Sunkenkirk – Cumbria, England - Atlas Obscura

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One of the best-preserved, yet least visited stone circle sites in Cumbria. 


Also known as Swinside Stone Circle, or sometimes Swineshead, this monument lies beside Swinside Fells in the area of Black Combe. Sunkenkirk is a Neolithic site, one of more than 1,000 stone circles found across the British Isles and Brittany.

Local folklore states that the stone circle was created at night, when the devil would pull down the stones of a church that was being constructed on the site during the day. This is the reason the site became known as Sunkenkirk.

A different local legend states that it is impossible to count all of the stones. This legend may have roots in the fact that there are currently 55 stones still standing in the circle structure, however, when it was originally constructed there may have been around 60 stones.

The purpose of stone circles is still debated by archaeologists, although most believe they were constructed for either ritual or ceremonial reasons.

Constructed from local slate, Sunkenkirk has a diameter of 85 feet (26.8 meters). An entrance-exit portal was positioned on the southeastern side, this portal is easier to identify than at some other stone circles. 

Sunkenkirk has never been properly excavated, a cursory archeological investigation in 1901 found evidence of charcoal and bone fragments at the site. The excavation also found that the ground had been leveled before the stones were erected. The fact the site has not been excavated properly possibly explains the fact there is little dating information available about the circle, but it’s thought to have been constructed somewhere between 3300 and 900 BCE.

The views from the stone circle of the surrounding fells are equally as impressive as the circle itself. 

Know Before You Go

Parking for the stone circle is on the side of a narrow country lane near Crag Hall, please park following the laminated instructions put up by local farmers to avoid causing a nuisance to local traffic.

The walk from the limited parking area to the circle takes passes through beautiful, but rarely busy countryside, be aware that livestock may be loose in the area and keep any dogs under control.

The walk uphill on the Swinside Farm track is not difficult but can be wet and muddy after rain, so go prepared.

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October 19, 2021

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