Summer was full of lovely weather but of course, the day we chose to go romping around the outdoors, exploring historical sites, was a day that was overcast, windy and rainy!
We didn't let it stop us though!
Everyone has heard of Stonehenge but what many people aren't aware of is that Stonehenge is just one part of a massive world heritage site stretching from the Salisbury plains all the way up to Avebury (about 30/40min away).
We've been to Stonehenge more than a few times but despite living close we'd never explored the rest of the monuments... Now we have!
West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill and Avebury Ring are all within walking distance of each other but if you don't fancy walking the walk between each of the Avebury sites, you can drive between them too. Because of the weather, we did a combination of driving and walking but I'd like to go back one day and do the full walk...
|Wheat field walk, stone entrance, burial chambers and grave offerings|
Parking is pretty limited (as it's just a little bay off the side of the road) and then you have to walk up a track through a wheat field.
I don't know the distance from the parking bay to the Long Barrow but it's uphill and took us about 10/15 minutes.
Despite the wind and constant drizzle, it was a lovely walk... The wheat was just about ready for harvesting and it was so calm and peaceful.
The long barrow stood at the top of the hill, a long grassy mound with a bunch of standing stones marking the entrance.
The long barrow is over 5000 years old and was apparently in use for about 1000.
When it was excavated (I don't know when), they found the skeletal remains of about 50 people and a load of grave goods.
Nowadays, it's just a load of dark empty spaces, so take a torch, but it was cool to see that people had actually taken 'offerings' into the long barrow and left them behind. We saw corn and wheat stalks as well as candles and a strong smell of incense (to go with the damp!).
The available section of the long barrow wasn't very large compared to the external dimensions so there was obviously so much more to the space back in ancient times. There was something almost otherworldy about it.
Yes, it involves a lot more walking because being across the road doesn't mean much with these distances but if you're visiting one there's no need to miss the other.
I took the picture above of the hill as we were walking up the to the long barrow.
It's pretty high!
Considering it was man-made in a time without machinery, it's even more curious.
Apparently, Silbury Hill is around 4,500 years old and is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe.
It doesn't contain burial chambers and no one has a clue why they built it.
The thing is 160m in height and about 30m wide so it's not like it's construction was an accident! It's just a big inexplainable curiosity but given it's proximity to Avebury Stone Circles, Stonehenge, the Long Barrows etc it has to have had some purpose.
We didn't spend much time here as you can't climb it - to help preserve it from erosion - so all you can do is stand and stare and continue walking towards Avebury or get in your car.
So we got in our car!
|Stones, more stones and a big ditch|
We then headed over to explore the Avebury Stone Circles and Henge.
These were pretty cool and unlike Stonehenge where you are kept at a significant distance from the stones (except from on the solstices) at Avebury you walk amongst them and can touch them.
You also have to dodge sheep poo as you're tromping through fields where sheep graze... As you do.
I guess that's what happens when a village is built within an ancient stone circle!
This area has a lot of Neolithic and Bronze Age history.
As you walk around the 'ring' you can see lots of stone circles. I think there were three one within another. There's also a massive ditch I wouldn't fancy falling into or trying to get out of! Apparently, this is part of the old complex and was once much deeper... Again, I have no clue why and couldn't find an answer. Ancient people were weird. 😊
While walking the ring we came across Avebury Chapel which lies right in the centre of the stone circle. I wonder what the church was thinking when it built that?
|Avebury Chapel, Stables Gallery, Dovecote|
There's the 'national trust hub' consisting of a gift shop, bathroom facilities, a cafe and visitor centre where you can get a feel for all the neolithic goodness surrounding you.
On the grounds, there's The Alexander Keiller Museum which is split across a couple of buildings. Part of it is in the national trust reception hub - which is a very old barn - and the other part is in The Stables building. One has interactive displays the other archaeological finds from various sites from the surrounding area.
The interactive displays were particularly useful in understanding the geography of the world heritage site and the sheer scale of it is awe-inspiring.
As well as a focus on the pre-historic, the site boasts Avebury Manor and a super old church.
The manor dates back about 500 years but has had many facelifts and internal remodellings over the years. Back in 2011, the BBC used it for a TV series called The Manor Reborn and during the show, it redesigned its rooms to reflect different time periods from throughout the manor's history: Tudor, Queen Anne, Georgian, Victorian and 20th century.
You can walk through the rooms and learn about the various time periods as you do so but what makes it better than a standard manor house or museum is that you can touch everything!
(Everything except some super beautiful but delicate wallpaper in the Georgian parlour.)
Everything in the manor is replicas and is not delicate like real antiques would be.
|Tudor dining room, Tudor bedroom, hand-painted Chinese wallpaper, 20th-century sitting room|
The little dude loved being able to sit at a Tudor table, lie on Queen Anne furnishings and play snooker in the Georgian billiard room!
You can visit West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill and Avebury Stone Circles without having to pay any fees.
However, the National Trust Complex and entrance to Avebury Manor incurs additional fees.
We are National Trust members so our entry was free but if you aren't it's £5 for each adult for the museums and £11 (per adult) for the Avebury Manor*.
Children cost less and family tickets are available.
It was a lovely family day out as we spent a lot of time just talking to each other (about nothing much and everything) and just being outdoors which I'm sad to say we don't do often enough really... I think most families don't.
If you're ever in the area, it's worth a visit! Especially if you go to visit the much more famous sister circle that is Stonehenge. (Stonehenge is cool but overrated 😉.)