Arbor Low henge & Gib Hill barrow
We’d all hoped we’d be able to go to Scotland on this trip: none of us had ever visited there before. We could afford only three days. (Note to future selves and to travellers: this is not enough time!) But we had an invitation to visit relatives of friends in a town a bit north of Inverness, and the temptation was too strong.
So after checking with British Midlands for news of my bag (no news yet, but upon hearing it had gone astray in Brussels my contact urged patience: “It can take a long time for errant bags to be returned from Brussels”), we headed north.
Today we headed to the Peak District, to the Arbor Low stone circle and Gib Hill barrow. Arbor Low is a neolithic stone circle (not standing stones, but lying down comfortably) with sheep placidly wandering around them, grazing and sunning themselves. Very cool to see such an old site (the first part was built around 10,000 years ago!) with absolutely no fuss about it. There was a stile to go over the fence, which tickled Clara no end — she’d been keen to climb a stile!
The name “Arbor Low” probably derives from Old English Eorthburg Hlaw, meaning “earthwork mound.” Absolute silence here, other than the occasional sheep bleat and the slow whistling of the wind.
It’s not a large site, but it’s one of the best preserved in Britain. The embankment and ditch were constructed about 5,500 years ago; the stones were added about 4,500 years ago; the connected burial mound was added about 2,500 years ago. And all of this is only a few hundred yards from Gib Hill, whose base layer is thought to be even older. It’s sobering to think about these dates, not just in relation to our own, but also in relation to each other. We saw three or four other people while we were there — but how many thousands of humans have stood on these hills, listening to the wind, looking out over the hills, and mulling over their place in it all?
Gib Hill is superficially less interesting than Arbor Low, but still somewhat unsettling for all that. The lower level is Neolithic; the upper is Bronze Age. It’s all covered by grass. It was difficult not to think of certain fictional barrows (inexplicably left out of a certain trilogy of films a decade ago). Though the sun was warm and the sky fair, we thought it prudent not to enjoy a picnic lunch on the barrow....
For much more information about these sites, take a look at the Arbor Low Environs Project, which includes extensive geophysical surveys, history of the sites, current work, &c.
And you should definitely look at Timothy’s spherical panorama.
Don’t forget: these are thumbnails; click or tap on any photo you want to see better!