My route now took me through the moorland north west of Orton and on towards Shap. The small town of Shap sits on the far eastern fringe of Lakeland like a poor relation at a wedding celebration. Despite the efforts of the council and tourist board to market Shap as “Gateway To The Eastern Lakes” it remains a working class town with a very visible industrial presence along the length of its linear plan. It feels like a place where you are more likely to see hi-vis vests and rigger boots than designer mountain jackets, which is a good thing. Of course in the stone age Shap and the hill sides around the present town were at the centre of a large and complex ritual landscape marked by a network of stone circles, megalithic avenues, cairns and standing stones. Driving over the moors from Orton every other rock catches ones attention and it is possible to see broken cairns and opened cists at every bend in the road. I would love to spend more time here and test to see if my suspicions are bourn out but the day is already moving on and I have too many things to do.
Castlehow Scar is a small and ruinous stone circle that is, quite frankly, hardly worth the effort of visiting were it not that it is on the way to other, more impressive sites. One crosses the M6 heading east out of Shap, rising up to the long ridge that runs north-south from Penrith to Tebay. At the crest of the ridge and in the lee of a long narrow plantation of spindly, under-nourished sitka spruce the stone circle stands up against a wire fence and a dry stone wall. Public access is not allowed and I had to balletically climb and balance across the barbed wire fence but it really wasn’t worth the trouble. After the vast scale of Gamelands this is an anti-climax. The sense of bewilderment and let-down is increased by the obstruction caused by the plantation, which cuts off all views to the fells at the far east of the vale of Eden. But ones eye is drawn westwards to nearby Shap with it’s complex of megalithic monuments and the siting of Castlehow Scar stone circle must be part of this wider landscape, with its views to the amphitheatre of High Places that surround the Vale of Eden. Even so, Castlehow Scar circle is not something that I would travel to see again.