The Druids circle always strikes me as a bit of a Cinderella site, always overlooked for the more glamourous sites of Castlerigg, Long Meg and Sunkenkirk that lie further within the heart of the Lake District. It’s always been the case previously for me too, with never time to detour off as there always seemed bigger sites to see. Now it’s time to put this right and the circle is first on our itinerary for our weekend in the Lakes.
Engaging in the traditional British bank holiday pursuit of dodging both the showers and the traffic it’s not long before we turn off at Ulverston and are on the A5087 hugging the coast. I’d previously Google Street Viewed the hell out of this road, to make sure I’d recognise the sharp turning onto Birkrigg common, and so had no trouble in finding the un-signposted lane we needed. Pulling in on the grass next to a couple of other cars I was amazed to find I could just about make out the low shapes of the stones. I’d worried it might be harder to find, having read some of the previous fieldnotes, and the ominous pronouncement ‘needs an O.S. map’ from the papery TMA, but it seems the previously obscuring ferns have been quite brutally hacked back.
It’s a lovely setting for a site, and the circle’s not bad either. Blue skies stretch over the expansive stretch of Morecambe bay, and the tower of Bardsea church in line with the circle draws the eye, a fine juxtaposition of the old gods and the new.
The circle itself is intriguing, the small pristine ring of pockmarked stones initially looking like they tell the whole story, and only at a closer glance do you make out the outer circle of recumbent stones around the perimeter. It may be natural, but it almost looks like the circle sites on a henge, vague traces of a raised platform and embanked ditch catch my eye, but it’s probably wishful thinking on my part. As a site it makes a complex picture, and I sit amongst the stones and ponder.
The breeze is mild and the warmth of the sun is pleasant when it makes an appearance between the scudding clouds, and I’m struck by how nice it is here. Sadly there is still some traces of red paint on the stones, but it’s barely visible, and the circle will persist unbowed long after the existence of the idiotic vandal responsible is forgotten. A small piece of amethyst has been left in the centre of the circle as an offering, but it’s nice to see everything else is clean and tidy with no signs of litter about.
I walk to the nearby limestone pavement to get a slightly elevated view, serenaded on my way by a skylark, and have to concur with Mr Cope, that this truly is a ‘righteous hangout’, even in this region of spectacular circles the Druid’s Circle holds its own. It retains a certain charm of the plucky underdog, and is surely worth the visit in its own right. I like it here!
When travelling up to Scotland we never go straight there but prefer to come off the motorway and spend the day somewhere – often the beautiful Lake District. This time we chose to stop off at Barrow first which gave me the chance to knock another 3 E.H. sites off the list. It also gave the chance to visit the Druid’s Circle on the way.
Once we had found the right minor road off the A5087 it was easy enough to find the circle. At this time of year the ferns were just starting to poke their heads out of the grass and the circle could be seen from the road. Although in summer when the ferns are at their full height I don’t think this would be possible.
The sun was shinning, not a cloud in the sky and only a gentle warm breeze to be had – ideal conditions for visiting a site. Pity about all the dog’s poo! There are fine views to be had overlooking Bardsea village and church and along the coast.
I was surprised to discover that this was a double circle and counted 12 stones making up the inner circle. Karen was busy trying out her new zoom lens while myself, Sophie and Dafydd had fun playing around the stones. There are plenty of erratics all around so I don’t think building material would have been a problem when constructing the circles.
This was a wonderful site to start the holidays off with and one I would highly recommend a visit. The site is not sign posted although there is plenty of room to park on the grass near the stone circle.
Just returned from a trip here and suffered the same fate as Jane and Treaclechops did on their trip - a party of 4 adults + dogs strewn across the circle which made photography and, more importantly, investigation of the site a no-no.
It didn't help that I misread Cronezone's directions and had walked back to the 2 footpath signs and taken the right one from here, rather than from where I had parked the car. So, I had already spent 45 minutes stagggering through pretty high bracken wondering where on earth the blighter was!
Anyhoo, I hung around for few minutes and explained that I wanted to take some photos but they weren't for moving, so headed off again. At least I will know where it is, next time I visit! Oh, and the views across the bay are amazing.
2nd visit - 4 weeks later. Came back determined to get some good pictures and with Vicky and a picnic in tow. What we hadn't expected was the travellers camp which had set up just across from here! Once again, there were a few folk around but this time they were more than happy to vacate the circle so we could get some pictures and have a proper nosey round. This is a cracking site but I think it is just too accessible in a way - there were the remnants of a fire bulit in the centre of the circle and evidence of a couple other fire pits on the path; this combined with the red paint on one of the stones made me think that this merely a party-spot for some. Ah well.....
