From the globally famous pillars of Stonehenge to the world’s largest stone circle in Avebury, England has a number of enigmatic historic sites that fascinate archaeologists, astronomers and tourists alike.
The Castlerigg Stone Circle, set atop a low grassy hilltop in Cumbria, is one of the most visited and, dating back to 3000BC, one of the earliest examples in the country. The Neothlithic stones lie on an English Heritage site owned by the National Trust and draw thousands of visitors each year to ponder their existence. Measuring around 30 meters in diameter, the circle features 38 stones around its perimeter and a further 10 standing stones forming a rectangle in the middle. It’s an impressive sight, not least for its location, with views spanning the surrounding fells and stretching over the Northern Pennines. Castlerigg’s dramatic sunrise and sunset over the hilltops is as magnetizing as the main attraction.
The real allure for tourists though, is their mystique and the question of where, why and how these stones appeared here remains unanswerable. Legends abound with tales of ceremonial or religious purposes, but the stones also appear to have been aligned with lunar positions and the autumn equinox sunrise, leading astronomers to wonder if they were placed there for an entirely different reason. Even the construction of the circle is a mystery – no easy task, with the tallest stone over two meters (six feet) high and weighing an estimated 15 tons (907 kilograms).