Stone circles have always contained an air of mystery about them. There are many questions about their origin, meaning, and cultural significance in the United Kingdom. Stonehenge is perhaps the most famous stone circle in the world, or at least in the United Kingdom, but there are several other stone circles dotted across the island that deserve their own spotlight.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of these circles and see if we can uncover a few of their hidden charms.
How Many Stone Circles Are There in the UK?
You might be surprised to learn how many there are! There’s a total of 1,000 distinct stone circles across Britain. Many believed that at one point, during the height of the stone circle’s cultural relevance, there were a little over 4,000 stone circles on the island.
These prehistoric structures point back to a time long ago. While their origin is still not quite known fully, they’re intriguing and stunning sights, to say the least.
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Why Are There So Many Stone Circles in the UK?
As we mentioned above, the purpose and origin of the stone circles are not fully known. However, many believe these stone circles played an important role in rituals and practices related to the people’s beliefs at the time. Builders created most of these stone circles between 3300 and 900 BCE.
During this time, the people of Britain held tightly to beliefs in nature, the stars, and the power they believed was within the sun and moon. People utilized these stone circles mostly during lunar and solar alignments and particular cycles of the earth’s orbit.
Because of the widespread nature of these beliefs, builders could have built many stone circles to make these practices easier to participate in without people needing to travel great distances.
Where Are the Oldest Stone Circles in the UK?
The oldest stone circle in the UK is Castlerigg Stone Circle, located near Keswick, England. Though the exact age of this stone circle is unknown, it’s been an early site for pagan rituals in the late Neolithic and early Bronze ages. Several other smaller stone circles are also in this area.
10 Ancient Stone Circles in the UK That Aren’t Stonehenge
Now that we know a little more about what we mean when we speak about a stone circle, let’s look at some of the most famous ancient stone circles in the UK that aren’t Stonehenge.
These circles may lack the notoriety of Stonehenge, but they all manage to contain the allure and mystery surrounding these ancient structures.
Long Meg and Her Daughters
Address: Hunsonby, Penrith CA10 1NW, United Kingdom
About: The first stone circle on our list is Long Meg and Her Daughters, a circle consisting of 59 stones that stretch out 340 feet, making it the third widest stone circle in the UK. Many believe that the circle had closer to 70 stones in the beginning.
It gets its name from the tallest stone in the circle, a Redstone rock that stands 12 feet tall. This rock, affectionately called “Long Meg,” is around remaining stones — her “daughters.” A nearby burial structure that resembles Long Meg has been dubbed “Little Meg.”
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Address: Castle Ln, Keswick CA12 4RN, United Kingdom
About: Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District National Park is said to be one of the most scenic locations of the stone circles as it rests in the wide open countryside. The widest point measures 107 feet, whereas the narrowest part comes in at 97 feet.
There’s a big dispute about the number of stones that make up this circle among visitors and specialists. Some believe the circle contains 38 stones, while others believe it holds 42. The official number of recognized stones comes right in at 40.
Ring of Brodgar
Address: B9055, Stromness KW16 3JZ, United Kingdom
About: Taking a departure from England, this next circle resides on the largest island in Orkney, Scotland. This particular circle stands out as a henge. Many see it as nearly a perfect circle, a feat many stone circles in the UK can’t claim to accomplish.
Researchers thought the ring originally contained 60 full-sized stones. Today, only 27 of those 60 remain standing. This ring comes in at a large width of 341 feet.
Address: Rollright Road, Little Rollright, Chipping Norton OX7 5QB, United Kingdom
About: While most of the circles on our list contain only one monument, the Rollright Stones actually consist of three separate monuments: the Whispering Knights, the King’s Men, and King Stone. These monuments were all built at different times, though each was still constructed to aid in the ceremonial practices of the area.
While the Whispering Knights and the King’s Men are stone circles in their own right, King Stone is a singular monolith. It stands almost 8 feet tall. Though the Whispering Knights and the King’s Men circles can be dated back to the early/late Neolithic period, experts are uncertain when King Stone went up.
Address: Penmaenmawr LL34 6DN, United Kingdom
About: Druid’s Circle dates back around 5,000 years and is in an area of Wales that held essential resources for ancient life. The rock material that makes up most of the circle was once ideal for making axe heads. Today, the circle consists of 30 stones. It’s 80 feet wide, and the entrance to the stone circle is set apart by four stones arranged 8 feet apart.
Address: Avebury, Marlborough SN8 1RF, United Kingdom
About: Like the Rollright Stones, Avebury is a collection of three stone circles. This monument encircles the town of Avebury in southwest England and contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world. It consists of three parts: the outer stone circle, the inner stone circle, and the avenue.
The outer circle has a diameter of 1,088 feet, and the inner stone circle has a diameter of 322 feet. Additionally, the avenue stretches out of the western entrance of the monument in several pairs of stones. This monument is considered a central meeting place for ancient festivals and communal activities in the area.
The Callanish Stones
Address: 12m west of Stornoway off the A859 Isle of Lewis HS2 9DY, United Kingdom
About: The Callanish Stones are a collection of stones that reside on an island off the west coast of Scotland. The stones are in a cruciform pattern with a central stone in the middle.
There wasn’t much information on the history of the Callanish Stones. But there’s speculation that during the Bronze Age, the Callanish Stones were a particularly popular spot for ritualistic practices.
Address: A30, Penzance TR19 6EJ, United Kingdom
About: The Boscawen-Un Stone Circle is a circle with 19 stones that stand upright, and it’s in Cornwall, UK. In the center of the circle stands another upright stone.
In 1864 a group of scientists came to Cornwall to study it. Their findings concluded that this circle was once used as a burial site as they found several urns buried within a burial mound.
In keeping with the other stone circles on this list, Boscawen-Un went up during the Bronze Age. Many highly regarded it as a spiritual location.
Address: Stapeley Hill, White Grit SY15 6DE, United Kingdom
About: Mitchell’s Fold is a stone circle located in Shropshire, a countryside region of England. Many believed it, at some point, contained around 30 stones.
Unfortunately, in 1995, vandals dug up and stole many of the rocks. There was restoration of the stones, but several are still missing. Due to the machinery used during this vandalism, the earth around the rocks was permanently disturbed. That altered the authenticity of the site significantly.
With regards to the history of the stone circle, there’s a folk story that a witch once lived in the area of the circle. Due to her misdeeds in the area, she turned into a rock as punishment. Locals erected the surrounding stones in the circle to ensure she didn’t escape.
Address: Liskeard PL14 5LE, United Kingdom
About: The Hurlers is a stone circle located in Cornwall, UK. Believed to have been erected during the Neolithic period, The Hurlers got their name by way of a legend. The story goes that one Sunday morning, a group of men were playing a game of Cornish Hurling. Because of this, they received punishment and turned into a stone circle where they were to spend the rest of eternity.
The monument has three separate circles of roughly the same diameter. Several of the stones in each circle are no longer standing or present, but their former resting places remain visible to this day.
Are the Stone Circles Worth Visiting?
So now that we know more about the stone circles available to the public in the UK, the question stands, “Are stone circles worth visiting?” We would say yes! The amount of history and folklore surrounding these ancient structures is enough to entice visitors worldwide.
Even if history and lore aren’t your things, understanding how life used to be can offer a neat perspective on our lives today. These ancient structures, mysterious as they are, allow for a small glimpse into the past. For a brief moment, we are perhaps able to see ancient humans in a clearer light.
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