On a short visit to Barrow, I decided to hunt down the Druid's Circle on a free morning. As I'd no details to hand, I asked several people in the area for info with no success. No one seemed to know of it's existence, not even the owner of the farmhouse where we were staying, and it turned out to be only a 5 minute drive from his property. Luckily, the Tourist Information Office in Barrow provided me with a printed off page from 'visit cumbria' that pictured the circle with the spire of Bardsea in the background. Once over the brow of the hill on the common road, the very same spire came into view. A short walk from the road took us to the centre of the circle. Success!
Unfortunately one of the larger stones has been spattered with what looks like red paint, but this does nothing to detract from the beauty of this little inner-circle. Much of the fern I'd read about has been cleared away, making the circle very visible from a distance, but fresh new shoots have emerged from the ground all around it. I guess it'll be shrouded again before too long.
On my way home yesterday I detoured through Keswick for my first ever look at the Big One. From one extreme to the other.
Finding the Druids' Circle: You can approach the circle from Ulverston, via the A590 to Bardsea, then take a steep right turn half a mile after the village, just before "Sea Wood" – the circle is about half a mile along this road on the right, after the wood ends but before a sharp left turn – look out for 2 grassy areas in the bracken on the right side of the road. Or approach via Great Urswick (an interesting village around a tarn) and on unfenced roads over Birkrigg Common. When you reach Sunbrick Farm from this direction, the road bends right after all the farm buildings and there are 2 waymarked tracks on the corner. Pass these, you will soon come to 2 grassy areas in the bracken on the left, where you can park.
Parking: On short, sheep-grazed grass – quite level.
Toilets: Nearest disabled people's toilets are probably in Ulverston, 4 miles away.
Access to the stones: Take the right hand path of the 2 paths onto the common. The Inner part of the Druids' Circle is 200 yards along this path – hidden by bracken until you are very near. This is a fairly wide path, slightly inclined with a bumpy surface in places. It is covered with very short, well-grazed grass. Manual wheelchair users may need assistance. There are no stiles or gates.
Cost: There is no charge.
The area seemed popular with local dog walkers.
Bright sun, stillness and hazy views over the estuary. The circle was warm on this west-facing slope, even in October! The inner circle is small, with very white, limestone stones varying in size up to 4 feet in height, some were flat and some were split. The circle seems sheltered, with amazing views of Birkrigg common and the estuary, limestone pavements and, what we thought were 2 churches – but we now think one was Conishead Priory, a Buddhist monastery and retreat centre. We did not find out until we got home that there was the remnants of an outer circle.
After a small contretemps with an OS map, Jane, Andy, Mum and I all managed to slog up the long and stony way to this intriguing little circle. The hillside it was on was smothered with bracken, but within a small clearing, the stone circle sat contentedly within the elements.
We also discovered three picnickers sat contentedly in the middle of the circle with a copious and bountiful spread before them; and my heart sank. Not because I object to people having a picnic in these places, but because (as ever) the light was poor, and the weak modeling light available was fading away into a milky, contrast-less murk. So the photos weren’t going to look as cool as I wished. But you can’t ask a girl to get up and shift in the middle of her Tiger Prawn Terrine, can you?
Stoically, we plonked ourselves down on one of the destroyed outer circle stones, and watched the world go by. (And in my case, the light drain away). Nonetheless, the sweeping views over Morecambe Bay were really impressive, all the way from Heysham Power Station in the south, to the Lakeland mountains in the north. I tried to imagine what the place looked like when the circles were first erected; and whether or not ceremonies were performed by raven-haired priestesses as the midsummer sun broke over the far horizon, glancing off tentacles of seawater in the bay far below. I suspect they were.
After a few dog walkers, a family on an afternoon stroll, and two insane mountain bikers who barreled out of nowhere, threatening to ride straight through the cornucopia in the center of the circle, our picnickers decided they were replete, and ambled quietly off up the hill.
I took some photos, relying wholly on composition for dramatic effect, and feel that I have captured something of this beautiful little site. Jane had painted a lovely water-colour in her sketch book, very cleverly managing a scene which looked as if it had been viewed through a 24mm lens. I imagine this place at dawn or dusk is a real treat, and I would like to return when there is some decent light on offer.
