Although Stonehenge, near Salisbury, is better known, I have always had a soft spot for Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire. Standing in the middle of a field in Avebury, surrounded by huge lichen-covered stones, there is an immense feeling of peace. It doesn’t matter that the A361 winds through the village or that there are other people walking around the Neolithic stones, there is just an air of tranquillity and reverence about the Avebury.
This article refers to a visit or visits made before the travel restrictions put in place to deal with the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak around the world. Please take into account the advice from your local government before planning any travel and click here to see the current UK government advice regarding Covid-19
The stones are on top of the henge – a flat circular mound surrounded by banking and a deep ditch – and the village of Avebury has grown up around it. Originally there were 100 stones, but now only 30 are left.
As it is was constructed between 2850BC and 2200BC, it is not known how it was built without any modern-day moving or lifting equipment. The stones are not small, with some over 12 feet (3.7 metres) high and some as tall as 18 feet (5.5 metres) and heavy, up to 40 tons!
Another puzzling thing is what the exact purpose of Avebury was. As the stones are prehistoric, there are no records as to what it was used for. It has been suggested that it was area for feasting as animal bones have been found, or maybe as a worship site to the gods.
The village of Avebury has grown up around the stones and farmers have grazed their animals on the site for 6000 years. Don’t be surprised to see sheep pop out from behind the stones as the land is still used for grazing. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a lead.
It takes about an hour to walk around the whole site. You can choose to walk on your own or go with one of the guides. These volunteers are very knowledgeable and will explain the history of the stones.
One thing I love about Avebury is that you can get up close to most of the stones, instead of being kept far away like Stonehenge.
In the courtyard, you can go into the Barn Museum to view some of the artefacts dug up during the excavations of at Avebury and read more of the history.
The Henge Shop is perfect for local souvenirs, books, postcards and even plants.
The Preservation of Avebury
Archaeologist Alexander Keiller bought the land is responsible for the preservation of the Avebury Stone Circle. He bought the land around Avebury and set about maintaining and preserving the stones.
The manor house he built between the 1920s and 30s is now a museum owned by the National Trust. On display are many of the archaeological finds that were excavated from around the Avebury site.
How to get to Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury lies south of the M4 in Wiltshire. You can come off at Marlborough or Swindon and drive down the A361 which takes you into Avebury.
Parking at Avebury
There is a large clearly marked car park on the outskirts of Avebury with a path taking you to the centre of the village.
Where to eat and drink in Avebury
Across from the museum is the Circle Restaurant where you can have refreshments or lunch. For something a bit stronger, try The Red Lion for excellent pub food.
What else to see on your Trip to Avebury Stone Circle
The UNESCO World Heritage Site at Avebury takes in several major monuments which are all within walking distance of each other, if you would like to explore the area more.
West Kennet Avenue
One of the roads out of Avebury is West Kennet Avenue. Driving along this road you will see an avenue of stones which at first glance seem to be just random. If you take a closer look you will see that stones create a corridor of paired stones.
The stones themselves are slightly smaller than the stones at Avebury and were added after the construction of both Avebury and The Sanctuary (see below) connecting the two.
Originally there were 100 pairs of stones, but there are only 27 of the original stones and 37 concrete pillars marking where others stood.
There is a layby about halfway along the road, if you want to drive to the site.
Built around 4,500 years ago, The Sanctuary is thought to be a ceremonial site which was connected to Avebury by the processional West Kennet Avenue. Originally constructed in wood, the wood was replaced by stone.
There were concentric rings of posts about 20 feet (6 metres) high. Nowadays concrete markers show the position of the original wood and stones.
The Sanctuary is also at the start of the 87-mile Ridgeway Walk which takes you across the North Wessex Downs and the Chiltern Hills to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire.
Close to Avebury is Silbury Hill, the largest man-made hill in Europe. It was constructed around 2400 BC and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the World Heritage Area of Avebury.
But Silbury Hill remains a mystery. Careful excavations have not found any burial chambers inside. Although it is thought that the Romans used it as a marker for one of their roads (now the A4), its exact purpose is unknown.
West Kennet Long Barrow
If you are visiting Silbury Hill, close by is West Kennet Long Barrow. West Kennet Long Barrow was built around 3650 BC and is a series of chambered tombs where fifty people were buried.
You can go inside the long barrow and see the side chambers; it is quite dark inside, so a torch is useful.
It is one of the largest long barrows in the UK, sitting about half a mile’s walk through fields from the carpark. You also get a marvellous view of Silbury Hill and the surrounding area from the top of the barrow.
Animal bones have been found in the three concentric ditches at Windmill Hill which suggests the area was used by Neolithic people for animal feasting or rituals.
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Larch has had wanderlust all her life, travelling as much as she can whenever she can. Now in her 50’s, she writes about her adventures on her travel blog The Silver Nomad to encourage travellers of all ages to look at different destinations. In early 2019, she qualified as a CAA PfCO Drone Pilot and now travels with her DJI Mavic Pro and Mavic Mini to capture aerial videos and photos to enhance her work.