platform were we stood in the still air.
Built around 4000 years ago, the scenery speaks miles for the reasons of its location. Circling it are the hills of Great Mell Fell, Clough Head, Red Pike, Thirlmere, Helvellyn, Crag Hill. Like a wall of waves waiting potently on the horizon waiting for the crash.
There is a scene in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia – right at the end – when mother, daughter, and aunt are watching as the rogue planet Melancholia heads towards Earth, about to cause its destruction with a collision course. All that protects these vulnerable humans from complete annihilation is a twig teepee. That is how I felt on Castlerigg – like the end of the world. Did these stones make people-past feel safe? All they left me feeling was little and vulnerable.
This particular stone circle has links with the manufacture of stone axes. It is thought this is where axes were traded or exchanged, as were the facts determined by the archaeological finds in and around the circle. But despite our summations that this might be nothing more than an elaborate market place, like churches, cathedrals, temples and mosques – this place felt holy.
Castlerigg Stone Circle is just outside of Keswick and is maintained by English Heritage. The area is free to enter and perfect for picnics, casual sunbathing and reading books. There is some on street parking, but I imagine it gets busy during the holidays. Alternatively, it is a 30min walk from the town. Well worth it for the beautiful views.