Avebury Stone Circle

The stone circle in Avebury is one of Wiltshires hidden gems, it sits on the edge of the downs, to the west of Marlborough, it’s believed to be the oldest standing circle in the world. Although it is often almost forgotten due to it’s bigger and much younger counterpart, Stonehenge being just down the road in Salisbury. The beauty of Avebury is that you can still walk amongst the stones freely (although dogs must be kept on leads when sheep are grazing) it looks fantastic from the air as you can clearly see the earth ditches and hills which run around the perimeter and the houses and a pub which are actually inside it.

In addition to what can be seen in this picture, the avenue is an additional 2 rows of standing stones which lead from East Kennet village, right up to the stone circle, again this can be freely accessed and does attract numerous tourists throughout the year.

A common trail for the tourists begins in the market town of Marlborough, then on to Avebury, taking in The Long Barrow at West Kennet and Silbury Hill, then ending up in Salisbury and Stonehenge, but this is quite a full day.

The Circle is owned by the National Trust, although English Heritage holds the guardianship.

Until the 1930’s nobody quite knew what the circle looked like as many stones had either fallen down or been broken up for building. When Alexander Keiller the archaeologist arrived he re-erected the stones and brought Avebury back to it’s former glory.

It’s completely free to visit the stones, there is also a museum in the old 17th century barn, it’s open all year round but for longer hours in the summertime.  There are also coffee shops and gift shops. Of the numerous tourist attractions in the area, Avebury is one you really should take the time to visit.

Marlborough in Wiltshire

The market town of Marlborough sits on the edge of the south downs, with Swindon around 15 miles to the north, Calne and Devizes to the west and Hungerford to it’s east. The A4 which used to be the original road from Bristol right into London passes straight through Marlborough, it’s this road which is in fact the high street, said to be the widest high street in the UK.

The area is steeped in history and is even mentioned in the doomsday book, it also has connections with the Knights Templar, possibly the reason why Temple Farm is named as it is.

At first appearances the high street does not look too dissimilar to many other small market towns, other than the main car parking being down the centre of it.  However there are many small alleyways up and down both sides, these lead to a wide variety of cafes and independent shops, selling all manner of goods, from artists galleries to a retro’ clothing shop. An interesting point to note whilst driving through, is that with the exception of Waitrose and the major banks, the town does not have all the usual big chain stores lining it’s streets, once you realise this you start to appreciate why the town has a certain charm about it with independent shops selling unique clothes and gifts and its old buildings and hotels lining the road.

All around are other tourist attractions including Avebury stone circle, with it’s unique layout, having a village inside the circle itself. The long barrow at West Kennet is another attraction as you can actually get down inside it and explore the chambers yourself, also Silbury Hill is almost opposite the long barrow, just across the A4.  All are easy to find in the summer as in addition to the road signs, you can just follow the tourist cars from one to the next, so don’t be to surprised to see familiar faces as you move from one to the next, in fact the tourist information in Avebury has it’s own cafe.

Marlborough has plenty of places to eat out including Indian, Thai, Italian and numerous independent cafe’s most famously Polly’s Tea Rooms, although I personally prefered the smaller ones.  If you fancy a pint (or several) there is a great pub crawl, starting at the Queens Head, just off the high street, then down to The Crown, The Lamb, The Bear, The Green Dragon, The Sun and back to the Royal Oak, Marlborough’s late night drinkers bar, or if you fancy staying around even later, you could check out Azuza the nightclub which I’ve heard is open until 4am.

If you even consider doing all this, it may be worth booking accommodation. There are several hotels and B&B’s in and around the town, the better known ones being the castle and ball or the ivy house. So if you fancy a weekend away in Wiltshire, the pretty market town Marlborough can offer a pretty good base.

Tourist Attractions

Wiltshire is a magnet for tourists in the summer, as there is so much for people of all ages to do, from the jousting tournaments and Longleat for the kids, to Stonehenge, Avebury stone circle and West Kennet Long Barrow for the more spiritually minded, right through to the Swindon outlet village and fantastic country walks for the grown ups.

Longleat was voted Family attraction of the year UK by the Good Britain Guide, it had many varied attractions for people of all ages, so don’t think it’s just for the kids. Ben Fogle covered the safari park in a lot of detail on the BBC’s Animal Park series and covered the sea-lion lake and boat which takes visitors out on it. They also have a huge maze, it’s one of the largest in the country and is said to be based on an original medieval design. Of course, there is tourist information, gift shops and plenty to eat and drink whilst you are there, or just take a picnic and relax down by the lake.

Many people like to stop in at Marlborough whilst visiting the county, it has the widest high street in the UK and has very few high street shops, a wide range of restaurants and pubs and the old merchants house which is a popular tourist attraction.  Marlborough town itself does not have much to do other than amble about, but all the real gems, such as Avebury stone circle and Silbury Hill are very close by, so it makes a good base for a visit.

Another huge draw to the county of Wiltshire is Stonehenge, it stands on the Salisbury Plains close to Amesbury. It’s a megalithic monument which it is believed was started in 3000BC, and added to and developed further over the following thousand years. It comprises 30 large standing stones over 10ft tall (above ground) each is said to weigh over 26 tonnes, there are 30 lintels which are mainly still in place, these are Sarsen stone, which contrary to popular belief can be found laying all around the wiltshire area, there are many on the downs close to Marlborough. There is a further circle inside this is smaller and made of different stone.

The Tithe Barn in Bradford on Avon is a fourteenth century barn, and is one of the largest ever found in the UK, it’s open to visitors completely free of charge, it’s surrounded by old dairy barns which are now converted to house tea rooms, art galleries and craft shops.

Wiltshire is also home to more barrows than any other county, it’s almost impossible to drive anywhere without spotting them, so if you are looking for a n area of the UK to visit, which has plenty of tourist attractions, consider visiting Wiltshire.