It’s easier to explain how to get here if you’re coming from the Burnsall-side of the B6160 road that leads to Bolton Abbey. A half-mile out of Burnsall village you a small woodland with a small parking spot. From here, a footpath runs up the steep hill above the parking spot. It zigzags a little and you eventually come out on the south-side of the trees where it meets some tall walling. Follow this walling further uphill for more than 600 yards (past more woodland) until the land starts to level out. Hereby, go thru an opening in the wall and less than 100 yards away (west) amidst the overgrown heather, you’ll see what you’re looking for.
Archaeology & History
A large but peculiar site resting on a moorland plateau on the eastern edges of the mighty Barden Moor. Peculiar inasmuch as it’s completely isolated from any other monument of the same age and type anywhere on these huge moors. A few miles east, on the moors around Appletreewick, Thruscross and Beamsley we have a plethora of prehistoric sites—but up here on Barden Moor there’s apparently nowt else! I find that hard to believe….
Listed on official websites as being a ring cairn, it’s difficult without a detailed excavation of the site (there hasn’t been one) so say that’s what it is. But we’ll stick with it for the time being. My initial impression of the site was that it was a crude form of a collapsed Scottish dun: impressive large circular monuments—buildings if you like—with very well-built large stone walls, usually several yards thick, a little bit like the Scottish brochs (mighty things indeed!). This thing at Folly Top isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s like a collapsed version of a dun.
The site consists of large ring of raised collapsed rubble walling, more than a yard high in places, and about three yards thick all the way round, measuring roughly 21 yards (N-S) by 19 yards (E-W) from outer wall to outer wall. There are “entrances” on the east and west sides; but there seemed to be little of any note in the middle of the ring, although the site was somewhat overgrown on our visit here. Outside of the ring there was also nothing of any note. It’s a pretty isolated monument which seems to have more of an Iron Age look about it than the Bronze Age—but until there’s an excavation, we’ll not know for sure.
It’s well worth checking out—and from here, walk onto the huge moorland above you to the west….
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to the Crazy-gang of Sarah, Helen and James for their awesome assistance on our venture up here. A damn good day indeed! Cheers doods. 🙂
Along the B6265 road between Grassington and Pateley bridge, heading east, past the hamlet of Hebden, a mile or so on where the road goes uphill, stop where it levels out a bit (before it goes further uphill to Stump Cross), a half-mile before the rocky outcrop of Nursery Knott on the left (north) side of the road. A gate into the field on the same side is what yer after, with a small disused quarry therein. Go up here to the quarry-top and then walk uphill for literally 100 yards and the curious small ring is right there.
Archaeology & History
This small stone circle sitting on the grassy ridge overlooking the ritual rocks of Simon’s Seat and central Wharfedale to the south and the Yorkshire heathlands east and west, is probably not what it once was. Overcome by the excess of industrial workings in the fields and moors all round here, it is probable that its present condition is far from its original state. Indeed, if we move back to the 18th century, we find that place-name and map evidences tell us the site was a tomb. The 1771 Greenwood map names the site as the Fancairn — an etymological curiosity in itself, possibly deriving from the ‘Windy Cairn’, which makes sense. The place-name fell into its present title of ‘Fancarl’ after the great Ordnance Survey chaps came, heard dialect and went on their way…
The circle doesn’t appear to have been noted by the great Yorkshire historians Harry Speight and Edmund Bogg in their literary rambles here (rather odd), but was brought to our attention first of all (in a literary sense anyway) by Arthur Raistrick. (1965) He first “surveyed” the site in 1950, but said little until a short remark was printed in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, where the notes told it to be one of “two stone circles, one with clear standing stones, 30ft in diameter, and the other a double circle of small recumbent stones, 12ft in diameter.”
The second, smaller double circle he mentions is probably a hut circle or cairn, faint traces of which are seen in the adjacent field. Remains of a prehistoric enclosure were also once evident in the same field; and thankfully to the south (across the road) we can still find many examples of cup-and-rings at Skyreholme.
John Barnatt (1989) and Aubrey Burl (2000) include the site in their relative major surveys, with both of them citing the circle, of six small stones, to measure 8.5m by 7.5m. The survey shown of this small stone ring was done by Paul Daw following his visit to the site on Monday 10th September 2012.
Although we can only see six stones in this ring today, when the surveyor Paul Daw (2012) did a ground-plan of the place, he also did a dowsing survey of the site and found there were originally two extra stones on the eastern side of the circle. An archaeological dig would be interesting to see if post-holes or the remains of these two additional stones are under the turf. He wrote:
My dowsing survey revealed that the stone circle measured 7.7 metres diameter (N-S) and 7.0 metres (E-W). A reaction was received over the centres of stones 1, 3, 6, 7 and 8 indicating that they are still standing in their original positions, but stone number 5 to the south-south-east of the circle had a reaction at its northern end, which indicates that it was once standing but had fallen outwards. It is not therefore an earthfast stone, as speculated by A. Raistrick, when he visited the site. The stone measures 1.65 m x 1.65 m x 800 mm and fans out like a shell from bottom to top. It would have been an impressive stone when standing, but was top heavy, and the most likely stone to fall.
Stones 1, 3, 6, and 8 are all of a similar size, are much more stable, and stand at about 500 mm high. Stone 7 in the western sector is 800 mm high, and measures 950 mm x 850 mm, and looks like a rectangular block, with slightly rounded edges.
I also obtained a reaction at positions 2 and 4, indicating that there were once stones standing in these positions. To the north of the stone circle there are a number of stones lying on the surface. A. Raistrick suggested that there may have been another small stone circle in this area, but my dowsing rods did not detect anything, and it is probable that these are random stones lying on the surface.
This entire region is bedevilled with faerie, goblin and giant lore, plus creation myths of our peasant ancestors (Sutcliffe 1929) — some still living if you’re lucky enough to talk with the old folk, who might tell you a thing or two, or might not, depending on how you smell.
Barnatt, John, The Stone Circles of Britain – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1989.
Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
Daw, Paul M., “Appletreewick Stone Circle, Yorkshire Dales,” unpublished survey report 2012.