Yes, we all know of Stonehenge, but Avebury Stone Circle aka Avebury Standing Stones, felt much more magical to me. The Avebury standing stone circle is the largest series of stone circles in the world. A stone circle believed to be much older than Stonehenge, Avebury is not technically a “henge” because it does not have stones crossing the top of two others, which is what essentially makes a stone circle a stone henge. Yet Avebury is rather remarkable. The stones are large, and are part of other less prominent circles. The Avebury is about a mile round, which dwarfs stonehenge stone circle of standing stones, significantly.
Standing for millennia, this lesser known stone circle is enormous, extremely accessible (you can actually touch the stones) far from remote. Wiltshire is a small farming community and only 20 miles from Stonehenge. It is an active, working, countryside village of ancient origins only 20 miles from the extremely contained and tourist laden Stonehenge. It too is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as part of the UK National Trust and if you get there on a sunny day you can stroll the stone circle for an easy hour, likely meeting up with locals, tourists, sheep herding dogs, sheep and sheepherders.
Wondrous structures, including barns, homes and cottages from the age of the Tudors dot the rolling green hills, full of sheep and other farm creatures. Free from the fences and touristy contrivances of Stonehenge , an extremely contained, roped off and overtly commercialized location, that is pretty much in the middle of a field, far from anything but their own gift shop, cafe, vendors and some sheep. At Avebury you may stroll amongst the ancient rocks at commune with them and the lovely countryside, at your leisure. There are even other things to enjoy and see, such as Avebury Manor & Garden, an interesting site in and of itself. If you are a member of the National Trust then parking is free. If not, I believe it was only about $5 american to park for as long as you wish. Entrance to the stones circle is free, just lift the lock at the gate and in you go.
Avebury Stones are of varying size and shape are found in the backyards of homes still active with life today. It is a truly lovely stroll if the weather is agreeable and does not tend (at least when I was there in 2017) to be overrun with tourists.
Avebury Manor & Gardens and the surrounding buildings and village are well worth the visit. The house has an odd history and the decor spans from a variety of eras. The church , graveyard and gardens are sublime. In the end, yeah Stonehenge is worth it, but for it that experience was underwhelming compared to the the mile round, older stones that continue to be part of a thriving community today.
To think of all the people who have looked upon them with awe and touched them in just the same way you can today touch them as well.
Good to note: It is difficult to find the Avebury Standing Stones without a GPS. The signage is small and obsolete. The roads extremely rustic and signage not always clear. Give yourself at least an hour to stroll the entire circle. I believe there to be a restaurant and hotel there but little house beyond the quaint farmhouses and such.
I’m on my way to my next adventure. I’ll write more about my travels soon!