Avebury

County: Wiltshire

The largest Neolithic stone circle. In the world.

About:

That's right. Avebury is home to the largest Neolithic circle in the world. Stonehenge would fit inside about 14 times and is only about 20 miles away. And yet not many people have heard of Avebury, and it certainly doesn't attract a million visitors a year like Stonehenge does. It doesn't seem right, somehow.

There's a lot to the Avebury and surrounds complex. Silbury Hill, the largest pre-industrial man-made mound broods next to the A4; within sight, at the brow of the sloping field opposite is West Kennet Long Barrow, built around 3650 BC, and in use for at least a thousand years. It's rather special to be able to enter into this tomb and see the stone chambers (no bones, alas!) and imagine the burial rites that would have been performed here. Linked is The Sanctuary, and the Avenue a processional route to the stone circle itself. The stone circle itself has fallen victim to time and human interference over the millennia, but it is no less impressive with what remains. The henge (ditch and outer bank) is about a mile in circumference, and about 55' from the top of the bank to the bottom of the ditch. Take away the grass and imagine the gleaming white chalk that lies underneath. Within the henge is an outer stone circle, and within that, 2 smaller circles, described as the male circle and the female circle. It seems the stones are paired into 'male' stones and 'female' stones. The links with fertility are very strong here, in comparison with the death-ness of Stonehenge (Yes, I realise I just made that word up). During the 1300s and 1600s, a lot of destruction took place here, as well as a village having taken shape from Anglo Saxon times. So the whole 'feel' of the place is very different to Stonehenge, and everybody appreciates being able to walk amongst the stones without a charge. The National Trust also look after an Elizabethan Manor house and a museum dedicated to Alexander Keiller, the "Marmalade Man" who dedicated his life to excavating the site and trying to return as much as he could back to how it probably would have been. There are places to eat, drink and shop here too.

Need to know:

  • Avebury is about 1.5hrs from Heathrow / Windsor, and an hour from Bath
  • There is no fee to visit the stone circle, but charges apply if you want to visit the Manor House or museum
  • It can get very muddy, and sometimes sheep are to be found grazing around the stones ... mind where you step!
  • Depending upon itinerary and interests, time spent here can vary from just having a photostop to typically around an hour, although you could spend several hours here
  • West Kennet Long Barrow is a 20 minute approx. walk over fields and up a slope; good mobility and shoes required; my itineraries don't normally allow time for this, but can be included if wished.

Options:

Often linked with Bath or Stonehenge and other Wiltshire sites.