Why are ley lines, labyrinths, and stone circles in such abundance in the UK? What do they mean? Who built them? And do they carry any significance today?
In order to get more from our motorhome road trips, we always try to visit sites of ancient historical interest.
We relish the chance to retrace the steps of our ancestors along ancient routes or touch the stones made special by their placement in the landscape.
Connecting to the Mystery certainly adds a layer of meaning to our travels throughout the UK.
Let’s find out more…
- Ley lines – what are they?
- Are ley lines spiritual?
- The St Michael ley line
- Did the Romans use ley lines?
- Ley lines and folklore
- Ancient cultures – what are Fairy Paths, Dragon Lines, Songlines and Ceques?
- Ley Lines and the Natural World
- What do we think about ley lines?
- Labyrinths: another form of sacred path
- Labyrinth as pilgrimage and rite of passage
- Stone Circles
- The history of Avebury Stone Circle
- Other ancient sites near Avebury
- Arbor Low Stone Circle in the Peak District
- The history of Arbor Low
- Meini Hirion – The Druids Stones – Stone Circle, North Wales
- Can I park my motorhome near the Druids Stones?
- The views from above Penmaenmawr Stone Circle
- What were the Druids Stones used for?
- The purpose of stone circles
- What we thought we knew about stone circles…
Ley lines – what are they?
Both born near Bury St Edmunds, we Hobos lived within the bounds of the St Michael and Mary ley lines as they cross through the town.
But what exactly is a ley line? It was Alfred Watkins, an amateur archaeologist from England, UK, who first used the term in 1921. He noted that many historically significant buildings, stone circles and geological features were aligned in straight lines.
Watkins walked the Herefordshire hills taking photographs of the landscape. He noted visible landmarks, either natural or built by the ancients. It occurred to him one day in a moment of revelation that they were aligned. Not just two dots on a map but several along virtually straight lines.
Watkins coined the term “Leys” and “ley lines” to refer to the lines but thought of them as old tracks. He surmised that they were mainly Neolithic.
He also suggested that the man-made hills, tors and buildings were deliberately placed by the ancients as markers. The countryside would have been forested then so beacons placed where they could be seen makes sense. This indicates that he felt that the lines were also man-made as paths between two significant places with signposts along their length.
Alfred Watkins himself did not attribute any magical, magnetic or “otherworldly” properties to the lines it seems.
However, many others have.
Are ley lines spiritual?
Ley lines have been given a spiritual element more than being accepted merely as ancient paths. Spiritual ley lines are deemed to have magnetic or magical powers. They are revered as sacred in many places. Most ley lines now have a name after a Saint in the UK. Christianity sees a rival or cultural trend and assimilates it into its own stories.
Look beneath the name of many churches and you will find a Pagan God who was worshipped prior to Christianity coming to the area.
This is as it always has been – one culture building on top of the last.
In other cultures outside the UK and Europe, ley lines are still recognised by the ancestors of recent tribal peoples and those who live closely to planet Earth. More about that later…
The St Michael ley line
The longest ley line in the UK is the St Michael alignment. It has many sites dedicated to St Michael along its length. Beginning at St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, it crosses Southern England, through many significant ancient places before it reaches the North Sea at Hopton, just south of Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk.
This is a lovely map of the major UK ley line:
This is just the British part of it – the St Michael line extends from the south-westernmost tip of Ireland to Israel.
There are many such lines traversing the country and an equal number of theories concerned with their meaning, purpose, or properties. Some say they feel healing directed from angels to the lines, others state that they are lines of magnetic Earth Energy detectable by dowsing. One splinter group claims that such magnetic lines guide alien spacecraft. Others say some of the lines are funerary routes.
Given their age, these tracks will have been walked by people over the centuries. Each will have been carrying their own energy. Often, they would stop at a henge or stone circle to sit and “be” with their thoughts. Sadness and pain, turmoil and chaos could spill from their feet and soak into the ground. The tracks themselves could have absorbed the energy of travellers. Maybe the energy felt is not earth energy emerging but man’s energy being dispersed.
Did the Romans use ley lines?
Roman roads often follow ancient tracks that were built along ley lines. Did Romans build straight roads simply for practicality? Or were they tuned-in to ley lines?
Revealingly, archaeological excavations beneath some Roman roads have revealed pre-conquest skills, such as levelling and drainage. This is something that was thought to have been introduced by the Romans but evidence points to it being pre-existing. Maybe the Romans simply used what was already in situ. Interestingly too, similar roads exist in Ireland, though Ireland was not subject to Roman invasion.
