We can’t promise portals to other worlds or time-traveling adventures, but these walks will make you feel like you’re on your very own fantastic journey.
With over one-thousand standing stone structures across the U.K, it’s a pity that Stonehenge is the first one to spring to mind for many. From the mighty and mythical to the much-loved and miniature, Chiara Bullen has compiled a list of some lesser-known standing stones, stone circles and the walks that lead you there.
The Twelve Apostles, Ilkley
The Twelve Apostles are believed to be at least one-thousand years older than Stonehenge – and you won’t have to deal with hoards of tourists to get a look in either. From the Cow and Calf Rocks’ car park you can reach these impressive stones after a thirty-minute walk. Once you’ve finished soaking up the historic atmosphere, turn to see panoramic views of Menwith Hill and the Hambleton Hills. If you have time to spare, there are other stones worth looking out for scattered across Burley Moor.
Machrie Moor Standing Stones, Machrie
These spectacular stones on the Isle of Arran are truly a sight to behold – they are quite simply enormous and feel almost overwhelming, the tallest stone standing at five metres high. Start your walk at the carpark north of Blackwaterfoot and make sure you don’t follow the track to the ruins of Moss Farm instead – keep an eye out for the information boards to keep you on the right path. On a clear day, you can see Goatfell in the distance – a mere hour’s drive away from the stones if you’re tempted to tackle it.
Grey Wethers, Dartmoor
This monument falls into six areas; including two stone circles, two ring cairns, three round cairns and an oval enclosure. The circles together are known as The Grey Wethers, with ‘Wether’ being an Old English word for sheep. The stones said to bear a passing resemblance to a grazing herd from a distance. The area is rich in folklore, with one story suggesting a farmer was once tricked into purchasing the stones, mistaking them like many others for sheep. You can get there through Fernworthy Forest and by following the road from Chagford to Fernworthy Reservoir.
Standing Stones of Stenness, Stenness
These imposing stones stand up to six metres tall and are part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. At the centre of the ring sits a large stone hearth and it is believed there were once twelve stones standing here. The Ring of Brodgar is just over 1km north of the Stones of Stennes and the 5,000-year-old tomb Maeshowe is also nearby, although it’s only accessed through guided tours. You can book via historic-scotland.gov.uk.
Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick
This mighty stone circle contains stones as tall as three metres and it is thought to be one of the oldest in the country. Situated on a beautiful plateau with views of the surrounding fells (including Skiddaw and Blencathra) and overlooking the Thirlmere valley, you can head to this site from Keswick Market Square. Count the stones and see if you can come up with the same number twice – local legend has it that you’ll get a different number every time!
Maen Llia, Brecon Beacons National Park
One of the few standing stone sites in the area, Maen Llia is situated close to the Senni valley and Ystradfellt, meaning it’s easy to make a day out of a trip to this popular spot. Although just a single stone, folklore provides plenty of personality for this megalith – it is said that Maen Llia can be seen wandering down to Afon Llia for a drink on occasion. Accessible via the ancient Roman road of Sarn Helen, another significant and equally mysterious standing stone known as Maen Madoc sits about two miles south.
Giant’s Ring, Ballynahatty
Dramatic and profound, the Giant’s Ring is an enormous henge monument near Shaw’s Bridge and offers fantastic views across the Lagan Valley. Start a family-friendly circular trail from the Minnowburn Bridge, head through the Minnowburn Woods and explore this Neolithic monument before heading back over Terrace Hill. You may end up coming across grazing livestock so please be mindful of the farmland and keep dogs on a leash.
Moel Tŷ Uchaf, Llandrillo
Nestled on a hill in the Berwyn Range, this cairn-circle rewards you with spectacular views for taking the trouble to reach it. A little more challenging to find compared to the others on this list, start from the car park in Llandrillo and head out until you come across Tegids way. Once you reach the gate after ascending uphill for a while, turn left to continue up towards the stones – there are no markers to lead the way but the eleven-metre-wide circle is fairly easy to find. With views of Cadair Bronwen, the Aran Ridge and Arenig surrounding you, it’s hard to tear yourself away.
Boscawen-Ûn, St Buryan
In the Middle Ages, this circle was said to be used for Druidic gatherings and there is much debate about the purpose of the unique pillar that leans precariously in the centre. This structure can be a little tricky to find, and if you’re driving then look for a layby on the A30 where you can spot a kissing-gate leading to the trail. Creeg Tol (The Giant’s Footprint) is another stone structure nearby you won’t want to miss.
The Devil’s Arrows, Boroughbridge
Also known as ‘The Devil’s Bolts’, ‘The Three Greyhounds’ and ‘The Three Sisters’, legend has it that walking around these stones twelve times in an anti-clockwise direction will raise the Devil himself. Whether you’re willing to test that theory or not, the stones can be accessed by a quick jaunt from Boroughbridge which is a delight to explore, and the nearby River Ure offers quaint riverside trails.