Most people have heard of Stonehenge, Wiltshire’s iconic neolithic monument on Salisbury Plain. It attracts more than 1 million visitors per year and tickets can sell out quickly. Stonehenge is part of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site, designated by UNESCO. Not so many are familiar with Avebury which is a shame as my wife S, daughter F, her friend D and I discovered it is well worth a visit this summer.
Avebury has the largest megalithic stone circle in the world, nearly a mile in circumference, which surrounds part of the pretty village. The stones are smaller in size than those at Stonehenge, but cover a much bigger area. The first ones are thought to have been erected around 3000 BC.
We arrived at a car park on the edge of the village, from where we walked around the cricket field to the National Trust Visitor Centre. The National Trust manages the site and the Visitor Centre contains all sorts of useful information. Here we booked a guided tour of the henge and stone circle with a National Trust volunteer. With an hour to spare before it started, we went to the café next door for a light lunch.
Our guide was bang on time and escorted us to the Henge.
The Henge is a large circular bank with an internal ditch. The stones were erected inside this. The Henge would have concealed the stones from the outside, but it is not known whether it was built for privacy or defensive reasons.
Many believe the purpose of the circle is religious, but it is not known for sure. We did see modern day Druids, singing beneath one of the stones on our visit. Our guide informed us that not every stone is as old as it seems. While many are more than 4000 years old, some disappeared in the intervening millennia. Archaeologists have added a few replacement stones in the positions the originals would have been. She took us to a stone that due to local myths, is nicknamed the Devil’s Stone and Chair. As you can see, it is possible to get up close and personal with the Avebury stones, unlike Stonehenge.
Our guide revealed that bones and scissors were found beneath another stone. This is now called the Surgeon’s Stone. We passed several groups having picnics around the stones, with others playing ball games nearby. It seemed a popular recreation area today and I wondered what those builders thousands of years ago would have made of today’s scene.
After being escorted back to the village centre, we thanked our guide and let the girls do some exploring on their own. Although a small and very pretty Wiltshire village, Avebury has a bit of a new age vibe, similar to Glastonbury. The girls were quite fascinated by the Henge shop, which clearly catered for this new age market. There were also a community village stores and a community café overlooking the cricket field. We ended up enjoying a drink at the latter.
Suitably refreshed, it was time to go as we were on our way to our summer holiday destination of Bournemouth. Avebury had proved to be a very interesting and worthwhile break in our journey.
Avebury is in Wiltshire, England, UK, 11 miles south of Swindon and 83 miles west of London
Avebury is on the A4361 road south of Swindon, close to its intersection with the A4 London-Bristol road. Drivers from the east should exit the M4 motorway at J14 and if travelling from the west at J16. Cars are not allowed in the village, but there are National Trust and community car parks available a few minutes walk away. There is a mainline train station at Swindon, from where there are regular buses to Avebury, journey time approximately 30 minutes
There is no charge to access the Henge and Stone Circle. Our guided tour cost £5 per adult and £2.50 per child in August 2022. For further information click here.
Food and Accommodation
There are 2 cafes and a pub in Avebury, as well as a couple of guest houses
2 thoughts on “Wiltshire’s Other Stone Circle”
Funnily enough, I never got around to doing a tour of the Henge. Love your snaps of it. By the by, liking the refreshed look of your blog.
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Thank you. Both henges are worth a trip, but Avebury definitely has a more relaxed vibe.