People often ask why the stone circle was built here, rather than elsewhere. The answer must lie in its relationship to the much earlier enclosure to its north, which pre-dates the circle by many centuries. This enclosure, in turn, must owe its location to the adjacent natural spring, from which water bubbles up to the surface, still forming a substantial pond today, before flowing along an unnamed beck (here termed the ‘Long Meg Beck’) through a steep-sided natural valley to join the Eden near Lacy’s Caves. In religions ancient and modern, water is invariably of sacred significance, while it is also, of course, essential to life. It is not difficult to understand why a natural spring would have assumed sacred significance.

Looking south-westwards over Long Meg and the Eden towards the Lake District. Photo (c) Aaron Watson.

What is also significant at Long Meg is the link with the River Eden provided by the valley of the Long Meg Beck, which is very obvious on lidar imagery from which trees have been removed. Much transport in the Neolithic would have been by boat, and people may well have travelled up the Eden from the Solway, disembarking by the red sandstone rivercliffs before traveling on foot up to Long Meg via the valley of the Long Meg Beck. Thus it can be appreciated that the site was part of the great Neolithic ‘Irish Sea Province’, linked by river and sea with Ireland, Orkney and even Brittany.

Looking north-eastwards over Long Meg towards the North Pennines. Photo (c) Aaron Watson.

Also of significance were overland routes across the Pennines to north-east England and Yorkshire. Long Meg can thus be regarded as a hub, linking the Irish and North Sea coasts, rather than as any kind of cultural backwater. Finds from the recent excavations, including fragments of axes of polished stone from Langdale, flakes of pitchstone from the Isle of Arran, and flint from Yorkshire, support the notion of Long Meg as existing within a complex and extensive network during the earlier Neolithic, long before the construction of the stone circle. The significance of the place must derive ultimately from its natural landscape setting, and the links this offered to communities near and far.

Lidar image (DTM 1m lidar, with trees and buildings removed) showing the relationship between Long Meg and the Eden. (Image created using Environment Agency 2023 lidar data)