Long Meg and Her Daughters

Stone Circle
Nearest town: Penrith
Nearest village: Little Salked
Map reference: NY 571372

The north-western side of the 109 x 93m circle; Long Meg is the pillar in the background, on top of the slope

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Long Meg and Her Daughters is the third largest English stone circle (the other two being the outer circle at Avebury, in Wiltshire and Stanton Drew, in Somerset). The monument dates from the Bronze Age, it consists of a huge ring (the Daughters) of almost 60 local porphyritic stones and a tall outlier (Long Meg). The circle measures 109.4 x 93m (359 x 305ft). It lies on a slight slope, with the east and west cardinal points marked by two massive blocks, and an entrance at the south-west defined by two large boulders and two further stones lying outside the ring.
     Long Meg is a 3.6m (12ft) high block of red sandstone 72.6m (238ft) south-west from the circle centre: this is the alignment of the midwinter sunset. On its north-east face are some ring and spiral carvings, perhaps reflecting its astronomical alignment. The decorated side of Long Meg doesn't face the circle, so the outlier and the ring may not be contemporary. Aerial photographs of the site reveal that the circle is enclosed in a bank, not visible from the ground.
     In the 18th century there was an attempt to destroy the stones, but a tremendous thunderstorm and superstitions stopped the project. For the local tradition, Long Meg and her daughters were a coven of witches turned into stones by a saint (or a powerful wizard) during their sabbath. As with many other megalithic monuments, these stones are said to be uncountable: it is impossible to get the same total, but if anyone can do it twice, the spell will be broken. Another story says that Long Meg would bleed if broken down.

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