I did a particularly spooky tour of Cumbria, in honour of Halloween…
You remember I told you that Martyna is especially skilled at finding cool adventures for us to go on? Well, here’s another: we went to see Long Meg & Her Sisters, a Druidic stone circle in North Cumbria. It’s the third largest circle in the UK after Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar and has over fifty stones. It is also totally deserted — for some reason, barely anyone knows about it.
Long Meg (she’s the taller stone that’s sort of the shape of a pointer on a sundial — or a witch’s hat — in the pic above and in the first one in this post) was supposedly the mother to over fifty daughters, all witches. One night they were out doing their witchy thing, dancing in the moonlight and casting spells, when Michael Scot, famous Scottish “wizard,” happened upon their gathering. Scot supposedly turned them all to stone for their evil deeds… which frankly I think was a major overreaction to a bit of midnight dancing.
Legend now has it that the stones cannot be counted — that if you try to count them once, but then try again, you will get a different number each time. Another local story says that you should attempt to count the stones, then walk over to Meg and press your ear to her stone. She’ll tell you a secret — or possibly, if you’re really un/lucky, you’ll break the spell and the witches will all wake up.
An even more spooky and mysterious circle is Mayburgh Henge, not too far from Long Meg, at Eamont Bridge. Mayburgh is unlike other circles: rather than being made of large stones, its outer ring is made from piles and piles and piles of smaller ones, which have largely now been grown over by grass. The big stones were originally dragged to the middle of the circle and erected next to one another… except sometime between the Druids building the Henge and now, all but one of them have been stolen. We’re talking massive stones here. Why they were taken, and by whom — or what — is a local mystery to this day.
But for me the best thing about Mayburgh Henge is the trees: around the piled-up stone outer ring, ancient oaks and ashes are planted. In formation: oak, ash, oak, ash. Both trees have huge mythical significance and are considered very sacred by many. Check out the roots on this hundreds-of-years-old ash I perched on!
(Fun fact: Mayburgh is in spitting distance of the supposed site of King Arthur’s Round Table, also at Eamont Bridge.)
It’s been one of the hottest and driest autumns on record, and you might have seen in the news that the weather has uncovered some spooky stuff. I’m talking specifically about Mardale, the famous “drowned village,” which recently re-appeared out of what is now Haweswater. In 1934, Mardale village was bought by the water board and evacuated, then “drowned” to create a massive reservoir. Although everyone was safely relocated, there’s still something a little creepy about the fact that every so often, the lakewater recedes enough that you can see the ghosts of the village’s former buildings.
^ This sign, by the far end of Haweswater, just adds to the spook factor.
Lastly, we visited the Lowther Castle Park chapel and graveyard, where a good few of my relatives — who were in service to the Lowthers — are buried. The Lonsdale Family mausoleum is a creepy gothic palace, complete with gargoyles and scary, staring faces. Sitting high up on a man-made defensive escarpment, we found that the cemetery is also a pretty cool place to watch an autumn sunset…
Have a deliciously spooky Halloween, whatever you get up to!
Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!