Long Meg & her daughters

I confess to a great liking for Long Meg. For one, I live very near to it and being handy for one of this land’s ancient monuments really tickles my historian’s cockles. It’s enormous – some say the third biggest in the country, but frankly, I’ve also heard second, fourth, fifth and sixth – so let’s just agree that, at a diameter of 109m, it is really big.

Long Meg June 2013

Long Meg June 2013

The largest of the stones in the circle is 3.3m high and estimated to weigh 28 tons. There are 27 stones still standing in the circle, with a whole load of others reclining. ‘Long Meg’ herself is an outlyer, made from local sandstone, and is 3.7m high. The pink stone has a strange quality in certain lights – it ‘glitters’ – and it’s then that you catch sight of the faint, eerily ancient, spiral carvings. Some very practical archaeologists reckon that the menhir’s purpose was to point the way to the circle itself, as the lay of the land means that a traveller from the Eden Valley would have seen it on the horizon long before the circle came in to view. I can find no record of archaeological excavations or ‘finds’ here, but my most worthy tome estimates the date to be third millenium BCE. That’s five thousand years old.

Close up of a spiral on Long Meg

Close up of a spiral on Long Meg

What was it for? Well, we just don’t know, but, like a lot of circles, it is aligned astronomically. At winter solstice, if you stand in the centre of the circle, the sun sets behind Long Meg.

If you’re at all nervous of our pagan friends, don’t go there on solstices – plenty of folk gather there to tie wishes to the ‘clootie tree’ and leave flowers at the foot of Long Meg. Contrary to some views, it’s not because they believe that Long Meg is a witch turned to stone (see Michael Scot), but because they believe that’s what our ancestors did. Again, who knows?

Further reading: The Stone Circles of Cumbria by John Waterhouse ISBN 0-85033-566-3

©Diane McIlmoyle 27.10.10


11 thoughts on “Long Meg & her daughters

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  4. Long Meg and her Daughters, plus all the folklore that goes with it/them you all know so well it is pointless to add more…so many times I visited, my awe never diminished but increased. My Dad’s mother from Penrith…part ancient Celtic Cumbrian, part Norse. I so wish that Cumberland amd South West Scotland, where my mother’s side is from, could be as one. So sad the divisions during the time of the Border Reivers, as so many similarities. (Red sandstone being one, like Dumfries [and Galloway]; ancient magic round every corner being another…). That we had stuck together!
    Mysterious Rheged! Had Urien’s intentions come to fruition! Better yet, King Gwenddleou/au winning at Ar(f)derydd and the olde ways prevailing. Myrddin/Merlin; Cornwall, always mentioned in books of Celts, Cumberland/Cumbria forgotten…Cwbraic, P-Celtic or “Old ‘Welsh'”, “Welsh” an Angle word for “foreign” or alien…stopped being spoken in Southern Scotland around the C13th (although spoken in parts of Cumbria into the early C20th.) Cwbraic heading SOUTH and the south of the country called Cymru denying its existence, the North ? Yr Hen (G)Ogledd and Cwbraic from where their language camelaughed at as “the thin language”, Northern heroes relocated South; the LIES of Geoffrey of Monmouth, although Welsh aristocracy claimed descendency from Cumbria and Southern Scotland….When Cunedda, the Gododdin (Lothian, centred around Edinburgh/Din Eidyn) warrior headed south to rid Wales of “Scots”(=Irish), his stories of the heroic deeds of the Northmen not written down, who was to stop them? “Gwyr Y Gogledd” changed to the Men of the North-WALES! Yr Hen (G)Ogledd am Byth! Cumbria and Scotland together in peace. Nature worship. Blssings. )O( X

    • Penny, I think you’ve just summed up this entire blog in one paragraph 🙂

      I suppose all kinds of places could have felt culturally different if history had turned otherwise. But it is funny that places like Cornwall and even parts of Somerset claim a ‘celtic’ heritage when Cumbrians – despite the place name, as you say – seem to have forgotten theirs in favour of the vikings.

      Thanks for coming over. Joy to you and yours! 🙂

          • I must apologise for being a little opiniated; I am biased! I don’t hate everyone from anywhere, I DO, however get a little tired oof folk overlooking some of the most incredible, beautiful, magical and well, ineffable (and ineffable ocular!) places not just on these Isles but in the world, limited though my knowledge is. All I express or say is only my own feelings…and at any time, like after reading comments that are untrue, historically/factually, or an attack on my and others’ own supposedly “free” opinions. I love Cornwall, too; against the odds they pulled through. It is a place so beautiful it boggles the mind (great use of grammar there!). I remember, years ago, folk down there saying they were “travelling to England tomorrow”. Recently I heard the phrase “People’s Republic Of Cornwall”. I think “People’s Republic Of Rheged” would be good! (All friends welcome…) Coming from a family that would fight against each other many centuries ago, can make a person forget the good. I also love Scotland. I prefer the auld ways )O( but each to their own, Live and let Love. I do not like the North/North West/Lowlands attacked in any way and its Heroes, the Gwyr Y Gogledd of Celtic Cumbria and Southern Scotland relocated to another time let alone another PLACE though for Political and Religious reasons.
            Living near Long Meg (and Her Daughters.) How wonderful! One of my close ancestors was from Penrith…part old Celtic Cumbrian, part Norse. A great mix.
            I desperately hope to get to Long Meg etc, but the weather is awful already and forecast to be moving up here (again!).
            It’s truly a fascinating, diverse (and, too often, tragic) world, but there is so much good waiting to be discovered right under us. Blessings and a great Yule one and all.
            Pen. X.

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