Some lines appear to follow the path of the sun. The St Michael’s line, for example, is aligned to the sun on the 8th May, the spring festival of St Michael. Consequently, it could be an astronomical track.
Ley lines and folklore
Unlike the highly visible Stone Circles, Ley lines are not seen. Ley lines are often discounted as folklore or are relegated to the realm of pseudo-science. Sceptics will say that Britain is so rich in ancient history that it is possible to draw a line anywhere across the country and find that it connects significant sites. Indeed, one could apply that argument to a map of post boxes or McDonalds’ outlets!
Sceptics state that sites crossed by ley lines are of diverse ages and unconnected cultures. However, archaeological digs along ley lines which reveal previously undiscovered sites counter this argument.
It is also evidenced that places of significant historical interest are often built upon the remains of previous sites. Therefore, the “diverse ages and unconnected cultures” argument is buried. One culture would have found the sacred site of another and gleefully dismantled it to erect their own.
One of our favourite books about ley lines is this one…
Documented by Roman invaders…and Nazis!
Modern science naturally deserves respect. And it seems heavily weighted on the “against” side here. However, it is worth noting that in their conquests of England and Europe, the Romans documented long straight tracks between sacred or ancient sites at the time of invasion.
Ley lines are not exclusive to Britain. They are also recognised in other countries. France, Portugal, Belgium, China, the USA and Malta for example.
Even the Nazis expressed an interest in ley lines quite independently of Watkins’ ideas. The Germans investigated ‘Heilige Linien’ (Holy Lines) in the 1920s. Indeed, the German heartland holds a huge network of them.
And one of the greatest unsung scientists of our times, Nikola Tesla, was working on theories of wells or rivers of boundless energy flowing through the universe. This man proposed the ionosphere existed before anyone else had even considered it. He based most of his studies on renewable and sustainable energy.
His downfall was that he was a scientist rather than a businessman. Otherwise, his would have been a household name. And he seemed to be considering something akin to ley lines!
Ancient cultures – what are Fairy Paths, Dragon Lines, Songlines and Ceques?
Ancient cultures tell stories of connective lines crossing the land…
In Ireland particularly, such lines are called Fairy Paths or Fairy Lines, and houses built upon them were often demolished or cursed. Fairy paths are recognised in much of Northern Europe and locals will avoid walking along them at certain times to avoid upsetting the Little Folk. Tales abound of misfortune befalling householders who are subsequently advised by wise elders to leave doors open to allow the fairies to travel unhindered, or to demolish part of a dwelling. Once the fairies are appeased, the bad luck disappears.
Some builders make sure that their work will not impede a fairy path. Piles of stones are stacked where the corners of the building will be. If the stones remain piled up in the morning, building may commence.
The Welsh Tylwyth teg have paths upon which humans are not permitted. Transgression is punishable by death!
It is claimed that animals avoid these paths.
The ancient Chinese discovered ley lines, dragon lines or Lung mei. The heart of the dragon lies in a valley or sacred place where the main power is held. Her veins spread out across the landscape and over the entire earth, the power travelling along them.
The ancient Chinese belief was that if a dragon line ran straight for too long, its power would overwhelm all living things. Therefore a building, burial chamber or mound was erected. The power of the path was partially absorbed and could flow on safely.
Chinese settlements were built with these lines in mind. Men were employed to map the direction of the dragon lines and ensure that buildings attracted the good energy and repelled the bad.
Dragon lines were (are) taken so seriously that massive efforts were made to ensure that the surroundings allowed the harmonious flow of dragon energy. Mountain tops have been flattened, or new mounds built.
Today, we refer to this energy flow as Feng Shui. Feng Shui is observed in many a modern home and working space.
Australian Aboriginal people speak of paths called Songlines made by the Gods who created the land and all within and on it. Songlines fill with energy at certain times of the year, revitalising and fertilising the land.
Mainly Songlines are used for navigation; each has a particular song which speaks of the route. Anyone who understands the words can see the next natural marker. The songs tell of the creation and are sung ceremonially.
The Songlines are still walked, the songs still sung, as a connection to the ancient ancestors and the land. It is “keeping the land alive”.
The Incas had sacred spirit lines – ‘Ceques’. They radiated outwards from the Temple of the Sun or Coricancha (Golden Enclosure). As well as having spiritual significance, the lines were used to plan dwelling and communal buildings. They were also used for municipal control. This method of planning spans from pre-Inca times through to modern day Andean villages.
It is proposed by some that the lines formed a calendar with sacred places and buildings placed at points which coincided with the rising or setting sun on the equinox or solstice.
The Maya used the term ‘Seche’. Sadly, early Native American history was lost. However, there are remains of very straight tracks used by Native Americans which link earthworks and sacred sites.
Ley Lines and the Natural World
It is thought by some naturalists that migratory birds, fish, insects and animals use ley lines to assist in their navigation of the world. Much the same as ancient man may have done.
We have read that in the chemical make up of tissue, there is a substance called magnetite. The article thought that magnetite enables the detection of subtle magnetic changes which would act as a direction finder. It was stated that this substance has been discovered in tissue linked to the ethmoid bone in the front of the human skull.
What do we think about ley lines?
We are both open-minded and inquisitive. We are interested in energy-healing and how certain places “feel”. Neither of us would dismiss the idea of connecting lines of energy traversing the planet. It may look akin to the aura which many believe surrounds or creates each physical being and object.
And we wonder about the effects of parking our Cree motorhome right across a ley line for the night. If these lines do hold special powers it might give the old girl a bit of ooooomph!
Labyrinths: another form of sacred path
Labyrinths and labyrinthine symbols date back to Neolithic times. They are found in many diverse regions and cultures all over the world.
Unlike a maze whose purpose is to confuse, a labyrinth is designed to give clarity. It is a single meandering path combining the circle and spiral to represent the journey to one’s core (or to God) and back into the world again, bringing integration of the inner and outer self.
Whilst pacing slowly along the path, one can contemplate growth, ask for understanding, self-discovery or envision healing.
The usual track of the labyrinth encircles a centre bringing one tantalisingly close to the “end” (the answer, the goal, the now…whatever the walker ascribes to the middle) before swinging away again. Just like life!
Then, at last having reached the middle, one contemplates the journey thus far before setting out again, taking the learning back into the real world.
Labyrinth as pilgrimage and rite of passage
The labyrinth can be seen as a spiritual tool representing any journey in life. Walking the path disconnects the seeker from the distractions of the world, bringing focus to the intended contemplation. It can thus be viewed as a mini pilgrimage.
Labyrinths are usually constructed above ground and the experience is like a walking meditation.
However, as a rite of passage, the Hopi Indians built massive underground rectangular tunnel labyrinths which young men negotiated in the dark, twisting and turning before eventually emerging into the daylight again as braves. A boy entered. A man emerged.
Closer to home, in Bury St Edmunds Abbey Gardens there is a floral labyrinth. Just imagine… a labyrinth in a ruined abbey with a ley line running underneath it!
We have visited several stone circle sites on our travels and marvel at these huge rocks! How were they moved and erected?
Avebury Henge with some of the huge stones still in situ and Arbor Low Henge are two favourites.
Avebury is a circular bank and ditch (the henge) encompassing three stone circles. A well marshalled tourist attraction, the monument is free to enter and open during reasonable daylight hours and, unlike Stonehenge which is roped off, at Avebury you can actually touch the stones.
The National Trust manage the site for English Heritage. Therefore there are toilets and a museum as well as purchasing opportunities.
To be practical about it, parking a motorhome in the height of summer at the main car park may be challenging – get up and arrive early! Parking is free for National Trust members, otherwise there is a fee. Alternatively, for the lucky few, there is a layby along West Kennet Avenue on the B4003 – but it is first come first served and there’s not much room for a large motorhome.
The history of Avebury Stone Circle
Within the henge, Avebury boasts the largest stone circle in Britain. This encompasses two further circles. The henge and stone circles were constructed and altered over the ages, mainly during the Neolithic period of 2850 and 2200 BC. Aerial photography and limited excavation suggests that prior to the standing stones being placed, there were wooden structures and circles within the henge.
Two avenues lead from – or to – the circle. These seem to be ceremonial. The site however was abandoned around 1800BC. Perhaps the people who used it were eradicated or moved on. Their religion may have altered. Who knows?
Pagan or devil worship was associated with stone circles during the middle ages. Consequently, some of Avebury’s stones were destroyed or moved during this period. Modern agriculture saw more of them removed or destroyed. Additionally, stones were purposefully broken to be used as building materials.
What we now see at Avebury owes much to Alexander Kieller. He bought the site and replaced many of the stones and removed the buildings that had been erected amongst the ancient circles.
Other ancient sites near Avebury
There are five further ancient places of interest near to Avebury Henge, namely West Kennet Avenue, West Kennet Long Barrow, The Sanctuary, Windmill Hill and Silbury Hill.
The paths between them can be muddy but are certainly well worth the effort. One spiritually alert person quietly pointed out to us West Kennet Avenue. Not visited as often as the main circle, the Avenue and the satellite installations therefore emit a stronger energy.
In July 2021, we took the motorhome to Avebury, Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow. We were able to park at each place. The photo below shows Cree glaring over a hedge as we walk towards West Kennet Long Barrow, with Silbury Hill behind.
The Long Barrow is really worth a visit; it is one of those places which seems to transcend the passing of time. It felt as though the world was turning around it, but that it was the hub of the wheel itself.
Arbor Low Stone Circle in the Peak District
Arbor Low was harder to locate on our road trip through the Peak District. It felt more spiritual than Avebury. Perhaps that is because it hosted few fellow humans when we went, which always lends a deeper experience. Arbor Low remains relatively well-preserved, receiving statutory protection.
We were able to take the motorhome along the track to the car park with no issues. The site is not touristy and there are no toilets or shops. In wet weather it will be muddy and mucky due to grazing livestock. However, the views of the Peak District are stunning and, without crowds, it is easy to slip back in time and appreciate why people found such places inspirational enough to deem them sacred.
The history of Arbor Low
Arbor Low was in use from the Neolithic into the early Bronze age. A massive earth bank with a ditch inside surrounds a stone circle. It features a central “cove” (horseshoe or rectangular shaped arrangement of stones) which points to its having been a site of sacred significance. Found close by were human skeletal remains.
The stones at Arbor Low are smaller than those at Avebury (eroded and broken as well as originally smaller than Avebury) and most are laying down. Some insist the stones were laid flat. Some say they fell. Others suggest that early Christians pushed them over.
Arbor Low stone circle and the earlier Neolithic Gib Hill Barrow are linked by an earthen ridge. Additionally, a barrow was dug out beside the henge during the Bronze age. Inside was evidence of human cremation. Extensive excavation however has not taken place.
Such sites are rarely solitary installations – there will often be a small group as with both our examples. Circles and henges often start with a bank or ditch with a timber structure in the middle. Large stones later replace the wood. Alternatively, some stone circles predated the surrounding ditch and mound.
Meini Hirion – The Druids Stones – Stone Circle, North Wales
In 2021 we visited Meini Hirion, The Druids Stones, which stand at 1332 ft on the headland above Penmaenmawr in Conwy, Wales.
Despite its English name, these stones were raised well before the Druids’ era. Stone circles have been used, or abused, by various cultures over the years. This one may have been placed as early as 3000 BC.
Then, the rock at Penmaenmawr was prized for its durability as axe heads and its ability to splinter for sharp edges. An important pre-historic trackway passes nearby with other ancient sites along its path. There are cairns and a ruined hill fort along with other stone circles in the vicinity. An ancient settlement was destroyed by quarrying activities with only a small archaeological survey.
In the Druids Stones circle, excavations revealed the buried cremation remains of children in urns which were in use up to 1400BC.
The Welsh name of Meini Hirion means long stones. One is referred to as the sacrifice stone although there is no evidence of sacrifice. If a new-born baby is placed on it, the child is assured of good luck all its life. There is also an altar stone and a swearing stone – local folklore has it that a man swore to a falsehood on it and died shortly after.
Can I park my motorhome near the Druids Stones?
Yes! Parking the motorhome in the Fernbrook Road car park, we spoke to a local lady who was not entirely sure where the stones were but that the track started up the hill from there.
UP was certainly correct! Follow the hill up and around the corner and you will see a signpost.
It was good to be able to park the motorhome as close as one could reasonably expect to Meini Hirion stone circle. Height barriers had marred many of our plans in other places prior to this.
The trail is well marked at first but then becomes a little hard to follow. We were fooled by the use of the Welsh name on a marker. We regretted not doing more research prior to climbing – we are not the type of English who expect everything neatly translated for us!
There were a few fellow walkers who were happy to direct us but we do suggest that you know where you are going before setting out. One man was quite surprised to find that people still walk without maps – he is correct.
Having said that, Google maps pointed us in the right direction, but we are not recommending that you rely on technology.
The views from above Penmaenmawr Stone Circle
Once you get above the sea level tree line, the views are worth the effort. And in places, this is an effort, although mainly at the start.
Looking out across Penmaenmawr to Colwyn Bay or back into the Welsh hills, we were struck by the feeling its great age and permanence. To experience one’s own insignificance is to become at one with what is truly important in this life.
There is a stream to be crossed before you get to the stone circle. A makeshift “reed-path” meant that we did not get wet feet but it was close. Waterproof boots would have been better. In cold weather, wet feet can be an issue.
The circle itself is wild and original. No coins pushed into crevices, no tokens or ribbons. Not that we are adverse to that practise but it is refreshing to find stones which are still stones. Unadorned and rugged.
To stand and touch them, to feel them, takes the imagination back through the millennia to times when life was harsher and yet, of late, seemingly more attractive to many tired by the modern stampede towards self-destruction.
What were the Druids Stones used for?
This was a well-used, probably ceremonial, area. People travelled along the trackway in times that we can only conjure up in our minds – why did they bring these stones and set them into the ground? What have they been used for?
Is that the power of these megaliths – that they fill our senses with awe and transport us into the past. We allow our imagination to fill in the blanks, wonder who passed by, who visited, and why.
Standing amidst the wildness of nature, away from housing and roads, we become increasingly in touch with the universe. And since these stone circles have been important to different people for different reasons, we can create lines between the creation of this circle and its incarnations along the way.
Connecting with the stones creates a cosmic circle between now and then perhaps. Ever increasing concentric ripples of history.
Is it all fanciful imagination- or do these places echo back to us more than the keen breeze on an otherwise warm late summer day?
We enjoyed our walk and returned with a sense of accomplishment. Cree is a space conducive to quiet contemplation – mainly because it is difficult to hear more than your own thoughts once the engine gets roaring!
The purpose of stone circles
The purpose of the circles is, of course, subject to conjecture. The prevailing theories are that stone circles were used as cosmic calendars or monuments to the dead. It is likely that they had an initial purpose which changed over time.
Perhaps a moated settlement gradually became a memorial? Or a place of mourning became a meeting arena? With beliefs and rituals changing over the millennia it is certain that most sites evolved over time with several recognised periods of reconstruction and building.
Many stone circles have evidence of feasting around them. Did people travel to the monument for festivals and rituals, or did they hold “bring a stone” parties where groups brought and erected more stones? Of course, the process of moving the massive stones remains a mystery. Theories abound but nothing has yet worked in practice!
And what of the word ‘henge’ itself? Henges are supposed to have a circular mound with a ditch running around the outside. The implication is that the henge was meant to contain something inside rather than keep invaders out. It might have been livestock or prisoners or, much less likely, sacrificial offerings. Possibly the raised mound acted as an amphitheatre for rituals and ceremonies held within the stone circles.
What this means is that the most famous ‘henge’ in the UK – Stonehenge – doesn’t actually qualify as a henge as it has neither a mound or a ditch. Though we don’t think the name will be changing anytime soon!
What we thought we knew about stone circles…
Previously believed facts about stone circles and other sacred sites have been disproven by modern science. For example, the “Celtic” labyrinthine carvings at Newgrange in Ireland existed 1500 years before the Celts.
And beliefs that the Druids built Stonehenge have also been de-bunked as we now know that the circles predate the arrival of the Druids by a thousand years.
However, there is one theory about one of the possible uses of Stonehenge that attracted us: many of the bodies found buried nearby have deformities or injuries, suggesting that Stonehenge could have been a healing centre. A bit like an ancient version of Lourdes, perhaps.
A recent BBC documentary about Stonehenge (February 2021) has revealed that the blue stones were moved from a fully formed stone circle in the Preseli Hills in Wales. Why they were moved the 150 miles to Stonehenge – and exactly how it was done – remains a mystery.
Mankind may, in time, discover all the reasons for ley lines, labyrinths, and stone circles. We may consequently learn how and exactly when they were constructed and for what purpose. But perhaps that will be a pity, as such places fuel the imagination and help us connect to The Great Mystery.
Three more books we love…
We were lucky enough to buy Julian Cope’s ‘Modern Antiquarian’ when it was first published for just £30. We thought that was a bit steep at the time but these days it’s selling on amazon for over £150! Julian travelled to just about every sacred site in the UK and Hobo Gav was lucky enough to meet him at Avebury. Alongside a detailed map and history of each place, the book includes Julian’s personal reflections and poems. Well worth the investment if you’re serious about sacred sites!
A close second is ‘The Old Stones’ which features over a thousand sites in the UK and Ireland. A bit lighter to carry than Cope’s book, it’s the one we take in our van if we’re heading to sacred sites. We’ll use Cope’s book for research at home then use this as our field guide on the road…
And thirdly, a brilliant book about ley lines which we were lucky enough to find in a charity shop for a fiver! An in-depth exploration about the mystery of ley lines and earth energies…
We hope you’ve found this page informative and that it inspires you to seek out some of the spiritual places in the British Isles on your travels.
For more info check out ancient wisdom and sacred places in the UK
Celtic spirituality in the British Isles
And read the stories of our pilgrimages to Canterbury, Glastonbury, and Walsingham.