Avebury Wiltshire SN8 1RF 01672 539 250
Stonehenge gets all the hype – and daytrippers – but this stone circle just outside the village of Avebury, about twenty miles north of Salisbury, has the edge in atmosphere. They say unearthly figures and lights occasionally bob and dart within the 27 massive standing stones, under a third of the original monument after locals feared devilry and set about the megalithic monument in the 14th and 17th centuries. A model in an onsite museum helps visualise the structure and displays finds from the excavation in the Thirties. The silent stones, surrounding ditch and 6m-earthwork wrap around a pretty Wiltshire village only adds to the sense of tapping into an ancient past.
We love to visit in the winter and chase the kids round the stones. It's wonderful to be able to run your hands over the rough ancient surfaces of the immense stones and to imagine the men that got them to this magical place. Visit the museum for the mummified cat, and to learn about the bats that live in the roof timbers. National Trust members can park for free - the car park can get very busy in summer. Do also try and go to the West Kennet Long Barrow, it's a lovely walk up with great views and you can clamber over and inside the barrow itself.
Avebury is such a great place to visit. The stones are on such a scale that they encompass the village. You can walk amongst the stones, touch them, get a sense of someting long forgotten. Nearby is West Kennet which is an amazing, atmospheric burial chamber, go at dusk - magical !
I would suggest anyone goes to Avebury in preference to Stonehenge (where you can't get up close to the stones, you're charged a fortune, and there's a main road alongside). Avebury is quite the opposite: admission is free and unrestricted, and you can get a pint at the pub and settle yourself down against one of the stones to contemplate the place. Even better, you're just off a fabulous section of the prehistoric Ridgeway – one of Britain's best walks.
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