Last Photographed: Thursday 28th July 2005
Long Meg is the name of an outlying stone at this site and the 'daughters' are the stones of the circle - the third largest in England. The 'circle' is actually oval in shape and measures 360ft across it's widest point. It consists of 59 grey granite stones, the largest weighing in at around 29 tonnes. 17th Century records indicate that there may have been 77 stones at that time.
The outlier - Long Meg - is a 12ft tall, slender, red sandstone megalith, with spiral and ring carvings on its North East face. The anomalous nature of the stone has led to speculation that it may pre-date the circle. It's position is in line with the setting midwinter sun.
Interestingly, aerial photography suggests that the site was once enclosed by earthworks, meaning it may originally have been a henge. John Aubrey, writing in the 18th Century, also records the existence of two cairns. No trace of these remains.
This site attracts a large number of myths and legends. In common with many other circles, there's the belief that the stones can't be counted. A typical creation myth explains how the stones are actually a coven of witches, petrified by a local saint or wizard when discovered celebrating their Sabbath. In an interesting twist, tradition holds that if anyone's able to count the stones twice in a row then the spell will be broken and the witches released.
Other myths include the belief that Long Meg will bleed if damaged, that you can hear her whisper if you place your ear to her and that terrible misfortune and dire weather will follow any attempt to move or damage the stones. Indeed, this latter myth was allegedly put to the test when a farmer attempted to destroy the stones in the 18th Century. The attempt was abandoned when after a storm arose, with local superstition preventing cooperation with any further attempts.
It's unclear where the name 'Long Meg' originated, but it may relate to a notorious local character from the 17th Century - alleged miser and witch - Meg of Meldon. The other possibility is that the stone was named after Long Meg of Westminster - a giantess buried at the abbey during the reign of Henry VIII.
This is another one of those circles that simply can't be done justice by a camera - however good the shot. I had high expectations when I visited , but I was still surprised by the scale and atmosphere of this site - which is undoubtedly helped by it's secluded location away from the usual tourist trail. As Wordsworth once wrote of Long Meg:
"A weight of awe, not easy to be bourne,
Fell suddenly upon my spirit - cast
From the dread bosom of the unknown past
When first I saw that family forlorn"
The only irritation is the road that passes through the middle of the circle, leading to the local farm (at least it's a dead end!). Despite this, the site still retains a profound sense of tranquillity, and survives in remarkably complete condition.