Stone circles don’t come much better than Long Meg and her Daughters and, aside from Stonehenge, they don’t come any bigger in England. Throw in a folly known as Lacy’s Caves and this walk has a bit of everything without being too taxing at only 5.1 miles (8.2km).
Start at Long Meg’s car park. As a Yorkshireman, I’m pleased to be able to say it’s free and is plenty big enough for all but the busiest days. The stone circle isn’t far at all from here. Head along the road which actually runs through the middle of the henge. You can’t miss Long Meg’s daughters – the granite standing stones – which stand about 350ft in diameter. Long Meg is alone slightly outside of the henge and gives her name to the nearby hamlet. Little Meg, another much smaller stone circle, is also marked nearby on the map and might be worth a small detour from the route to visit.
The bridleway alongside the field leads through fields, alongside farms and reaches St. Michael’s Church. There’s more history inside the doorway – a 9th-century cross shaft and a hogback gravestone. In the grounds, as you head to the other side of the church and make your way towards the gate, you’ll also pass the Addingham Cross – a 10th-century stone cross which belongs to the historic parish of Addingham.
Following the path around the side of the church, it runs parallel and back towards the river, meandering through alleys of trees and hedgerows. It’s a pleasant walk in autumn to see the leaves turning red and orange, although somewhat boggy in places. Continue along this path towards the road, reaching Daleraven Bridge after a short walk down the road (be careful, it’s windy, albeit generally quiet).
Climb once again into the trees which open at the top to open fields. We stopped at the edge of the river here for lunch and to watch the passing of the river, flowing in force after the recent rain. With full bellies, we continued into the long stretch of woodland alongside the River Eden. At first, this was hard going as it was quite boggy and the wooden boardwalk on the footpath was broken. Eventually, this ended and we were simply met with red leaves and perfect trails underfoot.
Lacy’s Cave would have been quite easy to miss except for a small white sign which I noticed on the rock after some wooden steps. We were grateful to have not let the experience slip from us though as this was, without question, the highlight of the walk. Built into the sandstone hill, these chambers feel almost church-like in the way they’ve been shaped. The windows and doors open to views of the river and the whole place felt a little bit like something out of a fairytale.
After plenty of time, we continued the walk through the woodland and passed some remains of the old gypsum mine. Dating back to the Victorian era, the shafts are now closed and inaccessible, even if we’d have dared.
The path continued until it reached the tarmac, climbing further and returning us along a road into Little Salkeld. The road is quiet for the final stretch as it continues slightly uphill and leads towards Little Meg once again. On the left is the final turn which allows a road-free walk back to the starting car park.