When we think ‘stone circle’, especially in the UK, we naturally first think of the iconic Stonehenge, Salisbury. After all, there’s a great sense of mystery and intrigue attached to the landmark, thought to have taken its prehistoric builders over 1,500 to complete in full! Well, we suppose there were no cranes back then...
However, having earned itself such a famous reputation around the world, Stonehenge has become something of a bustling tourist attraction, seeing thousands of visitors per day during the peak UK tourism season. So, if you’re planning on venturing out to Stonehenge for yourself, it might not be the tranquil natural beauty spot that you’ve seen in the photos!
Luckily, whilst Stonehenge is inarguably the UK’s most famous stone circle, it’s by no means the UK’s only stone circle. In fact, there are several similar structures across Great Britain, all with their own equally intriguing origins - and all well worth a visit!
Here are just a few of the stone circles across the UK that you can visit instead of Stonehenge.
Rollright Stones, Cotswolds
Right on the outskirts of The Cotswolds sits this incredible site, home to not just one stone circle, but three! The three structures found here - separately named The King’s Men, The Whispering Knights and The King Stone - are better known collectively as The Rollright Stones and all have their own interesting story to tell.
Constructed in 2500BC, The King’s Men is the part of the site which most resembles a traditional stone circle, with the seventy weathered stones thought to have been arranged for use for ceremonial assemblies. Just a short walk from The King’s Men, visitors will find The King Stone, a large, standalone stone with a shape compared to the silhouette of a seal balancing a ball on its nose! The King Stone is thought to date back to 1500BC, acting as a signpost to indicate the presence of a Saxon burial ground nearby.
The oldest of the structures on the site is The Whispering Knights, thought to be around 1000 years older than The King’s Men and potentially the oldest funerary monument in the UK. Made up of four upright stones and one large fallen stone which rests above a burial chamber. It’s said to have taken over sixty men to move the stones of The King’s Men into place!
Castlerigg, Lake District
Set amongst the rolling hills of Helvellyn - one of the UK’s highest peaks - Castlerigg is situated in a truly breathtaking location, offering visitors the chance to rest and enjoy the incredible views as they think on the history of this wonderful monument.
There’s also great mystery involved in Castlerigg, too. The stone circle has been subject to plenty of archaeological study over the years, and yet the likely purpose of the structure has never been confirmed - though there have been three stone axes from the Neolithic period discovered amongst the structure in the past.
Either way, this is a must-visit spot, whether its to take a few moments to be perplexed by the intrigue surrounding its creation or simply to enjoy the beautiful area surrounding it.
Long Meg & Her Daughters, Cumbria
Standing at 12-feet tall, the largest stone in this circle, known colloquially as Long Meg, is made up entirely of vibrant red sandstone. Her ‘daughters’ - all fifty-eight of them - are made up of rhyolite granite and surround the ‘matriarchal’ Long Meg, leading historians to believe that this structure was intended for use as a sundial upon its completion in around 900BC.
This structure is incredibly interesting - given an extra air of intrigue thanks to the megalithic art symbols carved into Long Meg - and is sure to fascinate even the most reluctant of walkers in your family! In fact, famed poet William Wordsworth was himself, enthralled by the structure, writing that Long Meg & Her Daughters was “beyond dispute the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains” behind Stongehenge.
Druid’s Circle, Penmaenmawr
Situated amongst the vast Welsh mountains overlooking the town of Conwy, Druid’s Circle is largely considered to date back to around 3000BC. Numerous archaeological studies of this collection of thirty stones have concluded that the structure was built for use as a burial site, with various human remains having been discovered in the past. However, the presence of prehistoric tracks around the area also points to its use as a transport route during the prehistoric period - no motorways back then, of course!
Curiously, the name of the circle isn’t actually related to its origins at all - there were no druids until around 2,000 years after the circle is thought to have been completed, though it’s unknown when the name Druid’s Circle was given and by whom.
Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire
Last, but certainly not least! Situated a mere twenty miles from Stonehenge, Avebury’s stone circle has never been quite as famous - despite being a record-breaker in its own way. The structure is made up of around 180 stones from the Neolithic period, arranged into a circle with a diameter of around 1,100 feet, which makes it the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world!
What might you find within a stone circle of that size? Well, Avebury is also the only stone circle in the world with a village built within it, making it entirely unique in more ways than one. As for its origins, it’s thought to date back as far as 3000BC, when historians theorise that the structure was used as a sort of ‘community space’, where villagers would gather together for the performance of rites and rituals.
Which of these stone circles do you think that you and your family may make a visit to over 2021? Wherever you choose, we’re sure that you’re in for a truly fascinating experience!
Download the Littletrips app and create your own little trips to towns and villages across the UK - Download the Littletrips app