Skyrakes ring cairn and tumulus

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Historical Environment Record No:
Stirton with Thoralby
OS Grid Reference:
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View of Skyrakes ring cairn and tumulus MYD49682 (c) YDNPA, 2023

View of Skyrakes ring cairn and tumulus MYD49682 (c) YDNPA, 2023

This ring cairn is approximately 19 metres in diameter and roughly circular in shape. The grass covered earth and stone bank is between 1.5 and 2 metres wide. A break in the bank on the south side may be the original entrance. Just to the west of the break is an integral stone cairn approximately 3 metres across, an unusual addition to the ring cairn. The diameter of the cairn puts it among the larger category of ring cairns found in the area, and in this it is similar to South Nab ring cairn near Bolton Abbey.

The circular formal shape of ring cairns is typical of Bronze Age ritual structures. Few have been excavated in the north of England and even fewer in the Dales, but they are common throughout upland Britain and enough have been excavated elsewhere to give us an idea of the way they were built, as well as when and how they were used. They are often associated with cremations and many contain ritual deposits of charcoal, quartz and other materials. That they were the focus of various rites and ceremonies is now well established, although there appear to be regional variations in their appearance and usage. The majority of ring cairns in this country date to the 2nd millennium BC.

Most ring cairns in the Dales are simple structures, consisting of low circular earth and stone embankments. In the past they have often been interpreted as the remains of prehistoric hut circles, which they closely resemble in size and shape. However, they are being increasingly identified in the landscape due to their prominent positions on the flanks and summits of hills, and are witness to the customs and beliefs of Bronze Age farming communities who lived here over three thousand years ago.

The ring cairn is part of a wider prehistoric ritual landscape. Over 50 metres to the south west intervisible with the ring cairn, is a very low grass covered tumulus in a spectacular location at the southern end of the Skyrakes ridge overlooking the Aire valley (SD963543). It is approximately 6 metres in diameter and partially constructed on bedrock, while 350 metres to the north-west lies the Skyrakes enclosure.

View of Skyrakes ring cairn and tumulus MYD49682 (c) YDNPA, 2023

Skyrakes ring cairn and tumulus MYD49682 (c) YDNPA, 2023


The ring cairn and tumulus are on Skyrakes to the south-east of Sharphaw. It is in Open Access Land. Take the Grassington road from Skipton and turn left on an unmarked lane to Stirton half a mile beyond the Craven Heifer Inn. After 400m there is a sharp bend in the lane and a public bridleway turns up Skyrakes. Stay on the track for half a mile until it swings to the left. Take the right hand fork through a gate onto the moorland and follow the grass track until you reach the enclosure wall, then turn west and follow it towards the ridge for 200m. The ring cairn is approximately 75m south of the enclosure wall and is not easy to locate. The tumulus is on the adjoining ridge. For further details on Access Land see the Countryside Access website Select OS grid reference on the home page and type in the grid reference listed above. This will give you a printable map of the area, as well as details concerning access. Public rights of way are unaffected by changes in access status.

Public Transport Details

Nearest town/village: Skipton. Call Traveline on 0870 608 2 608 to plan your journey. After the welcome message key in 885 for North Yorkshire information.


A moderate but long climb up through Skyrakes pastures. The track can be uneven and wet in places and the rough pasture has boggy areas and thick rushes in places.