Visit Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire, England

Visit Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire, England

Everyone has heard of the famous stone circle in Stonehenge. However, what you may also have heard is that it is overflowed by tourists nowadays. Moreover, you can’t get very close to the stones. Are you looking to go off the beaten path? Why not visit Avebury stone circle instead? What’s more, visiting this stone circle is completely free!

Why you should visit Avebury

Although the stone circle in Avebury may not look as Instagram-perfect as Stonehenge, the stone circle is nevertheless a very important one in England. Moreover, it contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world and is, therefore, a very important site, both for tourists and religious practices.

visit Avebury, the largest stone circle in the world
Avebury, the largest stone circle in the world

How to get to Avebury

Like Stonehenge, the easiest way to visit Avebury is by car. Avebury is a 2-hour drive from London, but only one hour from Bristol and also really close to Bath. Public transport takes less than two hours from London and 1.5 hours from Bristol. I visited Avebury from Oxford by bus, which takes around 2 hours as well. There are also various tours from London that combine Avebury with Stonehenge or other beautiful places in this part of England. I would recommend this Rabbie’s tour to Bath, Avebury and Lacock village.

The Stone circle

Actually, the Avebury stone circle consists of three stone circles. It is one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain and is even the largest megalithic stone circle in the world! Construction of the monument started in the Third Millennium BC! Although the exact purpose of the stone circle is unknown, archaeologists think it had something to do with a ritual or ceremony. Abandoned in the Iron Age, it was essentially only in the Early Middle Ages that people started to built houses around the monument, and even through the monument. Later, people started to destroy the standing stones, both for religious and practical reasons. In the 20th century, archaeologists started to excavate the site and started a project to reconstruct much of the monument.

Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury Stone Circle

To visit Avebury is almost like a magical experience. You can wander around the stones, without many tourists blocking your way. Moreover, you can even touch the stones (I don’t know whether this is technically allowed, but I haven’t seen any signs that it wasn’t) to embrace your inner Outlander fan. In the field where the stones are standing, you can also find some lovely sheep, which adds to the calm and peaceful environment. It is also interwoven with the village, since some of the houses are literally built in the stone circle. And had I told you that, unlike Stonehenge, it is completely free to walk around the stones when you visit Avebury?

Alexander Keiller Museum

It’s actually quite a coincidence that I heard about Avebury (and quite random). For an extracurricular module during my bachelor’s degree, I wrote an essay about the human remains that were in the museum. In June 2006, a group of Druids requested the reburial of the human remains, but this request was rejected. As argument was given that the remains “should be kept in the museum for the benefit of public access and understanding.” Since then, I have always wanted to visit the stone circle!

This controversy aside, the Alexander Keiller Museum can be found in Avebury. It houses one of the most prehistoric archaeological collections in Britain, and is certainly worth a visit. The main displays can be found in the 17th-century stables.

Other prehistoric monuments around Avebury

The stone circle is not the only prehistoric monument that you can find in Avebury. There are more standing stones in the area. Moreover, there are other sites, too, many with a ritual context. Avebury is more than its stone circle!

West Kennet Avenue

West Kennet Avenue is an ‘avenue’ that originally consisted of 100 pairs of standing stones standing parallel to each other. It linked the Avebury site to a sanctuary that lies 1.5 miles away on Overton Hill. This sanctuary (building of which was begun in around 3000 BC) consisted of a circular construction timber posts. Nowadays, concrete slabs indicate the location of these structures. The function of the sanctuary is unknown, although we do know that many human bones were buried on this spot. You can find the google maps location of the standing stones here.

West Kennet Long Barrow

In the middle of a field, on a small hill, you can find the West Kennet Long Barrow (roughly 2 miles from the centre of Avebury). It is one of the largest and also one of the most accessible Neolithic tomb chambers that you can find in England. The tomb was built around 3650 BC and around 50 people were buried here. Nowadays, you can go inside the tomb (again, for free).

Silbury Hill

The last monument I would like to mention is Silbury Hill. This hill is the largest artificial mound in Europe! The English Heritage website notes you could compare it in height and volume to Egyptian pyramids that were built around the same time. The hill was created around 2400 BC. Its purpose and significance are unknown. The only thing that is sure, is that it does not contain a burial.

Silbury Hill
Silbury Hill

Visit Averbury Stone Circle by means of a walk

To make your day trip to Avebury a full day trip, I recommend a circular walk that starts and ends in Avebury and leads you to all prehistoric monuments. I choose this walk from Walking Englishman, which takes 2-3 hours. The walk starts in Avebury and then goes to Overton Hill first, which contains several burial mounds. The sanctuary is close to this spot, too. Next, a path through the woods leads to the West Kennet Long Barrow. From this point, you can already see Silbury Hill. From Silbury Hill, you walk back to the Avebury Stone Circle.

West Kennet Longbarrow
West Kennet Longbarrow

Other things to do in Avebury

Besides its cultural richness of prehistoric monuments, Avebury has even more to offer. Avebury Manor is a 16th-century manor house, in the town of Avebury. Recently, they redesigned several rooms in five different styles, among which Tudor, Georgian and Victorian. The idea behind this was that the rooms would reflect the period in which the residents of Avebury lived. Moreover, they even encourage you to sit on the furniture to really feel what it was like! The gardens of the manor are also very pretty. Oh, and did I tell that there are also rumours that there is a ghost in Avebury Manor?

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Visit the Avebury Stone Circle, as impressive as Stonehenge, but without the tourists!
Visit the Avebury Stone Circle, as impressive as Stonehenge, but without the tourists!

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