Snowden Crags Necropolis, Askwith Moor, North Yorkshire

Cairnfield:  OS Grid Reference – SE 176 514

Also Known as:

  1. Snowden Moor Cairnfield

Getting Here

From the Askwith Moor Road parking spot and walk up the road for about 500 yards an head to your right (east) onto he moor, above the rocky ridge known as Snowden Crags.  After 100 yards or so of walking through the heather, the entire cairnfield is under your very feet!  If the heather’s grown, you probably won’t see a thing.

Archaeology & History

First described in Eric Cowling Rombald’s Way (1946), where he mentions around 30 cairns on the moorland plain immediately west of the Snowden Moor settlement. These were plainly visible when Richard Stroud and I visited here in 2005, thanks mainly to the fact that the heather had been burnt away.  Once it’s grown back, virtually all of these tombs will be hard to find.  I first had fortune to see some of these tombs on a visit here with Graeme Chappell about 15 years ago, but only a little of the cemetery was then visible.  Following another visit to the site this week, a great deal more has become visible, thanks again to heather-burning on the moors.

One of around 30 cairns on the ridge
…and another one!

Curiously omitted from the Nidderdale Archaeological survey report of sites in this region (anyone know why?), the cemetery itself stretches from the western edge of the Snowden Moor settlement, several hundred yards west along the flat moorland plain towards the moorland road, stopping a short distance before the line of old grouse butts.  It is highly likely that some of the stones in the grouse-butts originated in some of the prehistoric cairns along the ridge.  And if summat aint done about it, there’s a likelihood this could easily happen again in the near future.

…and another!

The easternmost cairn touches the very edge of the D-shaped settlement; and another of them is right next to a cup-marked stone.  Whilst a number of the cairns along this ridge are much like those found on the moors above Ilkley, Bingley, Middleton, Askwith Moor, Earby, etc — averaging 2-3 yards in diameter and less than 2 feet high amidst the peat and decaying herbage — one notable feature to many of these tombs is the inclusion of a rather large, singular boulder, against which or around are propped the smaller stones, typical of cairns found elsewhere in the region.  This ‘large boulder’ characteristic is not common at other tombs in the mid-Pennines, but seems specific to this graveyard.   Neither do the large boulders seem set in any particularly consistent fashion.  There is the possibility that they were originally above the smaller cairn of stones, but this is purely hypothetical and non-verifiable without excavations.

The important Snowden Crags cairn circle, discovered by the hardworking Keighley volunteer Michala Potts on Thursday, 20 May, 2010, can be found on the northern part of this cairnfield.


Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of Mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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