Long Meg and Her Daughters Stone Circle, An Ancient Wonder 1

Long Meg and Her Daughters Stone Circle is a wonderful spot to walk to, especially at sunset. It is situated half way up the Eden Valley, by the village of Little Salkeld, near to Penrith.

This is the sixth largest stone circle in Europe, and it is the largest stone circle in Cumbria as well as the third largest in Britain. For such splendour and history it is a very quiet place not packed with tourists.

Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle

When you stand within this circle of stones you can see for yourself the huge circumference it has and you must imagine that the whole of Stonehenge Stone Circle would fit as a whole within it, with lots of ease. Yes Long Meg and Her Daughters is that big

long meg ancient stone

In another post I showed the much more commonly visited Castlerigg Stone Circle. Maybe at that one you have the larger mountains surrounding it 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 though you are allowed lots of peace and quiet to walk and look around in wonder.

stone circle 3 stones

You have the hills of the North 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 it has and how the circle of stones may have become to be here.

The Stones

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 some with crystals are set at certain points. All leading to the belief that the stone circle and various stones were used as pointers for differing equinoxes.

I have shown on the Orton Scar walk another more recent quirky use for one such glacier carried stone. This valley is littered with them.

long meg in the sunlight

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.

How Did It Get Its Name?

The name comes from local folklore of course and the story goes that Long Meg was named after a local 17th Century witch named Meg of Meldon. A witch with many daughters and that because they insulted the Sabbath by dancing on that day they were all turned to stone.

long meg historic stone

Another old story that goes with it is that Long Meg’s stone is magical and it is impossible to count all the daughter stones with the same resulting number each time you try. If you do ever manage it, the spell will be 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. And it stands outside the circle proper.

rock carvings on the stone

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, cup rings and circles.

How old is the stone circle?

Well it is estimated to have been built during the Bronze Age around 1500 BC or even late Neolithic age.

This makes Long Meg and Her Daughters one of the oldest stone circles in Britain. It really does deserve more fame than it actually gets.

stone circle in the eden valley near penrith

The Visit Of Wordsworh

William Wordsworth himself visited the stone circle in 1833 and is quoted as saying:

‘Next to Stonehenge it is beyond dispute the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains’.

William Wordsworth
cow in the stone circle

Worsdworth was also inspired to write a poem of his feelings when visiting 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.

William wordsworth
fallen stones

Protected By The Weather?

You do not get something as mysterious and old as this without even more superstition and legend to go with it.

Long Meg and Her Daughters was said, in days of old, to be protected by the weather. Any tampering with or attempt to disrupt the stones was said to cause the great storms that arrive in the area.

One famous case involved a certain man named Colonel Lacy. He owned the land all around here in the late 18th Century.

He wanted to see what treasures were under the stones so planned to blow them all up. However after the gunpowder was all set, and just before it was all set to boom, a huge ferocious storm came and all the plan was abandoned.

farm track through the stone circle

A Road Through The Middle

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 the middle of the circle so the farm has access.

Visiting Long Meg and her Daughters

To stop people blocking the lane that runs through the stone circle there is now a purpose built car park that is a couple of hundred metres walk away.

The postcode to find it is CA10 1NW.

sunset and the long Meg stone

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 the history and the surroundings.

cow and stones

I could spend many a day here, camera in hand, any time of day. Each time I visit the light and weather brings a whole new look.

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12 Comments

  1. A lovely description of an ancient place. What a wonderful spot to while away the hours in peaceful thoughts.

  2. Rita Abrahams says:

    beautiful Paul the anciënniteit history thanks i enjoy it

  3. So many mysterious from the past. The ring marks on the stone so intriguing. Beautiful photos of a beautiful place. Wordsworth’s poem so beautiful and appropriate to the space.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Lyn, thanks so much,,, yes a very intriguing place 🙂

  4. Stephanie Burgess says:

    A beautifully photographed post!

  5. Great photos. I love that circle, especially the cup and ring marks on the stones.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Interesting place isn’t it Sue?

      1. Rachel Dubber says:

        Wonderful story Paul. Ancient wonders are always fascinating.

        1. Paul Steele says:

          Thanks Rachel. Looking forward to doing more articles like that now

  6. Jeanette Joy says:

    I could spend hours on this post and feel some of the emotions and connections those who visit feel. Thank you for sharing not only your great photos, but also your thoughts. I appreciate following you Paul.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Jeanette, it truly is a fascinating spot to be at. Any time of year or day

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