Seal Howe may be in Cumbria, but it's eyes are firmly fixed upon west Yorkshire, the view over to the Pennines is transfixing, the cairn and all about us is in cloud shadow but the distant hills and dales are bathed in sunlight, warm, loving, living sunlight.
The cairn is only a few feet high, but its spread is considerable, mostly under the grass, but a section of still bare cairn material is on it's northern side. Funny, but the idea of knocking down the modern pile of stones on its top never occurred to me, perhaps because it had acted as a beacon on the hill, drawing us on, giving us no illusions as to exactly where it is, it's right there.
This is an interesting name. It seems specifically Danish, from a personal name, 'Sile'. In N. Yorks., we find it as Sil Howe, near the High Bridestones.
The N. Yorks. name is problematical, in that Yorkshire experienced several distinct 'Viking' incursions. However, it seems most likely that a Cumbrian 'Sile' would have come with the Norse/Danish group that was expelled from Ireland in 902 a.d.
Vikings often intruded their burials into prehistoric mounds. Within fifteen miles of my flat, we have, for example, Shunner Howe (Old Norse 'Sjonar') Simon Howe (Old Norse 'Sigemund') Sil Howe (Old Danish 'Sile') etc. Norse artifacts were found in Lilla Howe when it was excavated in the 1970s, too, even though that name is Old English, rather than Scandinavian. All of these are prehistoric in origin.
It would be interesting to know if this Cumbrian site has been excavated, and if Scandinavian artifacts were found. From the name, it does seem entirely possible.
This burial mound with its modern cairn and ruined bield is situated on one of the high points of moor. It is certainly visible from the Oddendale circle.
There is a stone situated between the two rings of the Oddendale circle. When viewed from the centre of the circle the stone lines up with this mound.
Access. stoney, hilly and at times muddy. Close to the Coast to Coast path with a slight detour.
To add to the quotes by Paulus here is some more of what William Greenwell had to say about Seal Howe.
A cairn at the head of Oddendale, called Seal Howe, was also examined; some other cairns very much destroyed are in the immediate vicinity, and about 300 yards to the west is a double circle of stones. The place is traditionally spoken of as the site of a great battle, and there are extensive mounds of stone and earth thrown up as if for the purpose of entrenchment. Between the cairn and the circle there runs an ancient road which, following the high ground as much as possible and avoiding the valleys, was one of the main lines of route from Clifton to Borrow Bridge...
The position which this cairn occupies is very striking, and the scene, as viewed on the afternoon when the mound was opened, was one not easily to be forgotten by the explorers. As the sun lowered towards the mountains in the west a flood of golden light was thrown upon the moorland up to our very feet, turning the purple of the heather with a richer hue, and adding a more than common warmth to the red and grey lichen-covered boulders of Shap granite which lie like flocks of sheep upon the turf. Clouds, themselves aglow with the level rays of the setting sun, threw broad patches of shade upon the illuminated ground, and made the sunshine more vivid by the contrast. To the east was the broad and heavy range of Cross Fell, fronted and broken by the three sharp cones of Murton, Knock, and Dufton Pikes, and over which,at its northern end, the far distant mountains of Cheviot were just to be distinguished. Stretching down in the direction of the broad valley of the Eden, and converging in the wooded hollow in which lies the village of Crosby Ravensworth, the spire of its church just peeping from out the trees, were the tributary valleys of Oddendale and Crosby Gill. The former, with its grey stone walls and clumps of trees, marking the site where the slated roof and curl of blue smoke showed that some statesman had his home ; the latter, the deep rocky gorge of the Lyvennet as it speeds from its sources on the moor, its sides clothed with natural wood, the representative of larger forests, where the ancient Briton had hunted the stag and boar, and where in later days Sir Lancelot Threlkeld, a local magnate of Tudor times, had his hunting-lodge.
On the south, Ravenstonedale and Tebay Fells closed the view, deeply furrowed by precipitous side-valleys winding far away into the bosom of the hills, and coloured with green and purple and gold under the light and shadow of sun and cloud. Westward over Shap, with its scattered monoliths once forming an avenue and circle, and its ruined abbey, alike companions in decay, the eye, overlooking the intervening valleys of Wet Sleddale and Swindale, passed across the great hollow in which lies Hawes Water to the flat-topped ridge of High Street, relieved at one place by the sharp point of Kidsty Pike. Further on to the north-west was Saddleback, the ancient Blencathra, with Skiddaw just seen beyond it ; and then Carrock Fell, and flatter land carrying the eye along almost
British Barrows. A Record of the Examination of Sepulcheal mounds in Various Parts of England
By William Greenwell, M.A. F.S.A