Batty Wife Hole, Ribblehead, North Yorkshire

Ring Cairn (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SD 7622 7895

Getting Here

Old circle near Ribblehead (after Harry Speight)
Old circle near Ribblehead (after Harry Speight)

The great Yorkshire historian Harry Speight (1892) gave the directions for this place, which I’ve not located.  On his walk down the southern side off Whernside, he told us to “follow the road which runs between Gunnerfleet and the white house at Winterscales, going under the long viaduct and round by Batty Wife Hole onto the main road at Ribblehead….” About 100 yards or so down the road, look over the walling into the field on the left-hand side. It’s there…..somewhere!

Archaeology & History

In an area that is pretty rich in prehistoric sites, one of our great Yorkshire antiquarians, Harry Speight (1892) seems to have described a site which our archaeologists have yet to get round to finding.  He told that,

“nearer the wall there are indications of a rude, double circle, artificially formed of these dark weathered grits.  The inner circle is about 20 yards in diameter and the outer one forms a narrow aisle surrounding it, with an outlet to the north; but some of the stones have been removed, probably to build and repair the adjoining fences.  The situation is open and commands the country on all sides between the lofty moors and summits that hem in the dale-head.  On the opposite side of the road are the remains of a couple of large cairns.  They are presumably Danish.  One was opened about a century ago (c.1790), and found to cover a rude stone coffin containing an entire human skeleton.  The other large pile does not ever appear to have been examined. It is more than probable that many a furious battel has been waged here, as the possession of this prominent ridge, which dominates so many particular outlets, must have been of capital importance to every hostile tribe.”

Although the Victorian christian beliefs of ‘rudeness’ in everything and rampant hostile tribes, has long since subsided in the view of our ancestors.  This area described by Speight does sound like an old burial ground.  But from which age – and where now are the sites he described?


  1. Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands, Elliot Stock: London 1892.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian