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Henge Stones: Rollright (The Cotswolds)

Updated on February 27, 2013
The Rollright Stones, the King's Men
The Rollright Stones, the King's Men | Source

On a surprisingly sunlit day in the English Cotswolds, a large circle of stones stands. These are ancient stones, pitted, pocked, marked with mosses and weather spots, and they stand proud.

This ring is known as the King's Men. Also on site are the King's Stone and the Whispering Knights. If you are the hands-on type, this is a perfect opportunity for you to be close to prehistoric stones. Unlike Stonehenge or even Avebury, you may not only approach the stones, but you may touch them, sit on them, take pictures with them, and otherwise familiarize yourself with them.

And if you're visiting the Stones at the right time of the season, you may even take part in the Druid solstice rituals!

The King's Men

Entering the circle is exciting -- from which angle should one approach? Which stone looks the most interesting? You touch the stones to feel their depth, and knowing you are touching rock from thousands of years ago is simply fantastic.

The circle itself is about 108 feet wide, adding to its mystique. Some of the stones lay in the ground, covered by grass and moss; some stand upright, while others appear to have been molded by the wind and rain. Some have whole middle sections worn right through, also from weathering.

Another view of the the King's Men (Rollright Stones)
Another view of the the King's Men (Rollright Stones) | Source
It's easy to imagine stones and shadows working together to form shapes. I see a frog here in these two.
It's easy to imagine stones and shadows working together to form shapes. I see a frog here in these two. | Source
My favorite of the King's Men at the Rollright Stones
My favorite of the King's Men at the Rollright Stones | Source

The Whispering Knights

Follow a permissible footpath around a large field of red poppies to get to the Whispering Knights. This cluster of three large stones stands behind a low wrought iron fence and is visible from the King's Men.

Named for the manner in which the stones appear to lean toward each other and "whisper" together in cahoots against their king, the Whispering Knights are the remains of a burial chamber from the Neolithic period, likely dating from 4000-3500 BCE. Originally the burial chamber would have had more supports, with the flatter capstone resting atop them all. But it lays at the feet of the still-tall supports behind a black wrought-iron fence.

The Whispering Knights at the Rollright Stones
The Whispering Knights at the Rollright Stones | Source
Another view of the Whispering Knights
Another view of the Whispering Knights | Source
Do you see someone's profile?  I do!
Do you see someone's profile? I do! | Source

The King's Stone

Across the street stands the King's Stone. Majestic and alone, it waits behind an iron gate as visitors approach it. It was cordoned off between WWI and WWII since locals had taken to chipping pieces from the stone in the belief that it would protect them in battle.

When I took my pictures, the only company the stone had was a couple of cows.

Approaching the King's Stone.
Approaching the King's Stone. | Source
The King's Stone stands alone
The King's Stone stands alone | Source
Joining in with Druids to celebrate the summer solstice at the Rollright Stones
Joining in with Druids to celebrate the summer solstice at the Rollright Stones | Source

Druid Rituals at the Rollright Stones

The Cotswold Order of Druids honors pagan events like solstices and Samhain, as well as rare events like the Transit of Venus by holding public celebrations.

You may be asked if you would like to celebrate the earth with them (I did it and it felt lovely), but if you feel uncomfortable, they will not force you to join in.

Mother Shipton's Legend

Legend says that the stones were originally men -- a witch named Mother Shipton turned a traveling King and his party to stone after challenging the king to see Long Compton on his way to conquering all of England.

Upon his final stride toward his attempt to see the town, the ground rose up and blocked his view. The legend continues that Mother Shipton turned the whole company to stone and herself into a tree so she could watch them.

Legend also states that fairies (faeries) live under the stones. I can't provide proof of the fairies, but I can show you that wildlife has found a home with The King's Men -- large snails have taken up shelter within the stones.
Legend also states that fairies (faeries) live under the stones. I can't provide proof of the fairies, but I can show you that wildlife has found a home with The King's Men -- large snails have taken up shelter within the stones. | Source

The Uncountable Stones

On the way to the Stones, I stopped for lunch in Chipping Norton. Since I hadn't spied any signage yet, I asked the manager of the pub for directions. He provided them, and asked if I knew the legend of counting the stones.

