Out There column

Birkrigg Stone circle at dusk on Sunday.
Birkrigg Stone circle at dusk on Sunday.

Our land is home to countless stone circles.

Shrouded in mystery, these ancient circles are places of pilgrimage for a great many people. Over the years I’ve visited numerous stone circles with my husband Mark.

Castlerigg Stone circle near Keswick is one of my personal favourites as is the Ring of Brodgar stone circle and henge on Orkney. And the landscape of ‘The Hurlers’, a set of three standing stone circles on Bodmin Moor, is one of my favourite places on earth. Little is known about the origins of stone circles and theories abound. However, it has been established that they were created during the late Neolithic and early Bronze ages (between 3,500BC and 1000BC).

I’d heard about a stone circle set on Birkrigg’s Common above the lovely village of Bardsea near Ulverston so we went there on Sunday. Rock star, practising Druid and great British eccentric, Julian Cope, has developed a rather marvellous website (www.themodernantiquarian.com) which is full of fascinating information on ‘Druid Circles’, including the one on Birkrigg Common.

High above Bardsea and with fabulous views of Morecambe Bay, the circle is in a perfect location. At the end of a fern-lined grass path the small stone circle came into view.

It was dusk and the circle was bathed in a pale purple light. There wasn’t a soul around so we could take in its splendour uninterrupted.

It was so quiet that it was possible to imagine a time long ago when people lived a much simpler life.

I was intrigued to learn that Birkrigg is one of only 30 concentric stone circles to be found in Britain. The inner ring consists of 12 stones and the outer, more irregular circle, consists of 20 stones. The most famous example of this type of stone circle in the UK is Stonehenge, but Birkrigg is so much more atmospheric.

We may never know why stone circles were built and perhaps that’s part of their charm; the mystery endures.