Beltane Travels & Festivities

Emma Kathryn Avatar

Stone circles and Beltane seem to have become something of a theme for me over the last couple of years. Last year’s May Day found us at Castlerigg and Long Meg stone circles in the Lake District while a week ago today we were a little closer to home in the Peak District.

Peak District photo credit @emma kathryn

The Peak District is one of my favourite places to visit and not too far from home, about an hour’s drive away. And the drive’s great too, at least if you are a passenger (and whenever we go anywhere, I’m always a passenger, my beloved prefers to drive, which suits me right down to the ground). It doesn’t seem to take long before the road starts to rise and the landscape gives way to the rolling Derbyshire Dales, tors and valleys, a ruggedly beautiful landscape at any time of the year.

There is so much history steeped in the land, wherever you live, there is certainly no need to travel anywhere to feel that connection between yourself and the land, but allowing ourselves to experience different places, even if they are within our own localities, is something that can be an exhilarating experience, particularly at this time of year when the the energies of the land feel particularly vibrant.

We initially set out to find Doll Tor, an almost forgotten stone , though the map declares it isn’t accessible to the public, you know I like a challenge and adventure. And while we did narrow this elusive stone circle down to a small patch of woodland, we gave it up for another day and instead headed over to Stanton Moor and the Nine Ladies.

There are ten stones altogether, though only nine in the circle, with another a little way off to one side. The story goes, as so many of the legends associated with stone circles hint at, the the stones were once women, turned to stone as punishment. And these ladies particular crime? Dancing on the sabbath of course! The stone that stands just outside of the circle, according to folklore, was their fiddler.

We arrived at the circle after passing through a silver birch woods. Moss covers the ground and climbs over rocks that protrude from the earth, forming small cliffs and outcrops that are fun to explore and make you feel as though you surely are in an enchanted woodlands.

After a little meditation and ritual work in the centre, I left my offering of water poured as libation and left as others began to find their way to the circle.

It was still early and so we headed over to Arbor Low, and it was the first time I’d visited here. While the site is maintained by English Heritage, access is via farmland and costs you a quid. You park up and walk down the drive and through the farm, passing through a field of cows.

Arbor Low is a Neolithic henge comprising a stone circle on raised earth work and surrounded by a ditch. Believed to have been dug out by hand using picks made from deer antler and bone.

Standing on the outer ring, looking in at the stones and the raised earthwork, with the beauty and sheer openness of the landscape, with the still cool wind rushing in your ears and catching at your hair, making it dance about as though alive, it’s as though you are connected to those who came before, to the land, to spirit. I made a small posie of wildflowers, mostly dandelion and daisy tied with a long piece of grass and left it with the others before heading across the next field to Gib Hill, another neolithic barrow but with a bronze age round barrow fixed on to one side.

We finished the day by visiting the curiously named Nine Stones stone circle on Harthill Moor. I say curiously named as if you go looking for a circle containing nine stones, you aren’t going to find one.

There are only four stones left standing, the original nine reduced to seven by the nineteen hundreds and only four today, though what has happened to the other stones, who knows. The stones are just a short walk from Robin Hood’s Stride, a large rocky outcrop popular with learner climbers, walkers and families.

We headed home, bodies tired (a late night before with a fire and a drink or two for May eve) but spirits refreshed. No matter how you celebrated, hope you had a blessed Beltane (or a deliciously wicked one instead ;))

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