From here, you will want to follow the getting started guides for the binary and source distributions in order to set up CruiseControl. The binary distribution lets you run it 'out of the box' and you can see how a functional CC is supposed to work. Once you have the hang of it, you can try out putting your own project under CC. Using the guide for the source distribution, under the "Running the Build Loop" section, you can specify a place to store all your work.
Now the binary distribution sets the root of the CC directory to where the sh/bat executive file is called from. The requirement is that CC's lib and dist directories must be there. So the default is to call cruisecontrol.sh from the extraction place, that will also bind the project storage to be there. If you call the sh file from the specified place in the previous paragraph, CC will complain about not finding the lib and dist directories. The solution is to edit cruisecontrol.sh and hardcode the CCDIR to the extraction place, then call it from the project storage. Note that the binary distribution uses a projects directory instead of a checkout directory.
After that, follow the guide in creating config.xml and build-