Two historic sites. Three hundred miles apart. Their names aren’t linked in any way yet when you see them you see the similarities immediately. Both of them have been built at the same time, about 4000 years ago. In the Neolithic Age. Both are mysterious, with historians and archaeologists not knowing their true purpose. One you’ve probably guessed as Stonehenge in Salisbury. The other is called Castlerigg and it’s located in the Lake District.
When J and I had the opportunity to visit Stonehenge over the Bank Holiday Monday I was really excited. After all, that's what an extra day off from work is used for 😃 . We had booked our tickets online, as they work on a timed ticketing system which was a smart thing to do considering the queues we saw when we got there. As soon as we walked in, I could feel a difference in the atmosphere as there was this big element of mystery that surrounded the place. The first exhibit that caught my eye was the replica of the homes that they used to live in. They looked just like the homes my great great grandparents would have lived in. Mud huts. If I closed my eyes I could probably picture the mother’s preparing food as the children played around whilst the father’s were out working, probably on Stonehenge.
We got to the stones via the shuttle and headed to the front part of Stonehenge. From the guide, I learnt about the other stones which aren’t necessarily shown whenever you see an image of Stonehenge. The first was the heel stone. This was the first stone to be placed on Stonehenge and its placement marks the entrance of Stonehenge. The placement of the stone is important because during the two important days in the Neolithic calendar, midsummer morning and midwinter night, the sun would rise or set in a particular way.During midsummer, the sun would rise above the stone and during midwinter, it would set to the left of the stone. I believe this is why it was named the heel stone, after the Greek word “Helios” which is a reference to the sun.
The other stone, you probably would have missed if you turned right towards the stones the minute you spotted them, Slaughter Stone. This is believed to have been where sacrifices were made as the rock is said to have some red pigmentation probably the iron from the blood reacting with the oxygen.
At that moment, my mind wondered off into the Bible, when in the Old Testament sacrifices of animals were made and then presented to God. Maybe this had the same significance to them. This also makes me believe that Stonehenge was a sanctuary, like a temple.
Around the stones is a circle which when you're looking at it from the front of Stonehenge looks like a ditch. This is the henge part of the name "Stonehenge". It was also used as a burial place for cremations which amplifies the idea that Stonehenge was used as a sanctuary. There are two types of stones that can be found here, sarsens and bluestones. The sarsen rocks are the ones which are on the outside, the bigger ones of the rocks. The smaller ones, the bluestones were the ones that were interesting to me as they came all the way from Wales 😐
Why from there you might be asking. Well is appears they had healing powers, though I'm not sure if people got healed as some graves were found with chippings of the bluestones in the hands of heavily diseased people.
Whilst on the other hand 300 miles away, Castlerigg in the Lake District was another mystery to behold. Unlike Stonehenge which has been conserved and protected (you can't get close to the stones) Castlerigg was a lot more accessible. You could stand on the rocks if you wanted to. However, there were a lot of similarities.
The rocks had an entrance, and there was a separate section for the sanctuary. When you looked at the rocks surrounding, you'd see they were set in the middle of the mountains, so a bit like the henge in Stonehenge. Similarly to Stonehenge, not much is known about the purpose of the building. It's one of the things that I loved the most. You get a chance to imagine what they might have used these places as. It's probably one of the few places that have the archaeologists and historians still wondering why.
Blue Trainer Tips.
- Book your tickets for Stonehenge in advance. You can do this from here.
- Get an audio guide as this will help you understand more
- Take a walk around the surrounding area to see more of the place
- Talk to someone !! Talk about what you think Stonehenge's purpose was.
- Consider going during Midsummer/winter solstice
- Read more about Castlerigg here
So, have you been to Stonehenge? If you have what did you think was the purpose of Stonehenge?
If not, what are you waiting for ??
Till next time