Arbor Low has been called the Stonehenge of the Peak District. This Neolithic henge monument is a very atmospheric place constructed on high moorland and not dissimilar to the monument in Avebury, Wiltshire. Like Avebury, it has a henge bank and ditch, a stone circle and central stone ‘cove’. Close by is Gib Hill, a large burial mound.
At first glance, Arbor Low is not as impressive as its more well known Wiltshire counterpart. Sadly all of its massive limestone slabs now lie on their sides. However, stand inside the stone circle and you definitely feel the enormous significance of the place. I enjoyed being able to walk around the whole site and found it very thought-provoking. The information board on site explains some of the histories that took place thousands of years ago. Arbor Low sits on top of a hill, and on a fine day, the view is stunning. However, it is exposed and can be a bleak place in bad weather. Visit on an autumn day when the skies are grey and you’ll likely be the only person there. Whenever you visit, sit by the stones for a while and soak up its very tangible atmosphere. I absolutely loved the place.
Building Arbor Low
When Arbor Low was built over 4,000 years ago the 40 stones, each weighing 8 tonnes or more stood on end. The whole formation was surrounded by a rampart and ditch about 75 meters in diameter. It was built with the tools of the period. These were picks and shovels made from stone, bone and antler. Using these tools the labour involved must have been enormous. Of course, this effort could only have been inspired by some devotion to a long-forgotten faith.
The site was regarded as sacred for a long time judging by the number of burial mounds in the vicinity. One of these is actually built into the bank. Gib Hill is another about 320 meters to the south-west. These mounds like the earthwork that leads to the south entrance of Arbor Low may have been built a 1,000 years later than the stone circle.
Arbor Low is just off the Parsley Hey to Youlgrave minor road. Parsley Hey lies on the A515 Buxton to Ashbourne road, about 12km south of Buxton. There are a few parking spaces along the side of the lane leading to the farm (Upper Oldhams Farm) which lies below Arbor Low. As you would expect the site is signposted with the usual ‘brown’ sign. Arbor Low is in the care of English Heritage and opens all year round. Whilst the site itself is free to enter, the farm whose land you have to cross has an ‘honesty’ box where you are requested to pay £1 per visitor.
You have to cross several fields with gates or stiles in order to get to the stone circle, a distance of about 300 meters. The site is without facilities, the nearest cafe and toilets are in Parsley Hay, about a mile away. It is OK to bring your dog but be aware that there may be animals grazing around the site.
Arbor Low is a Stone Age ‘henge’ monument constructed about 2500 BC. It is a site of unique archaeological and cultural interest. As the site sits on top of a hill, it would have visible from many miles away. What went on inside though, would have been restricted to those standing on the bank. The name Arbor Low possibly comes from the Anglo Saxon ‘Eorthburg Hlaw’ which means ‘earthwork mound’. The 2-meter high circular bank surrounds an area about 75 meters in diameter. Inside the bank is a ditch about one and a half meters deep which encloses the central area where the stones are located. There are entrances in the north-west and south-west. A large barrow has been built on the south-west side. This is thought to be a later addition. The barrow was excavated in 1845 and several burials were found inside.
The stones which now lie flat, would originally have been upright and set in shallow holes in a ring. No-one knows why the stones are now flat. The group of stones in the middle are the remains of a ‘cove’. This would have been an upright rectangular box three or four meters wide. Why this henge was constructed or what it was used for remains a mystery. Certainly, it would have been an important focal point for the people of the time.
Arbor Low – Picture Gallery
Click on any picture to view a larger version.
This massive barrow is about 300 meters away, a short walk to the south-west of Arbor Low. This is a Bronze Age burial mound and once an earth bank may have connected it to Arbor Low. Climb to the summit of the mound for a different view and perspective of Arbor Low.
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