August 15th, 2015
The UK’s northwest county of Cumbria is dotted with numerous Roman and castle ruins much to the delight of history lovers such as myself. When planning out the route for our sightseeing roadtrip of the western Lakes, I made sure to hit up a few of the best. Read on for a few worth exploring!
CASTLERIGG STONE CIRCLE
This 4500 year old stone circle composed of 38 freestanding stones is located just outside of Keswick, commanding a beautiful and romantic presence at the top of a natural plateau with 360 degree panoramic views of the surrounding fells and the mountains of Helvellyn and High Seat in the background. One of around 1,300 stone circles in the British Isles and Brittany built by prehistoric farming communities, Castlerigg is among the earliest British circles and is believed to have been erected around 3,300 BC during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages.
The best part? Unlike the more famous Stonehenge, you can get up close and personal with the stones, touching each one of them like the mother and daughter duo I captured below. Even dogs on leads are welcomed and entrance is free.
Located in the town of Egremont cleverly hidden behind new build residential buildings, the castle remains are tricky to find from the road until you drive just past it. The original castle, located on a mound above the River Ehen, was built by William de Meschines around 1130-1140 AD on the site of a Danish fort following the conquest of Cumberland in 1092 by William II. Further additions were made in the 13th century and in the 16th century there was an attempt to put Mary Queen of Scots on the Egremont throne but only a mere eight years later the castle was reported to be ruined and decayed.
Ok enough about history. Entrance is free as well and several strategically placed benches allow you to admire the ruins and surrounding views while enjoying a picnic lunch.
HARDKNOTT ROMAN FORT
Founded under Hadrian’s rule in the 2nd century, Hardknott is a remote and dramatically-sited fort located 800 feet above the Esk River with far reaching views over Eskdale out to the Irish Sea and offered protection over the western entrance to Hardknott Pass, a steep twisting single track mountain road through the middle of the lake district (read more about our hair raising drive in the next post!). Dan and I kept joking as we were walking around the fort about what a soldier would have had to have done to upset his superior and get stationed way out here.
Built between about 120 and 138 AD, the well-marked remains of the Roman fort known then as Mediobogdum include the headquarters building, commandant’s house and a bath house. The site of the parade ground next to the bath house also survives beside the fort, however, Dan and I didn’t see either during our extensive wanderings of the area so it must be hidden among the ferns and other foliage around the fort or our eyesight needs to be checked. Entrance is free and the connection to history is priceless!
Is a visit to the wild ruins of the Lake District in your future?