A wonderful place to walk to, especially at sunset, Long Meg and Her Daughters. Situated half way up the Eden Valley, by the village of Little Salkeld, near to Penrith. The sixth biggest stone circle in Europe, it is the largest stone circle in Cumbria and third largest in Britain. When you stand amongst the circle of stones you can see the huge circumference and imagine that Stonehenge would fit as a whole within it, with ease.
In a previous post I showed the much more commonly visited Castlerigg Stone Circle. Maybe there you have the larger mountains surrounding immediately, maybe its closer proximity to the usual Lake District haunts makes that one easier to travel to. Here at Long Meg and Her Daughters you are allowed peace to stroll, peace to look in wonder and you have the Pennines providing a perfect backdrop eastwards, with a wonderful sunset over the Lakeland mountains the other way if you come at dusk.
But, lets look at why the great name and how it may have become…..
How Did It Get Its Name?
Well the actual circle (the daughters) is 69 stones, made of granite, huge boulders averaging 12 feet high, that were brought down the valley from the gigantic glacier that formed the Eden Valley. Some have slight differences and crystals at certain points. All leading to the belief that they were used as pointers for differing equinoxes. I have shown on the Orton Scar walk another more recent quirky use for one. However, standing outside the circle all on its own is the 3.8 metres high monolith of Long Meg herself. This stone is made of local sandstone.
The name comes from folklore of course and it is said that Long Meg was a witch with many daughters and that because they insulted the Sabbath by dancing they were turned to stone. Another story that goes with it that Long Meg’s stone is magical and it is impossible to count all the daughter stones with equal number each time. If you manage it, the spell is broken.
Long Meg, this is the stone that captures much of the imagination. From standing in the very centre of the circle the stone stands directly in line with the midwinter sunset. The stone is also shaped into four corners around its diameter, each pointing to the four corners of the compass. Looking close up you can also see ancient rock carvings upon it, cups and circles.
What is the age of the stone circle?
Well it is estimated to have been built during the Bronze Age around 1500 BC or even late Neolithic age even. Making it also one of the oldest in Britain. It really does deserve more fame than it actually gets. William Wordsworth himself is quoted as saying ‘Next to Stonehenge it is beyond dispute the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains’.
Today you will find a few of the stones have fallen, and also that it is a thoroughfare to a farm, with a track running straight through it as access. Access by car is thus easy too of course.
I do recommend a visit at sunset. It is a very calm spot to be at and apart from the odd cow or dog walker you will often find yourself totally alone. A perfect place to ponder and admire.
William Wordsworth was greatly inspired when visiting in 1833, he write a poem of his feelings here:
A weight of awe not easy to be borne
Fell Suddenly upon my spirit, cast
From the dread bosom of the unknown past
When first I saw that sisterhood forelorn
And Her, whose strength and stature seemed to scorn
The power of years – pre-eminent, and placed
Apart, to overlook the circle vast.
Speak Giant-mother! tell it to the Morn,
While she dispels the cumbrous shades of night
Let the Moon hear, emerging from a cloud
When, how and wherefore, rose on British ground
That wondrous Monument, whose mystic round
Forth shadows, some have deemed, to mortal sight
The inviolable God that tames the proud.
I could spend many a day here camera in hand, any time of day. Every day the light and weather brings a whole new look. Here are a few more photos and I look forward to showing even more of the many stone circles in the area, I just love to see and learn.