The next stop on our itinerary was at Long Meg and Her Daughters a stone circle. It’s a large circle (the second or third largest in the country depending on which website you believe) and so quite hard to squeeze it all into one photograph. (There are aerial photographs and articles here and here.)
It’s an ancient site possibly dating from 1500 BC according to W.G.Collingwood*, whose ‘Lake District History’ (1925) I’m reading at the moment. He makes it clear that this is at best an educated guess. Other sources give even earlier dates. It’s also possible that Long Meg herself predates the stone circle from which she stands aloof.
The circle is of granite boulders – I can’t find even any supposition as the where these were brought from: the local stone is sandstone. Opinion as to the number of stones also seems to vary wildly – the kids counted and got 65, but apparently it’s impossible to count the stones accurately anyway. The stones were witches – turned to stone by a wizard, or for dancing on the Sabbath. If anyone could count the stones and get the same total twice they would break the spell and release the witches, or bring down bad luck on their own heads, or be able to hear Long Meg whispering if they put their ear to her side, or possibly all three.
Long Meg, meanwhile, is of local red sandstone, stands outside the circle and is very tall and thin.
She apparently is decorated with spirals, cup and ring marks and concentric circles although I didn’t find all of those. There’s a bit of chiselled graffiti too.
I shall have to go back some time and have another look – maybe then I’ll catch the daughters dancing or Long Meg whispering.
The circle is not quite on top of a hill, but it does command very extensive views and is well worth a visit. If you’re lucky you will find it very quiet as we did – just a couple of other families were there when we visited. In the middle of the circle are two very substantial willows – presumably quite old themselves, but I was tickled to think that the stones may have seen several generations of willows grow from saplings to gnarly ancients and eventually topple.
Here’s a slideshow with lots more pictures of stones and an admixture of kids tearing around and climbing on things:
*Interesting chap W.G.Collingwood, author, historian and artist, friend of both John Ruskin and Arthur Ransome (Collingwood’s boat was the Swallow).