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Avebury Stone Circle

Wiltshire

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The largest stone circle in Europe, some say the world. A world heritage site.

English Heritage say "..... the largest, most impressive and complex prehistoric site in Britain. Built and altered over many centuries from about 2850BC to 2200BC".

The Great circle consisted of 200 standing stones, comprising an outer and two inner circles and a cove. It is surrounded by a massive bank and ditch (henge). The circle is 427m (1400ft) in diameter, about a mile round and covers an area of 11.5ha (28 acres).  The outer bank, still very impressive, was originally 17m (55ft) high from ditch bottom to bank top, its now about half this size.

Today we notice the stones, but when built with white chalk banks and ditches they would not have been as obvious and probably not visible from outside the bank. Early histories talk of a single very much taller stone being present, which has since been lost, so today we have no real idea as to why this was built. In the 1930's the site was excavated by Alexander Keiller who also re-fracted many of the stones.

The stones vary in size some weighing it is thought as much as 40 to 60 tons, with most over 20 tons. They were left rough and not dressed as were the Stonehenge blocks. Most come from on the nearby Marlborourgh Downs, but it was no slight task to move them the distance involved. It is thought that the building took several hundred years and took place about 4,500 years ago. 27 stones are in place today, giving some complete sections but also many sections missing. Over time some were taken for building and some were destroyed, many of the stones were broken up by lighting fires beneath them and pouring cold water over them. Some of it is thought to have been used to construct the present village, it would have been easier to have collected fresh stone which is on the surface and available nearby, some of the stones were also buried. This destruction was by Christians, fearing the power or influence of the stone circle in an age of superstition.

You can walk amongst the stones, touch them and even climb onto a few. You can have picnics or hold any ceremony you like amongst them.

To the south/south west, starting just across the road is an avenue, two rows of stones leading to The Sanctuary 2.5km (1.5miles) away, located at the junction of the A4 and Ridgeway Path. You can walk along this for a part of the route. The Sanctuary is a less impressive site to visit having a number of rows of coloured markers, marking postholes that have been discovered.

About a mile to the south is Silbury Hill, a large mostly man made earth mound, the largest man made prehistoric mound in Europe, with no known purpose, and across the A4 and a couple of fields further away is the West Kennet Longbarrow, the finest example of a longbarow known. This is large enough for you to walk in and explore the chambers. To the north/north east is Windmill Hill with earth works/barrows etc. to the east is a path up to the Ridgeway Path. West of Avebury, the Iron Age earthwork of Oldbury Castle crowns Cherhill Down, along with the Lansdowne Monument and White Horse on the hillside.

In fields around are other stones, and some suggest there were other avenues, one proven, and that field working markers around the hillsides and hill forts within walking distance put this as the centrepiece of an early civilisation.

The Alexander Keiller Museum is not large, but with many of the archaeological finds of the site it is worth visiting. The dovecote is 16th-century, while the thatched threshing barn and stables are 17th-century. The thatched pub (the Red Lion) that sits in the centre of the circle serves meals, and found while doing some work, a well thought to predate the pub building now able to be seen in one of its dining rooms, and thought by some to have been the original centrepiece and a part of the circle complex.


Further information Grid

 

Location:

Avebury, Wiltshire

Ceremonial County: Wiltshire

Grid Reference:

SU103700   OS Map 173

Map Link:

Multimap

Google Maps

Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo/Map (You can zoom in closer)

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

Stone circle - Any time. Museum and some shops have closed seasons.

Not affected like Stonehenge by modern day Druid and New Age groups at mid summer.

E-mail:

 

Website:

English Heritage managed by National Trust - Avebury

Avebury tourism

Other useful websites:

www.avebury-web.co.uk/avebury_now.html many pages, its difficult to know where to suggest you start

Wiki     Megalithia     Mysterious Britain    

Stonepages

Nearby Locations:

Silbury Hill, nr Avebury   

West Kennet Long Barrow    WKLB Gallery

The Sanctuary, nr Avebury

Stonehenge

Durrington Walls 

Woodhenge 

Other Relevant pages:

Our section on stone circles

The discussion on the purpose of stone circles

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

 

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Planning Grid

Location:

Avebury, Wiltshire

Grid Reference:

SU103700   OS Map 173

Getting there:

On A4361 north of turning to Devizes on A4, 6 miles west of Marlborough. From the M4 take junction 16 left to Wroughton on B4005 then right on A4361 directly to Avebury, you can't miss it, as you drive through the circle.

Access:

Many gates off both main and side roads. Footpath from large car park.

Parking:

Large Pay and Display Car Park off main road going south out of Avebury on right.

National Trust and English Heritage Members can park for free.

Parking charges  and opening times are as follows:

      5 all day (9.30am to 4.30pm winter, 9.30am to 6.30pm summer)

      3 after 2.00pm (3 after 3.30pm summer)

Alternative parking is available in the village car park after 5.00pm.

Facilities:

Red Lion Pub serving meals, toilets, shops including souvenirs and guide books

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Largest stone circle, and henge (large ditch and bank) with village part in it. Several smaller circles within the main one. Museum, barn, houses, and much more. The avenue is across the road, Silbury Hill one mile away, which is also near West Kennet Longbarrow. Ridgeway Path nearby. Windmill Hill nearby in the opposite direction.

Avebury Manor Gardens (NT).

What to take:

Range of lenses if you have them. Panorama kit could be used.

Footwear suitable for walking on fields, some entrances can be muddy.

Nature highlights:

Country location, but too many people in this popular site for too much wildlife to be around most of the time.

Address:

Avebury

nr Marlborough

Wiltshire

Postcode:

SN8 1RF

Telephone:

01672 539250

Opening times:

Circle etc. Open all the time

NT Shops, Museums etc - some seasonal.

Pub and Village Shops, open every day.

Charges:

No charges for entry access to stones, parking charges for some, see above.

Museum Free to National Trust and English Heritage members, otherwise 4.20 Adult, child 2.10; family 11.60.

Photo Restrictions:

None, (No commercial photography, but unless you have a film crew, no one is going to bother you here).

Other Restrictions: None, but some times some parts restricted to allow grass and banks to recover from wear.
Special Needs Access: The main area of the circle is flat, and not a challenge for most, Banks are steep but there is little need unless you area small child to run up and down them. Wheelchair access to many areas, but across grass, and not flowing around the full circle.
Special Needs Facilities: Blue badge holders free parking into village road (towards church) near pub. Not in pay and display Car Park. Disabled toilets in the barn in the Old Farmyard.
Children Facilities: Ideal site for children, just watch crossing the main road that goes through the middle of the ring. There are fences and gates. Pub has dining rooms and welcomes families. Baby changing facilities.
Dogs Allowed: On a lead. Often sheep grazing within the ring to manage grass.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By: Keith Park Section: Stone Circles Section Key:
Page Ref: avebury Topic: Stone Circles Last Updated: 04/2009

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