There is something fascinating about ancient stone circles. One has a sense of timelessness, of sharing with people long gone and forgotten. And yesterday I visited, for the first time in more than twenty years, a stone circle in a quite lovely setting. This was Castlerigg, on the outskirts of Keswick.
I decided to celebrate my birthday by having a day’s holiday from work – and where better to spend it than in the Lakes? After the recent fine weather, the day began with drizzle, but – untypically, it has to be said – the weather improved the closer we came to the Lake District. The first stop was Windermere, a town I’ve always liked, and the second was Castlerigg.
The stone circle at Castlerigg isn’t exactly Stonehenge, but it’s quite notable and well visited. It dates back 4,500 years, which is quite a thought. I find it impossible to resist imagining what it was like all that time ago, and what mysterious rites took place in the circle, and around the gathering of stones known as the Sanctuary. The landscape of the Lakes has no doubt changed a lot in the interim – human beings have had a massive impact on it, an impact that isn’t always obvious. But I’m sure it was gorgeous 4,500 years ago, as it is today.
I’m not sure if I’m going to feature Castlerigg in either my work in progress or a future novel. I’m conscious that Stephen Booth, in his Peak District series, had a novel that featured a stone circle, Dancing with the Virgins, and I think both he and I are keen to avoid utilising similar material, though of course so much depends on how that material is presented. P.D. James featured a stone circle, for instance, in The Private Patient. One thing is for sure, a stone circle makes for a very evocative setting, and does have the potential to provide a great scene in a mystery, as well as for a stop on a day trip.