If you are making your first visit to the United Kingdom, Stonehenge likely appears on your list of must see sites. It is an iconic site that everyone is familiar with. Be warned however, this is typically also a site that many say was a disappointment.
Arriving at Stonehenge you need to either do so on a tour or with an appointment. Visitors do not get anywhere near the ancient stones and the thing you don’t see in photographs is the lack of any ambience around the site, you will mostly be surrounded by souvenir vendors. Since you will likely go on a bus tour from London, it will also be an expensive trip, consuming your entire day, during which you will be at the mercy of the schedule and your guide.
What you may or may not know is that the U.K. is dotted with stone circles and other ancient sites. These sites are believed to be mostly ceremonial in nature, though their true usage will never likely be completely understood. We recently visited Avebury Stone Circle and highly recommend it ahead of the more famous site at Stonehenge.
It is a pleasant drive from London taking only roughly an hour and twenty minutes, though traffic in the U.K. can be extremely unpredictable. The only cost we incurred for the visit, excluding lunch, was £7 for parking. In addition to the stone circle there are also a couple historic buildings you can tour and small museum, which have entry fees but we didn’t visit those attractions, choosing instead to spend more time outdoors and walking the stone circle.
Avebury Stone Circle, apart from being a historically significant site, is also surrounded by working farm land. We saw sheep, horses, and cows all throughout our walk, providing us with a real life juxtaposition between the importance of maintaining our history while continuing with life and making use of the resources available to us. We not only had the opportunity to walk among the stones, but to also gaze across quintessentially rolling British countryside. Children and dogs have all the space they could ever hope for to run through the fields and explore.
After roaming around for a while we decided we were hungry and thirsty and visited the only pub in the world inside a stone circle. The food was average, the beer was cold, and the location and atmosphere were perfect. As an aside, if you are concerned about taking kids to pubs on your trip to the U.K., don’t be. Pubs are more like family restaurants than bars, though alcohol is served, and the atmosphere is very family friendly.
Following lunch we walked the rest of the route around the circle. Completing the scene was a group of robed individuals setting up candle covered tables. Our time was running short or perhaps we would have investigated this further, but they really had the air of a group of folks that were busy and did not want to be bothered.
If you now are looking for a stone circle recommendation, either site has its advantages and these decisions are best left to the individual based on what you hope to gain from your visit. We thoroughly enjoyed our recent visit to Avebury and could easily envision ourselves visiting again someday.