The Eden Valley area of Cumbria is shrouded in myth and legend. The dramatic landscape is dotted with castles, ruins and ghostly whispers on the wind.

If these hills could talk, they would have some stories to tell. The biggest mystery of all is why is the Eden Valley home to an extraordinary large number of stone circles?

What is a stone circle?

The clue is in the name – it’s a circle of ancient stones.

How old are stone circles?

There is no exact date for stone circles and there is a huge variety in estimates. Many originate from the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age eras, which would be around 3000 BC.

Why were stone circles created?

This is an age-old mystery. No one really knows for sure. Theories suggest they may be connected to religious rituals, some say they are to commemorate the dead. Others suggest they may have been created using astronomy to determine their positions. Some may be just a way of marking a landowner’s territory or a place for villages to meet.

Why Visit a stone circle?

Stone circles are places absorbed in tranquility and can be a spiritual experience for many. There is something special about the fact you are standing on a site constructed thousands of years ago with plenty of historic interest in the stones themselves and the ancient carvings and symbols.

Cumbria is blessed with a number of stone circles with the highest concentration being in the scenic Eden Valley. Here is our guide to some of the most notable.

Long Meg And Her Daughters

We start with this one as its one of the most famous stone circles in the area and, in fact, the second largest in England. Long Meg is the tallest stone at around 12 feet high and she is joined by her 57 daughters. It is thought there were originally as many as 70 stones. Currently 27 are upright.

Long Meg is distinctive, made from local red sandstone whilst her daughters consist of granite.

No one really knows the age of this stone circle or why it was constructed but the best guess is about 1500 BC. It could have been used as a local’s meeting place or for a religious ritual.

Folklore says the stones represent terrified folk who will only be released from their spell if they are counted correctly.

It is also said that if you walk round the circles and count the number of stones correctly, then put your ear to Long Meg, you will hear her whisper.

The circle is located in Little Salkeld near Penrith. (Satnav CA10 1NW)

Little Meg Stone Circle

Once you’ve visited Long Meg and her daughters you must pop along to Little Meg which is only a third of a mile away. Whilst Long Meg is one of the largest, Little Meg is one of the smallest.

Sadly, the stones are not in their original positions and obscured by long grass in the summer. The circle consists of 11 small stones. (Satnav CA10 1NP)

Gunnerkeld stone circle

You can see this stone circle if you are driving on the motorway as it is right next to the M6 on the Southbound side. It is easy to get to just take the narrow road from Strickland to Castlehowe. The land is owned by Gunnerwell farm and you will need to ask permission if you would like to visit. (satnav CA10 3EQ).

This site consists of a double ring – the outer has 19 stones made of granite with the tallest being just over a metre.

The inner circle is made up of 31 granite stones.

Oddendale stone circle

Oddendale is a tiny hamlet, close to the village of Shap and is relatively easy to get to. Take the M6 to Junction 39 and then the A6 towards Shap. (Sat nav CA10 3LH).

One of the smaller stone circles in the area, it is formed of two concentric circles with stones made from local Shap granite.

The bigger circle consists of 34 small stones - the tallest 64 cm high. The inner circle stones are even smaller.

Gamelands Stone Circle

Gamelands is one of the largest stone circles in Cumbria and is said to date back to the middle to late Neolithic period.

The stones are once again made from local granite with the exception of one which is limestone. There are several stones missing from the circle. The damage is believed to have happened in Victorian times when a farmer was wanting to plough the field and the stones were in the way!

The views from Gamelands are worth the visit alone. Nearby Knott Hill and Great Asby Scar provide the wow factor with the backdrop of the valley of the River Lune and the Howgill Fells in the distance.

The circle is reached by a track about halfway between Orton and Raisbeck (satnav CA10 3SE).

The Cockpit Stone Circle

This is one of the newer stone circles in the area at around 3500 and 5000 years old and dating from the bronze period. It consists of around 30 stones and was named because it is situated in an area once used for cockfighting.

Like many others, no one really knew what the site was used for. It could have been simply a meeting place for locals, or it could have a religious significance.

It is located near the lake at Ullswater, not far from Pooley Bridge (sat nav CA10 2LT).

Glassonby Stone circle

You’ll find Glassonby stone circle about a mile away from Long Meg and her Daughters. Unfortunately, this fascinating site is on private land so you will need to obtain permission before venturing for a look.

This circle was buried for many years before being excavated in 1900.  

There are 32 stones in total with the tallest being 92 cm. The site boasts panoramic views across the Eden Valley. (Satnav CA10 1DY).




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