Long Meg and Her Daughters

Stone Circle - Cumberland

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Rock Art

NY 57059 37163 (GPS 130min). Dia. 100m (Meas. see text).
Visited 1981 > No magnetic anomalies

This is a site of huge proportions, at around 100m in diameter, the circle is the sixth biggest known, with only the enormous Avebury outer circle exceeding its size by any large degree. The large diameter caused us measuring difficulties, our tape was not long enough! Our measurement was done in two sections and is therefore not as accurate as usual, published figures are 109.4m E-W and 93m N-S. The ring is flattened at the north, almost running as a straight line for some distance, this was found to be because of abutment with an earlier large ditched enclosure to the north, this enclosure being substantially bigger than the circle . There was another smaller ditched enclosure to the NE, and a 15m diameter stone circle some 250m to the SW. The small stone circle has been destroyed, and the enclosure ditches have been buried, their existence only being revealed by aerial infrared photography. The circle is made up of sizable local porphyritic stones, we counted 68, and it stands on land with a pronounced slope to the north. There is a large entrance at the SW marked by outer portal stones, a feature found in other Lakeland rings such as Swinside. Twenty metres or so to the SW of the circle stands Long meg herself, a 3.7m tall pillar of Eden valley red sandstone. The side of Meg visible from the circle bears elaborate rock art, and although this is weathered, several large circular motifs are easily visible, including that of a possible spiral. 
Long Meg has an astronomical alignment, it marks the point of Midwinter sunset when viewed from the circle centre, the circle stone and portal of the western side of the entrance also share this sightline. Long Meg and Her Daughters also has the distinction of being a "drive in" stone circle, in common with Ardblair and one of the Clava Cairn circles, a road now runs through the ring.
The presence of earlier structures raises the question of which monument Long Meg was originally associated with. There is a theory that Meg was originally associated with the ditched enclosure, the circle being inserted between the two at a later date. As there have been no modern large scale excavations of the site it is presently impossible to say which, if any, of the monuments are contemporaneous.
The name "Long Meg" comes from a mediaeval saying for any long and thin object, and as well as the usual "girls petrified for dancing on the Sabbath", and "uncountable stones" legends, there are the notions that a twelfth century wizard turned the witch Meg and her coven to stone, and that Meg herself will bleed if a piece of stone is chipped off her.

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