Long Meg and Her Daughters – An ancient wonder 1

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.

Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle
long meg ancient stone

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.

Long Meg and Her Daughters – An ancient wonder 2

But, lets look at why the great name and how it may have become…..

stone circle 3 stones

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.

long meg in the sunlight

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 historic stone

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.

rock carvings on the stone

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’.

stone circle in the eden valley near penrith
cow in the stone circle
fallen stones

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.

farm track through the stone circle

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.

sunset and the stone

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.

cow and stones

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.

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

  2. Avatar of Rita Abrahams 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. Avatar of Paul Steele Paul Steele says:

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

  4. Avatar of Stephanie Burgess Stephanie Burgess says:

    A beautifully photographed post!

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

    1. Avatar of Paul Steele Paul Steele says:

      Interesting place isn’t it Sue?

        1. Avatar of Paul Steele Paul Steele says:

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

  6. Avatar of Jeanette Joy 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. Avatar of Paul Steele Paul Steele says:

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

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