Thursday, October 22, 2009

Holiday in England - Stonehenge and Neolithic sites

Towards the end of our holiday, my sister-in-law Jill took us on another of her tours. We got up early for the early morning special access to Stonehenge. They allow a small number of visitors to get close to the stones (but you are not supposed to touch them), between 0630 and 0730. We were hoping to see the sunrise, but it was rather overcast. Despite being warned that many people are disappointed when they see how small the stone circle is, I found its size to be appropriate. The stones are just large enough to inspire awe, but the proportions are still human enough. I have not studied the subject enough to express an opinion about the site's function, and I don't mind leaving it as a mystery in my mind.

From Stonehenge we went to another ancient stone circle site at Avebury. Here there was a large stone circle with two smaller circles inside (not concentric). The village of Avebury is located among the remains of the circles. We arrived early, and wandered among the stones, accompanied by grazing sheep. We waited for the museum to open, and visited a local gift shop with a new-age feel to it. We saw a group of people who seemed to be Neo-Druids, perhaps intending to conduct some ritual on what they consider a sacred site.

Then we visited the nearby West Kennet Avenue, consisting of two parallel lines of standing stones. This site is right next to the road, and the lines of stones extend for a long distance.

From there we drove past Silbury Hill, a prehistoric 40-meter high artificial mound of uncertain purpose. It looks clearly man-made.

We arrived at the nearby West Kennet Long Barrow, an ancient tomb. The walk to this site was a pleasant stroll across the fields, as the day grew warmer.

After this, we visited another ancient barrow, Wayland's Smithy. This was quite a way from the road, but despite the warm weather, we enjoyed the walk along a country lane.

Then we saw the nearby Uffington White Horse, an ancient horse figure carved into the chalk on the hillside. This is the oldest white horse. It doesn't seem to have been intended to be viewed from the ground, and the best pictures are taken from the air.

This tour showed us some of the best ancient sites of southern England, which remain mysterious and intriguing. I enjoy visiting ancient remains because it gives me a sense of the depth of human history. I like standing where people of different cultures once lived, and wondering about their different understanding of the world.


VintFalken said...

That's quite a day-full! ;) I must say, when I first saw Stonehenge, it was from the (keep visitors at a safe) distance, and yes, it was incredibly small. But when you're standing inbetween the stones, it suddenly seems massive!

ariadne said...

Wish I could do this tour!Intriguing indeed!Thanks for sharing!

Betsy Swift said...

Did you rent a car, take the train, hire a tour guide? I am interested in these kinds of sites also, will be in London for a week in early December - is this a day-trip do you think? I would love to do as you described. arrive very early in the morning - sounds just lovely.

Ruth Ludlam said...

It was a guided tour organized by my sister-in-law, Jill. You can contact her and see if she can help: