In the final part of our Imbolc excursion to Cumbria I will be showing you another new site for us – Maiden Castle – near the village of Wreay above the north end of Ullswater Lake. The story of how we found it is the real tale here, and the communion we had while there adds the final flourish to the whole episode.
Having already taken a wrong turn trying to find the narrow lane that led to the field in which the castle was supposed to be, according to the maps, we were somewhat exasperated already as we cruised along the hillside at slow speed trying to get a visual fix on any form of earthwork or stone cluster that might indicate a ‘castle’. Kal had been fully expecting a proper castle with turrets, flags and portcullis, but I assured him that we were looking form something far more mundane and far less spectacular!
The light was beginning to dim. The sun was descending behind the huge distant hills around Ullswater Lake. I had joked at the beginning of the day that we would probably arrive at the castle for sunset, and the joke was becoming a reality. Would we find the castle site before it got dark and too treacherous to locate?
We were about to give up. I stopped the car and insisted that Kal dowse whether we should continue looking or go to somewhere nearby like Castlerigg. I ditched the OS map and instead used the Viewranger pinpoint that I had preset the day before.
NOTE: Viewranger is superb for outdoor work of this kind such as finding sacred sites. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a complete lifesaver sometimes.
Go check them out if you like walking, running or discovering new places.
This was a precise fix on the castle and should allow us to home in on it. Kal returned – we had to find Maiden Castle, there were no alternatives! What now?
At that exact moment, sat in the car wondering whether to drive home or head out into the dim light in search of something we were both startled from our thoughts. A hawk burst out of a bush next to the car and flew across the bonnet. It swooped down into the vale below and disappeared again. Well – did we need any better sign? One glance was enough – we were decided – that was the sign we needed to venture forth. Then we noticed the footpath sign next to the car. Well, obviously, that would take us to the castle, right? Let’s hope so.
We scrambled and stumbled down the steep incline trying as best we could to avoid the huge ruts caused by cattle hooves. In a bid to curtail the strenuous activity Kal proclaimed that a stone we could see by the banks of the stream at the bottom were probably the castle’s remains, and we should probably stop there. I checked the map – no way was this the castle! We had to go further. Much further.
We climbed the other side of the vale as the light faded to grey and the sky began to take on a pink hue. At the top of the next hill we surveyed the scene. In front of us was another hill and still no sign of any castle remains. Behind us was a stunning view of Ullswater Lake bathed in the last rays of the day’s light:
We debated again – should we continue into the gloom as the signs had urged us to do, or cut our losses and warm our hands in a nearby pub? I asked Kal to give it five more minutes before we abandoned the search. He relented, and we trudged onwards up another domed hill to see what was on the other side. As we reached the summit the land changed from pastureland into a sheep-ridden scrubland and there, before us, rose the familiar shape of an ancient earthwork perimeter. Aha! We had found Maiden Castle.
The Lady In Pink
There was a rosy hue to the air that tinged the day’s fading blue skies with the kind of blush that we felt now on your cheeks. With the exertion over we split up and settled into our respective investigations. I knew how important this was for Kal so I didn’t disturb him, and instead I went off in search of the Spirit of Place. Was there one? YES. Was it male or female? FEMALE. I asked for the rods to lead me to a suitable entrance and was led around the outside to a patch of what looked like rubble. This was an entrance. I asked for permission to go in, and waited for a response. It was highly favourable, and I got pulled inside as though by invisible braces.
Archaeologists consider this site to have been a cairn with an earthwork around it. I would have to spend much more time at the place to go along with that. The site had more of a feel to many ‘hillforts’ (read: ‘sacred enclosures’) that I have been to than any cairn, but not having the time to investigate properly I’m not in a position to argue!
As I reached a second entrance I looked down to see more rubble hidden beneath tufts of grass. Interesting. Another entrance which was an obvious gap, and some more strewn rocks. I wished I had more time to check this out. Once inside the second entrance I felt I was at the “inner sanctum”, yet I was directed to what seemed like an innocuous spot at the edge of this inner plateau in order to commune.
The Imbolc Quest
Imbolc is associated with Brigid (or Bridget, Brid or Bride). This female energy form was the force that I had been hunting all day, and it wasn’t until now that she decided to let me find her. Here she was, inside her castle – the maiden’s castle – like some kind of Rapunzel figure. It was time to ask some pertinent questions, such as – what would my quest be for the next part of the year until Spring Equinox?
I communed with Brigid, and asked her to guide me on the next leg of my quest. Firstly I asked , would there actually be any quest to do? YES. Right then, please show me what it is I should be doing…..
In my mind a picture of a circular gold band appeared. It was made of twisted gold, and shone with an energy that was more than its lustre. What was this, I asked? It is the golden torc that was a possession that used to belong to my ancestors. I have to find it and acquire the energy from it. Any other clues, I asked? It is the Torc of the Hawk, came the response. What would be the result of me acquiring it? Acquiring its energy would unlock some of the stored ancestor energies that I had downloaded when in Ireland last year. This is one of several objects that I would need to complete my spiritual possessions, and to unlock all the available ancestral energies.
Then the images and communication link faded with the last rays of the sun and all, quite literally, went dark. This life is truly amazing and challenging! – nothing like a challenge! I accept.