Neolithic Cumbria, Arthur's Round Table and Mayburgh Henge
After visiting two spots on Hadrians Wall, we traveled back south towards the Lake District and had a late stopover in the village of Eamont Bridge to visit King Arthur's Round Table, a neolithic henge monument and a discovery, Mayburgh Henge, just across the street.
You can tell that people really don't care much about the neolithic monuments in Britain beyond Stonehenge. They don't have much beyond a trifling sign, stating "this is here" and often times, not even that. This suits me perfectly because these ancient sites are in fact my favorite place to visit, more than anything else, and because most people don't find them exciting they are nearly always empty and we get the place to ourselves. Divine.
This late neolithic henge monument was originally described as a Giant's dining table, later thought of as being 'Arthur's Jousting Arena' and then even later, the sobriquet "Round Table" was added. It means nothing, just some renaissance flavor to the location.
As with all neolithic sites, we don't know what they were used for. We make some guesses - and some are fairly educated (most are not) - but that is all they are, guesses. Anyone who claims to know is fooling themselves (and often trying to fool others) and I feel rather sorry for them.
For me, the mystery is the special part. It can remain a mystery forever and I don't need to invent an answer to quell my curiosity.
Just 400 meters across the street was something we didn't know was there when we came to see Arthur's Round Table. We hadn't searched for anything nearby on the English Heritage app, or if I did, I didn't see the result. So when we parked the car to see the "Round Table", I just felt like this was something - I mean it clearly LOOKS like something... but wasn't sure - so I snapped a picture anyway:
I thought it was two mounds or possibly bronze age barrows - and as we got out of the car we agreed to go investigate after looking at the Round Table.
Boy, am I glad we did. We popped out our English Heritage app just to see what was nearby. They have a great "around me" locator that is simply fantastic. This Mayburgh Henge appeared and we drove literally just down the road a few hundred feet and around the corner there was a sign for it. From the road (behind it, from where you're looking at it ^^^ there) it doesn't look like anything. A hill, maybe. You just walk UP. Once you reach the crest....
Well, I gasped.
Just writing about it now puts me back there in that state of mind when I crested the top of the henge and saw this laid out before me. It was Beltane Eve, I can't help but think that added to the whole feel of the place. It was empty and ours alone.
There used to be 4 standing stones in the center, but now it's a single sentinel and it's quite big. It looks tiny in the photo but that is simply thanks to my wide-angle lens. This place was gigantic. Rabbits were running across the grass to and from their warrens. The birdsong was cacophonous. We walked all over, took loads of photos, and just kind of soaked in the place.
If you look out the entrance to the east, it points right to Blencathra and Arthur's Round Table and interestingly, it aligns with the equinox.
The local folklore surrounding it is pretty thin on the ground, but there is one tale, written down in the 18th century by an antiquarian who recorded that the locals remember not only the four stones in the center, but two stones near the entrance. The local tavern owner who owned the land removed the two stones near the entrance of the henge and soon after, the worker who removed the stones hanged himself and the land owner went mad and lost his wits. After that, no one thought it wise to go meddling with the ancient monuments after that. Such is superstition :)