Long Meg and Her Daughters Stone Circle, Penrith
Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle, which is also known as Maughanby Circle, is a Bronze Age stone circle located near to Penrith in Cumbria, North West England. Long Meg is a mile or so to the north of the Lakeland village of Little Selkeld off the A686 Penrith to Alston road, and there stands this impressive stone circle.
When visiting the site, a track runs through the circle to a farm and it is possible to park a vehicle on the verge in the field containing the stone circle.
The stone circle of Long Meg is the sixth largest example known from this part of north-western Europe, whilst the third largest stone circle in England after Avebury and Stanton Drew. The site is also thought to be one of the earliest, dating from the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age.
Long Meg Stone Circle
Long Meg and her Daughters consist of 51 stones of which 27 remain upright (the largest of which is 29 tons). The stones are set in an oval shape, measuring 94 metres north-south and 109 metres east-west on its long axis. The overall diameter of the circle is 106 metres. It is possible that there may have been as many as 70 stones at the site.
There is an entrance to the southwest that is flanked by a pair of stones just outside the stone circle.
The largest outlying stone is Long Meg herself, the ‘mother stone’ which is 3.6m high and is thought to weigh about 9 tonnes, a monolith of red sandstone 18m to the southwest of the circle made by her daughters. Long Meg is marked with examples of megalithic art, which includes a cup and rings of concentric circles. These carvings face away from the circle, a fact which has prompted speculation that the stone was erected at a different time period from the circle.
It is interesting to note that the four corners of the Long Meg stone are facing the points of the compass and standing some 18.28 metres (60 feet) outside the circle.
When the standing stone of Long Meg is viewed from the centre of the circle the monolith aligns with the midwinter sunset. It is not known exactly what the stone circle was used for, and yet it was likely used as a meeting place or some form of religious ritual.
The relationship of Long Meg to the stone circle suggests the possibility that it may have been used to sight the midwinter sun.
William Wordsworth wrote “Next to Stonehenge it is beyond dispute the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains”.
Long Meg and her Daughters Legends
The most famous of the many legends and local folklore that surround the stones of Long Meg is that they was once a coven of witches who were turned to stone by a wizard from Scotland named Michael Scot. It is said that the witches were celebrating their Sabbath when the wizard found them at it and turned them into stone.
It is also said the stones cannot be counted – but, if anyone is able to count them twice and come to the same total, the spell will be broken or it will bring very bad luck.
Another legend of the Long Meg stone circle states that if you walk round the circles and count the number of stones correctly, then put your ear to Long Meg, you will hear her whisper. The name itself is said to come from a local witch, Meg of Meldon, who was alive in the early 17th century.
More fascinating is the folklore that holds sway that if Long Meg and Her Daughters are moved or destroyed terrible misfortune, perhaps even a ferocious storm will fall upon those responsible. Story has it that a Colonel Lacy the land owner, of nearby Selkeld Hall decided to have the stones blasted with gun powder. When the work began a terrible thunder storm erupted from out of clear sky. This was taken by the labourers as a sign of the circle’s Supernatural power to defend itself – they fled in terror and would not carry out the work. The landowner then had a change of heart and left Long Meg and Her Daughters to themselves.
I hope you enjoy walking around this ancient monument of Long Meg Stone Circle as I did or even incorporating a visit in with a walk.