Arthurian England Part 9: Lesser Known Stone Circles

Lanyon Quoit as the mists rolled in.

Britain is famous for its standing stones, partly because no one knows exactly what they were for. Were they ritual sites? Giant calendars? Something to do with aliens or Atlantis? All of these theories and more have been posed. One that is certain is they marked places that were somehow special to the ancient inhabitants of the land.

I’ll get to Stonehenge and Avebury next week, but this week I wanted to introduce you to some smaller stones and circles you may not have heard about. I didn’t know them before going on the trip, but I am sure glad I had a chance to visit. In many ways, these are even cooler than their more famous counterparts, partly because they still have an air of authenticity to them that’s been worn away by the tourist traffic at the more popular sites.

Lanyon Quoit

Linda and me under Laynon Quoit.

Linda and me under Lanyon Quoit.

Not far outside of Madron is the dolmen of Lanyon Quoit.  It is three vertical stones supporting a horizontal capstone. It’s a little over five feet tall, which I know because I was able to stand under it. Its purpose is unknown, but it was thought to be a burial site. It was destroyed in a storm in the 1800s, but rebuilt, minus one of its vertical stones. Local lore says each of the original stones was aligned with a cardinal direction, leading some to speculate it was a ritual site. Rumor also has it that it was once tall enough for a horse and rider to stand underneath.

The mists were just rolling in when we were there, so it was very picturesque (and cold). I was fascinated by this structure for some reason and my photos of it make me want to go back and spend more time there (we were chased away by a school group). If you want a cool 360 degree view, check out this site.

Random Stone

I wonder what this stone marked or if it was once part of a circle?

I wonder if this lonely stone was once part of a circle?

Near Lands End, we were driving along when Jamie suddenly pulled over and got out, proclaiming, “I think I just saw a standing stone!” Sure enough, there it was, all by itself in the middle of a field. Only in Europe would you find such a thing. It makes me wonder what the ancients were marking with it.




This was my favorite stone circle. It’s about 3,000 years old and is still used by the Druids today. It’s a circle of 19 stones unique in several aspects: 1) One of its stones, the Healer’s Stone, is made of pure quartz. 2) The center stone has always been set at an angle (as opposed to other circles where stones have fallen that way) and 3) its center stone lines up with the Beltane (May 1) sunrise and several other nearby standing stones, which are all on a ley line.

The Healer’s Stone, made of pure quartz.

When we got to the circle, we all held hands and silently wove in and out between the stones, which was very powerful, especially when you think we were tracing the footsteps of worshipers who came several thousand years before us. For me, the tip of the center stone is very powerful. When I stood in front of it, it felt like a beam of golden light was passing into my solar plexus and heart chakras. I also sat and meditated beneath it and had some very powerful experiences. When we left, I felt like I had the ancient “fire in the head” – my head was very hot, to the touch and felt that way from the inside, too. I have no doubt it was some kind of inspiration.

If I lived in the area, I’d go to this circle every chance I had.

The Merry Maidens

Merry Maidens
The Merry Maidens is one of the more well-known smaller stone circles in England. Legend says that a group of 19 women were caught dancing on the Sabbath. As punishment, they were all turned to stone, along with their two pipers, which are two outlying stones not far from the circle. It’s a smaller, quieter, place with a very peaceful energy.

Have you been to any of these stone circles? What were your experiences? What do you think the purpose of stones like these are?

8 thoughts on “Arthurian England Part 9: Lesser Known Stone Circles

  1. I haven’t been to any of these, sadly, but my favourite stone circle is also lesser-known. It is the Machrie Moor Standing Stones, on the Isle of Arran. Rather hidden away and much less well known than Callanish on Lewis, it’s one of the most atmospheric place I’ve been to – and like you, I’ve been to a few! 😉

    • Cheryl, believe it or not, there are about a thousand in Britain and there were once many more, as well as hundreds of earth or timber circular enclosures. Stonehenge is the most sophisticated, with its lintels attached by mortice and tenon joints and the outer ring joined together with tongue-and-groove. Avebury is the biggest, with a medieval village inside its 20 foot deep banks, and it is flanked by an impressive chambered tomb and an artificial hill, once white, that is the size of a pyramid!
      There are several constants found in almost all stone circles–sun (or moon…or both) and death. They are ancestral places, but even when in use may have had differences from each other–Avebury, for example, seems to have been for grand spectacle, with many things happening on its raised platform, while Stonehenge was more for an ‘elite’, with little evidence of use inside and possible traces of screening at the entrances to keep people from looking into the ‘holy of holies.’ I suspect the Stonehenge Avenue as a processional path may have been deemed the only safe way to approach the monument in a landscape of ghosts and shadows, where there were no settlements (nearest one 2 mi away) but only barrows of the dead and the ancient line of the mysterious curcus, predating Stonehenge itself, forming a boundary between the living world and the ‘Not-world’ of the Ancestors.

    • You’re welcome! As Janet says, there are actually a lot of them. Another one of my favorites is the first one I ever saw: Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District. On our tour, Jamie told us that that one is actually aligned with the moon, rather than the sun. It’s made of beautiful rock, too, with a pinkish-purpsle hue. It reminded me a lot of a faerie ring.

  2. Been to Bosacawen-Un; stayed on the farm whose land it is on. The centre stone is unusual in that it is a pointer (possibly there is another deliberate pointer at Stanton drew, Somerset) but also that it has a rare carving, very eroded, of a stone axe. Axe carvings are also found at Stonehenge and in Brittany, France.

      • It’s quite hard to see, the light has to slant in exactly the right direction. There are some huge flanged axe carvings on the outer ring of Stonehenge facing east that you can only see around 9AM in the morning! 9The famous ones inside Stonehenge show up best in raking late afternoon light.)

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