Grid Ref NY 564746
Bewcastle is a small hamlet in the North of Cumbria, near the Scottish border.
The area is home to the famous 7th Century Bewcastle Cross. The sundial on its surface is the oldest in Britain, divided into the four ‘tides’ which governed the working day in medieval times. A perfect copy of the whole cross is located in the churchyard of the Wreay Romanesque Church near Carlisle.
The area also is known for its unusual hexagonal Roman fort, which has been identified as Fanum Cocidi.
The origin of the name Bewcastle can be traced accurately from its spelling in ancient documents. These show that it was originally “bothy/booth caster”, which translates as “the roman fort where there were bothies or shielings”. Antiquarians, who did not have our access to well-catalogued and studied ancient documents, leapt at the chance to link the place name with a semi-mythological figure named Bueth, due to his romantic links with the prestigious Barony of Gilsland. Unfortunately, Bewcastle is outside the Barony, and the well-respected book “Place-names of Cumberland” states that it is impossible for Bewcastle to be named after Bueth.
The border was always difficult to control, with thieves and rustlers (reivers) raiding across the border with Scotland. Feuds were between different families, and sometimes even between English and Scottish branches of the same family. While the local sheriffs tried to maintain law and order, they were often a party to the crimes. Farms were of necessity fortified against attack. The smaller buildings were known as Pele towers, the larger ones such as Askerton being called Bastles. Cattle were stolen, homes looted and their occupants murdered or raped.
Askerton Castle Farm breeds pedigree Belted Galloway cattle, Scottish Blackface and Kerry Hill sheep, and has traditional pure bred hens providing organic eggs. Produce can be bought from the farm or local farmers’ markets.
On the edge of Bewcastle Fell is RAF Spadeadam, the largest RAF station in England. Though you won’t see it behind its screen of trees, you will certainly hear its visitors! Formerly home to Britain’s Blue Streak rocket research project, it is now the RAF’s electronic warfare range.
Christianbury Crags are small tors of hard sandstone, north of Bewcastle, and just a couple of miles south of the Scottish border.
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