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Thornborough Henges: Yorkshire’s ‘Stonehenge of the North’.

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

Just a stones throw away from Ripon, North Yorkshire, Thornborough Henges is the latest Heritage Site to be gifted to the nation. Often referred to as the 'Stonehenge of the North', this neolithic monument is one of England's most mysterious historic places, and one of the least known



There aren't many heritage sites in England I'm not aware of, but up until recently I had no idea the henges at Thornborough existed. Unlike the famous 'Stonehenge', this one isn't as well known, but Thornborough is just as significant, and on a much larger scale. In fact, there are three henges at Thornborough, with two of them being open to the public.


Unsurprisingly, the henges are situated next to a small village called Thornborough, which is around a 15 minute drive from the Cathedral town, Ripon. The reason you might not have known about Thornborough Henges is that up until very recently the monument sat on private land. That changed however when Tarmac, the landowner, very kindly gifted the site to the nation.


Aerial drone shot of the three henges at Thornborough.
One of the henges at Thornborough.

The upshot of this generosity is that the henges will be removed from Historic England's 'at risk' register. And, with the charity, English Heritage, now running the show, the henges are open 24hrs a day for the public's enjoyment. Best of all however, there is no entry fee!


Sometimes referred to as the ‘Stonehenge of the North’, these huge Neolithic monuments were built around 4,500 years ago, and sit above an earlier monument known as a cursus.


The three henges are an impressive 250 metres in diameter and stretch out over a mile. Whilst difficult to imagine today, the outer earthen banks originally stood at up to 5 metres in height and are believed to have been covered in a locally mined mineral called gypsum. This would have looked quite striking.


Aerial shot of the middle henge with the third henge just visible in a copse of trees.
There are three henges in total, the third one (which is not yet open to the public) can just be seen here, hidden in the distance in a copse of trees..

As with many ancient heritage sites, the exact purpose of the henges is not entirely known. They were however part of a wider ritual landscape and their alignment may have had something to do with the rising of the sun and certain star formations.


Whatever their purpose, the henges are quite magnificent and are a true feat of engineering. The henges are absolutely free to visit and explore and you can check out English-Heritage.org.uk for more info.


I hope you enjoyed this article. This was never intended on being a comprehensive history, but rather a quick introduction (and a means of showing off some drone footage!). If you enjoyed reading, please give the article a thumbs up and subscribed to the blog! To see the drone footage please click here.


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