Belas Knap Long Barrow - History and Facts | History Hit

Belas Knap Long Barrow

Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom

The Belas Knap Long Barrow is a well-preserved example of a Neolithic burial chamber located near Cheltenham.

Lily Johnson

18 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Belas Knap Long Barrow

Belas Knap Long Barrow is a well-preserved Neolithic burial chamber located in the Cotswold hills of Gloucestershire. Restored to its former state, visitors today may view the inner burial chambers of the vast mound while physically exploring thousands of years of history.

Belas Knap Long Barrow history

Built around 3000 BC, Belas Knap Long Barrow was used for consecutive human burials for thousands of years, with Romano-British pottery found inside one of the burial chambers indicating that it was still open in Roman times.

As is sometimes found at ancient burial sites, Belas Knap features a large false entrance and two hidden side-entrances that actually lead into the burial chambers. This may have been to deter grave-robbers or to serve as a ‘spirit door’, through which the souls of the deceased may walk and receive the offerings left by their descendants during ceremonies.

At some point in Belas Knap’s lifetime however, its side doors were blocked up preventing its further use as a burial site. They were reopened however when site was excavated between 1863 and 1865, with the remains of 31 people found inside. Four different burial chambers were unearthed, as well as a collection of skeletons from children and one young adult beneath the false entrance. A circle of flat stones was also discovered in the centre of the mound, along with animal bones and flint artefacts.

The people buried here likely lived a life of hunting, cattle-herding and small scale farming, while two skeletons who died from severe head wounds suggest raiding and conflict may have been common in the period.

Belas Knap Long Barrow today

Today Belas Knap Long Barrow is managed by English Heritage and has been restored to its original condition, presenting a fascinating look into ancient life in Britain. Once a clearly significant burial site, it is 54 m long, 18 m wide and over 4m high, with the false entrance and side chambers still visible today.

The atmospheric chamber tombs inside the mound now remain open, allowing visitors to enter inside and see them up close. To get a further idea of the site’s significance, information boards give its intriguing history as well as a diagram of the various chambers inside.

Getting to Belas Knap Long Barrow

Belas Knap Long Barrow is located near Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, with the nearest parking in the layby at the start of the footpath. From there a 15-minute uphill walk following the signposts takes you to the site.

Alternatively, parking is available in the nearby village of Winchcombe, from which Belas Knap is a half mile walk along the Cotswold Way. The Castleways 559 bus service stops in Winchcombe, while the nearest train station is Cheltenham, 9 miles away.

Featured In

Stone Age Sites

Discover the Stone Age at these prehistoric sites across Britain, from Stonehenge to Castlerigg Stone Circle.