"No, please tell!"

"The legend states that no one can count the stones three times and come up with the same number. Either another stone crops up, or several will be missing. If you can count the stones thrice properly and come up with the same total, your heart's desire will be fulfilled."

"So how many are there, really?"

"I'm sorry, miss, can't answer that. No one really knows."

And please believe me when I tell you that once I arrived, I tried to count the stones in the ring. But I couldn't! I kept losing my place and before I even made it around twice, I gave up. I satisfied myself by marveling at their age and ridged and furrowed beauty.

Fees and Hours

Admission costs a very reasonable £1. The site is not publicly subsidized, so they rely on donations.

The site is open from sunrise to sunset, and may also be booked through the Rollright Trust for functions (birthdays, educational opportunities, and others in addition to pagan festivals).

My Impression of the Stones

I very much enjoyed taking part in the pagan ritual, but the ambiance of The King's Men (at least, pre-ritual) is diminished somewhat by a well-traveled road immediately on the other side of the bushes. Engine noises are not exactly what one imagines when they think of ancient circles.

The poppy field bordering the King's Men and the Whispering Knights does provide a sense of peace, however. So if I'm ever in the Cotswolds again, I'll make it my business to return to the site. I was there during the day, but I certainly wonder what the King's Men would look like in the moonlight...

Also, shortly after this hub was published, the Rollright Stones site was named one of the seven wonders of the Cotswolds by a public vote. They sure know their stuff!

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    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Joanveronica, this was one of the most exciting and beautiful visits I've ever made... it was certainly the most inspiring. Thank you for stopping by, and for the compliment.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      This is fantastic! Enjoyed it so much. Voted up, also ABI.

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi, Teresa and thanks so much! Visiting this ancient yet fairly accessible location was a wonderful experience, one I wouldn't trade for anything. I'm so glad you liked the pictures as well. If you get the chance, do stop by to see them in person. :-) Rachel

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Rachel, awesome job. Your photos are fantastic and your personal tales made me feel like I was right there with you. Wish I could have been, your visit to England and all it's wonders must have been spectacular!

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hiya, K9! Thank you so much for stopping by. The pictures were soo much fun to take, and the stones really were as warm as you suggest. HubHugs right back atcha, chickadee!

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

      I love this hub. The photos are as amazing as the story itself! What a great look at The Rollright Stones! I could almost feel the textures of the rough well-worn surfaces and the warmth of the sun as it bounced off the craggy stone faces. The barkeep sounds fascinating, and his tail of counting the stones could cause me to stay all day counting in an attempt to manage a matching outcome thrice. Wonderfully written, and delightful to share! Nice job, Rachel!

      HubHugs my Friend~

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey, Crystal! Thanks very much for the comment and follow, and the share! :^)

      Yes, the site was warming, and not just because of the sun... simply knowing that the stones had been there for so long was something I found extremely reassuring.

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi, Robin! Thank you -- always great to see you. It was so much fun taking these pictures and I'm so glad others are enjoying them too. :^)

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hiya, Heather! Thanks so much. Yes, I wanted to go to Stonehenge too, but was sooo disappointed to hear that one cannot get close. In fact, people by the thousands crowd for the solstices. Tomorrow I'll look online for pictures of them, but tonight I'll enjoy the solstice from the garden! :^)

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      Oooh, very cool. I've never heard of this site, but it has a kind of romantic feel to it, as far as I can tell from the pictures. Thanks for sharing this. Voted up and shared with followers.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Your photos make me feel like I'm there! Thanks for taking us with you and for the history lesson about the Rollright stones. ;)

    • Heather Jacobs profile image

      Heather Jacobs 5 years ago

      Great hub! I've never heard of the Rollright stones but it seems like a great place to touch history. I remember going to Stonehenge and thinking how silly it was taking pictures as you had to stand quite far away. Vote up!