As we were in Keswick for the day, we decided to head towards Castlerigg stone circle, a very short drive out of town. It’s one of those smaller Neolithic wonders which, because of the amazing scenery surrounding it, makes you feel connected to the past and the landscape you’re standing on, in a magical way.
It was also freezing cold, but beautiful and sunny and we all fancied some fresh winter air and some mountain views, without having to trek too far. It’s a magical place anyway – full of mystery and history and one of the most picturesque locations for any stone circle in the country. The panoramic view of the fells in the distant is uninterrupted all around.
We encountered our first mystery as we drew up in the car to park in the little lay-by at the foot of the field. There in front of us was an ice cream van (it was mid February and about minus three degrees). Odd, we thought, but the ideal location for anything odd.
When we got to the standing stones, we had the place to ourselves. The stones are quite large and have been standing there since the Neolithic period apparently, that’s over 5000 years ago. There are 38 stones in Castlerigg stone circle and inside the ring is a rectangle of another 10 standing stones. No idea what they were used for all those years ago.
The view towards Helvellyn was amazing and the air was so still – the only sounds were bleating Herdwick sheep and the odd raven. A quick game of hide and seek around the stones warmed us up slightly but it was really too bitter to hang around for long.
On a walk up Dodd Fell earlier in the week, our daughter had collected some small, but beautifully snow white quartz crystal shards. She had put them in her coat, and had forgotten about them, but as she plunged her freezing fingers into her fleecy pockets, she found them. Brilliant! We lined them up along some of Castlerigg’s stones in order to infuse them with magical powers. After a few minutes we decided they must be fully charged (and anyway, we were even more freezing by now) so we collected them up to take home to scatter round the end of our garden (which has always been where the fairies live, she says).
A trip to the Lake District isn’t consider a real success unless you go trekking to the summit of a fell. So after we lost our way on our first trekking attempt, I found a book on the Low Fells to follow which sounded a better option for little legs and we decided to tackle Dodd Fell.
This is a smallish fell but was still slightly higher than Alice’s first ever summit of Cat Bells last year. At just over 1600ft it’s an easy ascent along a well tended path with utterly fantastic views of both Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite from the very top. On a clear day, which we enjoyed, we could also see the Solway Firth and Scotland in the far distance.
The whole week we were on holiday in Keswick it had been sunny but chilly and this day was no exception. We wrapped up well and packed our provisions into rucksacks as we can never be sure how long a never done before walk will take us. Especially when one of our party has little legs. At the car park where we could begin our ascent there’s a cute little cafe too so we decided to have lunch there when we returned. After we had changed into our tough walking boots we headed up the main path towards the fell. This took us through pine woods and a steep craggy, and icy, beck tumbling down the hillside. On our left were slate cliffs with icicles and the odd stream and Alice began hunting for fairy crystals (the tiny white stones that sparkle). This was a good idea as it kept her interested in the walk! We did forget to take our walking poles but we found a solid branch for her to use which was promptly named, “Scruff”.
So Scruff and Alice continued their climb upwards in good humour. Chocolate ‘snacks’ are always a good incentive as are spotting other families either on the way down from the top as it’s a good way to encourage them up a hill on what could be seen in their eyes as just a boring walk.
As always as soon as we reached a milestone in the trek, or plodded round a corner and were treated to unexpected views it was all worthwhile. The view from the summit was the best I’d ever seen thanks to the beautiful clear and sunny weather! A quick photo of Alice proudly standing next to the cairn and we descended to have a well-deserved lunch before visiting Mirehouse Gardens in the afternoon.