And we are back from our little adventure of Stones. Our Wiltshire adventure was a spur the of the moment holiday. Why Wiltshire? Well Stonehenge is/ was on my childhood Bucket list, but I never got around to it. Days off combined with cheap flights – this was the sign for that little tick in a box beside Stonehenge.
In a nutshell
Locations: Wiltshire – Avebury, Lacock, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Swindon; Hertfordshire – Cheshunt; England
Duration: Weekend trip – 3 days
Difficulty: Moderate – some walking
Transport: Car with GPS
Our starting / end point: Stansted airport – London
Visited: Day 1 : Lydiard Park – Swindon; Day 2: Wiltshire – Avebury henge, Stonehenge, Salisbury town; Day 3: Lacock village, Roman baths in Bath, Hertfordshire – Lee Valley Park, Cheshunt
We landed in Stansted airport, picked up our rental car and headed down to our base town for the trip – Swindon, Wiltshire.
Our accommodation was on the grounds of tranquil Lydiard Park – set on 260 acres of park land. If you fancy a nice day out at the heart of Mother Nature it is definitely the place for you. Lydiard Park offers a great family day out. There is play area for kids, a picnic area, take a lovely walk around the park, feed some ducks in the lake, and for those looking some cultural adventures visit the Lydiard House and Walled Garden. We saw lots of people engaging in sports activities, so if you are up for a run in a park, you are very welcome to do so. Also Food and Drink festival was on at the time as well.
In the morning, after finding some breakfast in Swindon, we are heading off to Stonehenge, but first we stop at Avebury.
Avebury is a charming little village with a lots of history, home to Avebury stone Circles and crop circle phenomena, that keeps showing up in crop fields around Avebury. Avebury Stone circles is part of Avebury World Heritage site – a prehistoric monument complex around Avebury village, consisting of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, with some of the sites dating back to as early as 2850 BC.
We were wondering about the many deep holes in the stones, turns out we weren’t the only ones… Apparently the official version is that, the stones were formed from sedimentary material containing plant roots, which left the marks on and through them. But some believe that they are channels where natural energy from the rocks has found its way to the surface. Over millennia the energy has changed the composition of the rock which has weathered faster leaving these micro-shafts.
For more history head to Alexander Keiller Museum, located in the stables gallery, which features the prehistoric artefacts collected by archaeologist Alexander Keiller and in the nearby 17th century threshing barn, you can find exhibit gallery about Avebury and its history. Behind the barn is an education room, were you can participate in traditional wool craft lesson (for a fee) or watch the demonstrations for free. I have some childhood memories of my Grandmother making wool yarn, but never imagined how time consuming the process is. After watching the wool craft demonstrations, I have a newfound appreciation for the hard work she put in to give us a new pair of wool socks for the cold winters.
Keep in mind that Stone circles are free to explore, but there are car park fee – 7GBP per day*, also there are entry fees to Avebury Manor and Garden and Alexander Keiller Museum.
After few hours of exploring Avebury we are off to our main attraction for the visit of Wiltshire – Stonehenge.
Who haven’t heard about the mysteries of the massive standing stones of Stonehenge?
We also had and our bucket list was waiting for the tick in that check box for a long time. As we were approaching the Stonehenge, we could see the Stones from the road we were travelling on, how exiting, I could not contain my excitement, finally.
Stonehenge has been built in many stages starting from around 3000BC. At first it was a circular ditch with an inner and outer bank with a possibility of some timber structures. Inside the bank are 56 pits, known as the Aubrey Holes. It is thought, that Stonehenge was used as cremations burial ground at this stage. Around 2400BC actual stones were set up in the centre. Outer circle made of sarsen stones, double bluestone inner arc and horseshoe of sarsen trilithons (three stones), in around 2200BC double bluestone arc was rearranged to form an inner circle and the oval inside the horseshoe. The remains of once magnificent site can still be seen today, but it doesn’t answer the mysteries surrounding Stonehenge and why it was built.
In the photo you can see the inner horseshoe of sarsen trilithons, notice the wedge shape protruding from one of the upright stones? These were fitted into holes in the underside of the horizontal stones, so the stones would all lock together to form a strong connection. Here you can also see the two types of stones used at Stonehenge: the large sarsen stones – sourced locally and weighing on average 25 tons, and smaller bluestones – thought to be coming from South West Wales and weighing between 2 and 5 tons each.
Stonehenge booking office suggested to book the tickets in advance – online, but we took a chance and encountered no problems getting ours on the spot, there were no queues either and this was in the middle of June. The price was steep 15GBP each*. Oh well, you won’t see the Stonehenge that often.. 🙂
The visitor centre is where you start your visit, but the actual stones are some 2 km away, once we got our tickets, we were off to the free bus (it had to be free for the price you pay to get in), which took us to the Stones or alternatively you can walk, if you are up to it.
Once at the Stonehenge, I quickly realized, that there is no way you can explore the stones up close – disappointing for me because my vision is not 20/20 and I didn’t have my glasses with me. So we walked the route around the Stones, but my excitement quickly plummeted. Overall I think the build up and excitement was bigger, than the actual enjoyment of the Stonehenge. Yes, there are lots of mysteries and history surrounding it, but the point of it was lost to me, when you get to see it from far away. Or maybe the enjoyment of Avebury Stones over clouded the Stonehenge experience, but that’s just my point of view.
Once we got back to visitor centre, we explored some Neolithic Houses, showing how people might have lived some 4500 years ago. Interesting, but nobody will ever convince me, that they have built the Stonehenge with their primitive tools; it’s not going to happen ever…
Apart from visitor centre, there is also basic Cafeteria serving sandwiches and soup, shop and toilet facilities.
As it was lunch time and after some browsing through cafeteria we didn’t find anything mouth watering, so we decided to have a lunch at Salisbury, only a short drive away.
* Information correct as of June 2015