9 August 2003
As we approached the site I was disappointed to see that the haze would mean that the usually beautiful views of Morecambe Bay would not be visible. In fact Bardsea and its church on their raised platform could barely be seen, never mind the bay itself.
The consolation though was that in more or less the opposite direction, the sun was just starting to set and bathing the white stones of the circle in a beautifully subtle (but apparently unphotographable) orange tint. The sky was photogenic though!
This visit confirmed that this is a lovely site and a perfect peaceful and picturesque end to the tour. I can't agree that it doesn't seem genuine and if it has been restored at all (and I don't think it has) I can't find much fault with it. Other than that if they were restoring it, why didn't they do the outer circle too?!!
Admittedly I've visited both sites before, but I have to say that I didn't find it an anticlimax after Sunkenkirk. No disrespect to anyone, but the sites are so different that there is no comparison. To me it's like comparing, I don't know… Arbor Low to Doll Tor.
I visited this circle after Sunkenkirk so unfortunately it could only be an anticlimax for me and it didn’t help that it was late teatime and a cold wind was starting to get up. The outer stones are all fallen and scattered and the central setting just seems too perfect, as somebody else notes it almost feels like a fake and the steady stream of visitors somehow add to that feeling – you don’t get the sense of isolation you get at other sites. You do see some funny things at some stone circles though – while I was here a couple of blokes pulled up in a car, got out, and started putting on fencing gear including the masks. I though I was going to get to see some fancy sword-play in the circle but instead they changed back, got in the car and drove off again. Odd.
Inner circle with 12 stones, outer circle with 15, surrounded by ditches and numerous stone alignments. There is also evidence of ancient quarrying nearby, and near the summit, some possible hut sites. Most stones of the circle remain standing.
The view across the Leven estuary out into Morecambe Bay and up-river past Ulverston to the Lakeland hills is sensational. A site chosen not only for its remarkable beauty, however; on the eastern side of this peninsula, it combines the virtue of an elevated position with that of being reasonable sheltered from the worst of the weather.
The various alignments (both of stones within the circles and some key stones outside) are intriguing, and I would love to learn more about these.
It's been three months since I last visited a site, for one reason and another - so I thought rather than go somewhere new with friends, I'd take myself to an old favourite, alone. I approached the site, hidden among the ferns, with some trepidation.
The last time I came here was in January and the ground was covered in frost, today's scene was completely different - the grass still a lush green and the thick ferns just starting to turn an Autmnal colour. I stayed here at the circle for some time - taking in the view and studying the stones in detail, before setting off up the hill to the top of Birkrigg Common. I'd recommend the effort to anyone - the remains of a few burial cairns lie scattered over the moor on the way, and on reaching the top the view really opens up. The Lakeland fells, Morecambe bay and Black Combe dominate this panorama.
Very beautiful, even if the light was a white out with bugger all contrast and the circle was full of picknickers. Fortunately the bracken was high enough to pee in, so I could wait until they'd moved on to have the place to ourselves.
What a view! Whichever wise person decided to erect the stones here also understood the beauty in front of her eyes. Bet they didn't have to put up with a bunch of squawking peacocks though....
My advice? Strangled the peacocks, lie back in the grass, let the vibe of stones speak to your soul and watch the everchanging Morecambe Bay entertain you.
On this freezing cold January afternoon the hills above the circle were alive with people walking their dogs, out with the kids etc. Quite a few of them walked to the circle in the time we were there, and I got the feeling, as in Julian's notes in TMA, that local people Love this site. Great view of the hills to the east and over Morecambe bay.
When I visited this site about two years ago somebody had burnt "I love you" into the grass in large capital letters, filling the inner circle. This has now grown over, though I am very curious if a modern antiquarian follower did this.....any takers?!
This circle almost seems like a fake. Built on a gently falling moor with superb views over Morecambe bay, it seems too neat, compact and perfect, as though the local tourist board have erected it overnight. But stay here a while, and it starts to feel more, well, in tune with what's around. The outer circle is pretty much destroyed and without knowing it was there you'd think it was just more of the stones that litter the moor. The inner is small, compact, and enchanting. It's just too perfect!
Also known as Sunbrick Stone Circle
"The site consists of one possibly two stone rings, and seems more ritual than astronomical. Within Cumbria there are three certain and eight other possible sites with the same characteristics: a pavement below which are one or more pits associated with cremation and Early Bronze Age objects".
Archaeological Sites of the Lake District
Moorland Publishing Co.