For centuries, Stonehenge has dazzled and mystified both visitors and experts alike. While recent research efforts have revealed some details about the unusual stone circle that shed light on its history, nothing can definitively explain why it's there. As it turns out, Stonehenge isn't even the only place where one can find a stone circle such as that. Cumbria is home to its own, and it's far less visited than that of its neighbor directly to the south.
Located in the far northern tip of the U.K., Sunkenkirk - or the Swinside Stone Circle, as it's often called - is smaller, but no less impressive.
What's Known About The Swineside Stone Circle
The reason behind why this stone structure is not nearly as popular as Stonehenge is because its location is a bit more obscure. It's located about a mile walk from the nearest main road which can be a hike but hasn't stopped interested parties from checking it out for themselves. Cumbria, England, is an otherwise small town, and the stone circle is located surprisingly close to the town itself. The circle has been created with 55 stones in total although there's evidence that there may have been an even 60 at some point - it's unlikely that number will ever be known for certain.
The reason behind the placement of the stones is even more unclear, and there are several theories as to why they were placed the way they are. The most logical explanations revolve around ceremonial or ritualistic reasons, which tends to make sense as far as Stonehenge is concerned, as well.
Fast Facts About Sunkenkirk
- The diameter of the circle is 85 feet
- There are still 55 stones in total which make up the circle today
- It's estimated that the structure was built between 3300 and 900 BCE
Why Are The Stones There?
It's believed that on one side, a 'portal' entrance and exit can be found on the southeastern side, which is characteristic of many stone circles. The positioning of this doorway makes it quite obvious that this was once the way in and out of the circle which has been able to give experts further clues about its intended purpose. It's believed that, due to the position of this entrance and exit, the circle may have also been used for astronomical occurrences. The stones appear to line up with the midwinter sunrise, which could be indicative of a ceremony relating to the solstices. While Sunkenkirk has never been excavated as most other stone structures have, it is believed that the ground was leveled out first prior to the stones being placed there. This, once again, has given experts further clues as to why it was built - in this case, the placement was very intentional.
- Fact: The name 'Sunkenkirk' comes from an old legend that claims the locals kept trying to build a church in the place where the stones sit, but the devil kept knocking them down.
The first official investigation in 1901 yielded some particularly interesting results. When the area was examined, pieces of charcoal and bone fragments were found which would theoretically back up the intended ritual or ceremonial practice that may have been performed there. According to Britain Express, Sunkenkirk is one of the most impressive stone structures in Britain simply due to the nature of its construction. Were it to be exhumed properly, the site would likely tell stories dating back to the Neolithic Era, which makes the fact that it's still standing even more impressive.
Another unique facet of this stone circle is that each of the stones chosen varies greatly in both their shape and their size. This was likely intentional although the reason why is still unknown. The tallest stone is about ten feet in height which speak to the grandeur of the circle overall, as there are 55 other stones ranging in size from that point. In stark contrast to Stonehenge, it is a known fact that these stones were gathered from the surrounding fells in Cumbria. The composition of the stones, porphyritic slate, is a good indicator that they were found locally and were not carried very far. Throughout the centuries, some of the stones have fallen over, leaving only about 30 of them still standing in their original position.
It's not entirely easy to find this stone circle but it's also not impossible. As cryptic as that sounds, visitors will need to be prepared to walk at least a mile there and back. Starting from the A55 road, two and a half miles from Broughton-in-Furness, visitors should take the minor road that heads toward Broadgate.
Crag Hall will be visible as well as Swineside Farm; the road there is private, but visitors can walk up the track that leads to the stone circle. While the track runs parallel to the farm, it is a public footpath. The walk takes about 15 minutes overall, and it's hard to miss Sunkenkirk once one is on the trail.