After throwing a little bit of thought & research at this site. I think it may be a Rath.
Mr Burl defines a Rath as " Sometimes a pre-roman but more often an early christian banked-and-ditched sub circular enclosure. Most raths were family farmsteads but some were small defensive sites".
I think this term may also be applied to Towtop Kirk
I have been tortured by thoughts of this site since I came across it on the MAGIC Map a couple of weeks ago. The first thing that drew me to it was the name, it's a fantastic name. The next thing that drew me in was the 1863 map of the area, which showed not only the enclosure but stones and tumuli as well. I started thinking to myself that it's most likely to be Iron Age but then again, a roughly circular enclosure with associated stones....hmmmmm that doesn't sound particularly Iron Age. The final barb that twisted into my imagination was the proximity of the site to the A66. The road that carries me to Mayburgh and Castlerigg, the road that carried Tuff axes to Yorkshire and Yorkshire Flint to Westmorland. This road looms large over my megalithic wanderings and wonderings, it's my megalithic route 66.
Back to the fieldnotes. This was going to be my last chance to visit this site for at least a month I had planned to stop at Rey Cross on the way here but Stainmore was in a state of white-out with drifting snow so I thought better of it and pushed on to the lovely Eden Valley.
The weather had changed by the time I had dropped down into the valley, it was cold and windy but no snow.
I followed the wee road from the A66 to Coupland and then parked up just beyond the cattle grid and walked up to the public footpath that runs along the George Gul.
The Gul is a wonderful steep sided valley that narrows into a gulley and has a number of caves in the cliffs. The caves are wonderful places carved out of the lovely red sandstone, the weathering around the caves is outrageous and creates an other-worldly atmosphere. One of the caves is large enough to stand up in and bears the marks of it's visitors in the graffitti carved into the soft red sandstone walls.
Whilst mooching about the main cave a lady shouted up to me from the Gul to ask what was in the caves I told her that there was nothing much and scrambled down for a chat. She was a local farmer out for a stroll with her dogs. I asked her about the Druidical Judgement Seat and she said that she didn't know anything about it 's history but would walk up to it with me.
We climbed up the bank from the Gul to the site. My first impression of the site was the view. The site is situated on a promontory of steep sided land between two becks with lovely views to the Pennines beyond particulaly Roman Fell. In the back of my mind I had been hoping that this site would be a henge but I didn't dare get my hopes up too much.
The site is on a narrowing spit of land and is as circular as the geography allows, it consists of a low bank with a shallow internal ditch surrounding a roughly circular encloure. The low bank and ditch run right up to the edges of the spit and in some places are slipping down the steep sides due to erosion. There is one entrance into the enclosure which is situated on the western side, which geographically is the most logical place to put it. The enclosure itself has a number of low features within it, the most noticeable being two, low, parallel, narrow ridges approximately 4m long and which could possibly be two side of the same feature.
The diameter of the whole site from bank to bank is 86m and the ditch is approximately 3m wide.
After mooching around the site and saying good bye to the farmer I set off in search of the stones that were marked on the 1863 map.
The site is on rough ground and borders a golf course, there has been a fair bit of landscaping to create the greens and fairways. There is an area of rough grass between the course and the enclosure and there are a number of stones laying around that could qualify as fallen stones, most are made of lovely Shap Granite.
So what are my conclusions? Is it a henge? I don't know. It could be an Iron Age enclosure but the ditch and bank and too low and shallow to be of any great defensive use besides, why build a low bank and ditch on a site that has natural defenses provided by the steep sided slopes of the spit of land?
With reference to the 1863 map and looking at the site with it's two sets of stones, nearby tumuli and the enclosure, then yes it could be a henge but I would like to see what other people make of the site before I commit myself. I would also like a look at the SMR summary if anyone has a copy.
All in all, I would say that it's well worth a visit, it is a beautiful wild place jammed in between farmland, a golf course and Route 66. (-:
"An undated earthwork occupying the end of a spur, thus forming a roughly oval enclosure about 3/4 of an acre in extent. A shallow ditch crosses the neck of the spur and continues around the other sides. A causeway crosses the ditch on the northwestern side. Two caves and two large unworked blocks of stone are said to be associated with the enclosure, although the archaeological significance of the caves and stones, and their "association" with the enclosure, is obscure".
"The work has features in common with Castle Hill, Dufton, centred at NY 70172301; (also unclassified by RCHM, but apparently an enclosed RB settlement)".
"The earthwork had no internal remains, but it form and construction appear to place it in the broad context of domestic enclosures".
I found this little beaut whilst mooching around the MAGIC site. Unfortunately the SMR failed to yeild up a summary so I can't give an accurate description of the site type. But with a name like that I couldn't let this one slide.
The modern OS 1:25 000 scale map shows a roughly eliptical earthwork marked as an enclosure
Further investigation led me to the excellent old-maps.co.uk.
The 1863 map (linked below) shows the area marked with the site title, there are also two nearby sites marked stone & stones as well as a couple of caves and tumuli.
Needless to say this site has gone to the top of my "must get a good coat of looking at - soon" sites.