|There's no doubt that Castlerigg, Swinside and Long Meg leave you stunned. But there are tons of other lovelies in Cumbria that reward just as much, especially as once there, you're likely have them completely to yourself.
Such was the case for Moth and me on our last day trip from his soon-to-be-sold Yorkshire home.
We were surprised that the entry for Casterton on this website had no pictures and a number of fieldnotes moaning that it was difficult to find. Fortunately, challenges 'R' us. We vowed to find it come-what-may. And it turned out to be a cinche.
Counting the field boundaries to find our way, we looked over the gate at the top and there it was! Looking down the hill, the stones were almost too small to see but raised up on their little platform they became clear. Fourteen or perhaps even sixteen tiny weeny stones make up this most charming of circles at the side of a valley. The level platform is the perfect stage for the minuscule stones to dance endlessly around. I cannot state powerfully enough just how small the stones are and cannot express my amazement enough of how these frail and vulnerable stones have survived. The land here is unploughable and this maybe what has saved it. A man with a sharp spade could have all these stones up in a couple of hours.As we had found Casterton so easily, we pressed on, happy to fill the rest of the day with whatever we could find, knowing that we'd already seen the best.
A couple of the stones were badly cracked, one was quite loose. But the peace here... the peace! We picnicked, we sat, we lay down, we chilled out. Perfection. Come here.
For directions, see my miscellaneous post below.
Gamelands for laugh
Moth had already been here and so finding it was not hard for me, but the stones lie low and the wall is high, so take a map and hold yer nerve.
And if you like pink stones but without the bucolic charm of deeply rural Gamelands and in an industrial setting then look no further than Kemp Howe.
The big round stones are all down and today lie deep in the tall meadow peppered with buttercups and daisies. Look closely and you'll see the stones are pink - bright, sparkly Barbara Cartland pink, shimmering and round like something sensual and erotic, ironically in a way that Barbara Cartland wasn't. The stones are in proportion to the diameter of the circle somehow - people reading this who have seen a lot of circles will know exactly what I mean. It's impressive but lacks the 'oomph' of Swinside
and of Castlerigg
. Visit it anyway. Just to see how pink it is.
I had a craving for a Mr Whippy and had high hopes that in Shap, just half a mile up the road my wish would be granted. But there were no gelati. Instead, we found the Goggleby stone and in the next field to the north, Aspers Field standing stone.
Lovely big pink stones, just like those at Gamelands
have here, been cruelly bisected by the railway line. It's quite shocking.
And you could see this place as megalithic roadkill, but I prefer to see it in a different way. As one of the those people who has a secret love of waving at trains (preferably from a beautiful trackside location, which this isn't) Kemp Howe gets its own back on the railway line builders and waves at trains everyday. It may have been built over, but it certainly ain't out.
Its a whopper. A great big fist of a stone, now standing in concrete shoes. You don't really get a sense of its deep immensity until you're right up close. Its footprint is dressed squarely but the looming bulk of it seems to rise like a blobby undressed mass as if the builders lost interest in cutting any more of it half way up. And in the next field stands Aspers Field standing stone. Actually it leans at an alarming angle and was defended by curious bullocks when we were there, so I was unable to take a closer look.
Unlike nearby Kemp Howe, its not pink.
Next stop was Shap Beck Plantation stone circle, but as I was rather tired I sat this one out so Moth went off to investigate whilst I had 40 winks.
A short drive criss-crossing the M6 once more takes you to Gunnerkeld stone circle.
We drove to the farm and asked the very friendly folk there if we could take a peek at their stone circle. The farmer said, with a glint in his eye: 'yes, but dunno why you'd want to look at a pile o'stones.' I replied: 'But this is our ancient heritage!' He smiled and I got on with serious business of admiring his incredibly impressive brand new red tractor.
After asking permission and having walked west through the trees towards the M6 you have to climb over either a seriously wobbly gate or cheat death by clambering over a wall which threatens to fall and kill you at any time. I like a gamble so I went for the wall of death. I survived. Only after entering the field did I realise that it was right in front of me on a slight rise! I got a real shock. Cos its really fab! Big old rocks, most of them down but best of all you get two for the price of one with added cairny bit in the middle! Concentric! How cool is that?
The M6 is very VERY close - about 12 metres away - but somehow, it didn't matter because the stones spoke with a louder voice. This one had got away with it and survived! Wonderful!
Though I nearly didn't as the wall attempted to wreak its evil revenge on me as we returned, hurling rocks at my legs as it partially collapsed as I climbed up. The survival instinct kicked in and I went over the gate instead. Be careful!
We just time enough for one more site. Castlehowe Scar stone circle. Certainly no chance of an ice cream there.
We sat in the sun for some time and watched a female stonechat swooping and dancing on the wall. Moth says that 'sometimes its like going out with Bill Oddie'.
This is so close to a little lane, you could look at this without even getting out of your car. But do so, because it is quite charming. Climb over the gate (it's padlocked) and you'll see that the stones are big, almost out of proportion thethe diameter of the circle. But it's quite a complete. It has the same character as Little Meg
Look over the wall at Castlehowe and you'll see what baza believes might be a stone row (Castlehowe Scar Stone Row). I remain unconvinced either way that it is or it isn't genuine. I haven't seen enough stone rows to judge. The visitor must decide for themselves.
If you're megalithing in the northPS: There's a hole in the market for ice cream sales in Cumbria.
Looking at circles round Cumbria
Check out some of the smaller ones
Even though they might be humblier
Let Kemp Howe and Gunnerkeld
Be among your finds
Gamelands pink will thrill you
And Casterton blows minds