"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Rollright Stones

David, my son, has been on holiday this week so we had a day out today and visited The Rollright Stones, a group of pre-historic Megalithic monuments, on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border.

The Rollright Stones consist of the King's Men Stone Circle, the King's Stone, and the Whispering Knights. The name Rollright is thought to have originated from "Hrolla-landright" - the land of Hrolla. It is believed it was once a meeting place for communities - a stone axe from Cornwall and a flint from the Berkshire Downs have been found.

The King's Men Stone Circle - a ceremonial monument believed to have been built around 2500 - 2000 BC

The stone circle consists of heavily weathered, local oolitic limestones forming a circle around 30 metres in diameter. Legend has it that the stones are uncountable but there are around 70. Originally the circle consisted of around 105 stones which formed a continuous wall with one narrow entrance situated opposite the tallest stone.

The stones are covered in lichens some of which are thought to be 400 - 800 years old!

View from the circle - although it would have looked a lot different when the Stone Circle was erected. Most of the monuments may have originally been built in woodland glades or large clearings. In around 1500 BC the land would have been cleared to create open grassland.

400 yards in the distance are The Whispering Knights

This is the remains of a "Portal Dolmen " burial chamber believed to have been built between 3800 - 3000 BC i.e. long before the Stone Circle was erected. The 5000 year old burial chamber is believed to be part of a Neolithic Long Barrow. The five upright stones or Knights were so named because of the way the stones lean inwards towards each other as if they are conspiring or plotting against their King. It is the easternmost burial chamber of this type in Britain.

Looking back towards the Stone Circle which is situated between the two copses of trees in the distance.

The King's Stone - a large, single, Standing Stone

The age of this Stone is unclear although it is believed it was built in the Middle Bronze Age ~1800 - 1500 BC. It purpose is again unclear although it may have been a Bronze Age cemetery or an astronomical marker, marker stone or part of a former avenue of stones connected to the Stone Circle.

There is a large notch on one side of the King's Stone which was caused by eighteenth century drovers who chipped away small pieces to use as lucky charms.

"The Stones of the Blood" Doctor Who story which was first broadcast in four parts in 1978 was partially filmed at the Rollright Stones.

Myths and Legends

I love the sense of timelessness, mystery, myth and magic that you feel at ancient Stone Circles and there are many legends associated with the Rollright Stones.

A king who had ambitions to conquer England was leading his army across the Cotswolds when they chanced upon a witch who told them

"Seven long strides thou shalt take, and
if Long Compton thou canst see
King of England shalt thou be"

The King walked forward and as he took his seventh stride the ground rose up in a long mound hiding the village of Long Compton in the valley below. The witch turned the King and his men to stone with the King overlooking the village, his men standing in the circle nearby and his 5 knights plotting some distance away.

Tradition tells that at some point the spell may well be broken and the King and his army will come back to life and continue with their conquest of England.

Other legends tell that the spell is temporarily broken at the witching hour (midnight) when the King's Army come back to life and dance in a circle or sometimes they go down the hill to drink from a nearby spring but the King only joins them when he hears the Long Compton clock strike midnight.

Myths suggest it is impossible to count the stones accurately. If anyone gets the same number three times they will receive their heart's desire. Although another legends suggests they will die!

Underneath the King's Stone and Stone Circle it is told that faeries live in caverns. At midnight the fairies leave their caves via a hole in a nearby bank and dance around the circle by the light of the moon.

Myths suggest that the King Stone in particular has the power to improve fertility and in the past young women would visit the Whispering Knights and hold their ears against the stones in the hope that the Knights would whisper the name of their future husbands.

Earth mysteries are also connected to the Rollright Stones with dowsers recording powerful reactions here, UFO sightings and three ley lines have been associated with the site.

For more information on the Stones visit


After visiting the Stones we made our way to nearby Wyatts Farm Shop in search of sustenance!

A cup of tea and a Yogurt topped blackcurrant and apple flapjack which tasted as good as it looked!


ShySongbird said...

An excellent post Caroline and beautifully illustrated too! I wonder how many more of your posts are going to resonate with me! It keeps happening ;-) I haven't visited lately but have been many times both as a child and an adult and it really is a fascinating and atmospheric place. I have tried many times to count the stones and each time had a different result :-) I believe there are Druid ceremonies held there for the Summer Solstice too. An interesting and informative post with lots of information which was new to me.

Ragged Robin said...

Shy Songbird - Hi Jan - Many thanks :) I thought of you today thinking I may have been in your area :) We've been meaning to visit for ages and David, likes me, loves stone circles. As you say it is is fascinating there and so atmospheric. We were so lucky to experience it in solitude :) So pleased to be able to find places that are not horribly commercialised. The website has lots of good information. You are very fortunate to live in such a lovely area with so many beautiful places nearby :) Thanks again :)

Toffeeapple said...

Everything I always waned to know about the stones! We have been there so often but never got out of the car until we got to Wyatts. Thank you so much for writing about this and for the link, off to read up about them now.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Many thanks. The Stones are well worth a visit. Hope you get chance to stop off next time. Wish Wyatts was closer to where I live! Bought some lovely cheese and pasties and the flapjack was wonderful. Nice nurseries too :)

Andrew said...

May I mention a charming story written by K.M.Briggs called Hobberdy Dick which is set in the country around the Rollrights. It combines history, folklore and magic. Hobberdy Dick is a benign lob who guards a manor house from evil, both human and spirit. There is a terrific sense of place and of the countryside around. After reading it, I wanted it to be true and the only comparable book to me is Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill. I only found it recently republished by Faber.

Ragged Robin said...

Andrew - Many thanks for recommending the Book. I have found it on Amazon and it looks fascinating - will add it to my Christmas List :) Thanks again.

Tricia said...

I've visiting the stones more than once but not been aware of all the history so thanks for completing the tale.

Cake? tut tut, not that we ever would... does look nice though :D

Ragged Robin said...

Tricia - Glad you enjoyed the history :)

If you visit the Stones again and haven't been before the Farm Shop is well worth a visit. Son's on a diet so was most unimpressed that I went ahead anyway and had my cake!!!!!

Rohrerbot said...

Your tea time looks wonderful. Love all the history from this place. A really fun post full of wonderful shots and great info. I love all that stuff to...the mystery and rumors of the ancient spirits:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rohrerbot - Many thanks Chris. Fascinating place with a real atmosphere and sense of history :) The real history behind the stones is wonderful but the myths and legends just add to the magic and mystery!