Simon Howe Stone Circle – Prehistoric Barrow & Stone Circle

The Stone Circle and other features sit in a prominent position on top of Simon Howe Rigg. This is actually the highest point on the ridge running from Howl Moor northwards to Goathland Moor. The site sits next to a crossroads of paths and is accessible from the A169 Pickering to Whitby road, the moorland village of Goathland or the Wheeldale Roman Road. Whichever way you walk to the site, it is a distance of about 2.5 km.

All routes to the site are uphill, the reward for the climb being not just the atmospheric site itself, but outstanding views in pretty much every direction. Probably the best time to explore the area is late August. At this time of year, the heather is in full flower and paths are dry and firm (usually).

At the site is a Barrow (Round Cairn) within a Stone Circle, a line of Standing Stones and two Round Barrows.

Over the years more than 2500 pieces of flint have been collected from the ground around Simon Howe. These have included tools such as knives and arrowheads, which date from the Late Mesolithic Period to the Bronze Age. The flints suggest that the site has been occupied over a period of 5000 years or more.

The Ordnance Survey Explorer OL27 covers the Eastern area of the North York Moors which includes the Tabular Hills Walk, the Cleveland Hills, Esk Valley Walk, the Cleveland Way, and the Northern end of the Ebor Way. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The OS Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.

Barrow and Stone Circle

In the middle of the Stone Circle is a large circular cairn which is visible from miles away. This is a modern addition to the site and has nothing to do with any of the historic monuments.

Originally, the Barrow had a central Round Cairn surrounded by a circle of kerbstones. The Cairn has been damaged, pilfered and eroded over time leaving just the kerbstones. Some of the stones from the original Cairn were used to build a rough stone shelter. Others were used to build a hiker’s cairn. This acted as a beacon for walkers on the Lyke Wake Walk.

The stone circle is about 18m in diameter and has a kerb of stones. These flat slabs of sandstone lean outwards and are about 0.6m high. Some of the stones are missing and a couple have fallen over next to their original position. However, fifteen are still in position. So, despite the modern-day activity and erosion, the site is still in reasonable condition.

English Heritage has funded work to protect the monument. This involved removing the shelter and rebuilding a central cairn. Also, one of the fallen stones of the nearby stone alignment was re-erected.

Round cairns are piles of stones primarily made as funerary monuments and usually date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). They are nearly always found in prominent locations. They indicate that an important person is buried underneath, usually a warrior or chieftain. Often the deceased were buried with their earthly possessions in a stone-lined compartment.

Barrows

There are two Round Barrows close by Simon Howe. The nearest is 80m away to the northnortheast the furthest 140m to the northeast. Both of the barrows have low earthen mounds. The first sits close to the furthest standing stone and has a diameter of 13m and is about 0.5m high. The other mound is slightly larger and higher.

In Anglo-Saxon the word for a grave-mound was beorg and this is the origin of the modern-day word Barrow. Howe is an old Norse word for the same feature. There are more than 2,000 Howes on the North Yorkshire Moors. Many of the Howes have been excavated and pillaged by opportunists looking for valuable items.

Most of the Barrows on the North Yorkshire Moors are Round Barrows that date from the Late Neolithic Period to the Late Bronze Age. These were often used for multiple burials and often grouped together. Round Cairns date from a later period. So the two Barrows here pre-date the Barrow with the Stone Circle.

Standing Stones date from this same period and are often located close to Round Barrows. Excavations near standing stones have found flints, pottery, human bone and charcoal.

Standing Stones

The four Standing Stones that make up the alignment here are large enough to make out on the Google Maps satellite image. The four sandstone boulders are regularly spaced and run in a South-West to North-East direction. Two of the stones are still upright, one has fallen over and the other has almost fallen over. After a moorland fire in 1947, a socket was discovered between the surviving stones and the Stone Circle. This stone is missing from the site. So at one time, there would have been at least 5 stones.

Walking to Simon Howe

As previously stated, the Stone Circle is accessible from several places. Each walk has different features along its route, but all three offer stunning views of the surrounding moorland.

Walk from Elerbeck Bridge on the A169 Pickering to Whitby road.

Head north out of Pickering on the A169. Drive past the Hole of Horcum and after a few miles look for a sharp left-hand bend at the bottom of a valley. The road crosses Eller Beck here over a bridge. Just before the bridge on the left-hand side is a track. Turn onto this, it’s full of potholes but there is room to park your car.

Walk along the track and enter the Fen Bog nature reserve. Follow the path to the bottom of the valley and over the duckboards crossing a marshy area. Over the other side is the North Yorkshire Moors Railway line. If you are lucky you might see a steam train passing. Cross the line and continue on the obvious path which goes to the Stone Circle. You’ll see the large cairn long before you reach the site. This path is part of the Lyke Wake Walk long distance footpath.

Walk from Goathland Village

You can travel to Goathland by Coastliner Bus or on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. If you have driven, park near the Mallyan Spout Hotel, where there is some roadside parking.

Walk to the mini-roundabout at the junction of three roads and look for a bridleway heading over the moors in a south-westerly direction. Follow this path up onto the moor to reach a tarn after about 800m. From the tarn, the path continues uphill until it reaches Two Howes. This is the site of two Barrows as the name suggests. Follow the path which runs to the right of the first Barrow. This path goes to Simon Howe. You should just be able to see the triangular cairn of Simon Howe on the horizon in front of you.

Walk from Wheeldale

Cross the ford across Rutmoor Beck on the road about 3.5km north of Stape. Follow the road northwards for about 250m and look on the right for a fingerpost and information board. There is a little roadside parking here.

The fingerpost indicates the well-preserved remains of a Roman Road (also called Wade’s Causeway). Reading the information board it seems that there is some debate about the origin of the road and it may not actually be Roman. Whatever its origin it is an easy feature to follow, although it is crossed by a couple of streams. So it can be a bit marshy in places.

Cross the stile next to the gate leading to the start of the Roman Road. Walk along the road for about 800m and look for a small cairn on the right. Follow the public footpath here for about 200m towards a large boulder on Skivick Crag. The path now runs diagonally downhill across the hillside to some stepping stones across Wheeldale Back. Cross over the stepping stones and follow the path uphill and eastwards for about 2km to Simon Howe.

Disclaimer

Whilst I take every care to ensure the accuracy of the route descriptions, I cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions. The route described may be pleasant for walking in fine weather but can become slippery, boggy and dangerous in wintry or wet weather. On days when visibility is impaired by fog, rain, cloud or mist, some landmarks used as direction aids in the route descriptions may not be visible.

To me, the North Yorkshire Moors are a wild place where you can easily find some peace and solitude. It’s fascinating to think that this area has been inhabited for thousands of years, and evidence of that is all around. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in the historical aspect of the landscape, Simon Howe is a great walk from any of the three locations described. Certainly, if you are looking for some panoramic views of the moors, you won’t be disappointed.

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