Visit To Avebury Henge and Stone Circle

Visit Avebury Henge and Stone Circles

Following on from my previous visit to Lacock Abbey, in this article we visit Avebury Henge and Stone Circles. Although they are thousands of years old, many of the monuments are still visible within this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Avebury Henge and stone circles are part of a wider prehistoric landscape that attracts thousands of visitors each year and for good reason.

Living within a half hour drive of Avebury, this is a firm favourite afternoon walk with friends and family. It’s a magical place to wander around any time of the year. This is also a photographers dream location as the light transforms the landscape throughout the seasons.

Here’s why I think a visit to Avebury Henge and Stone Circles should be on your MUST visit list when travelling to Wiltshire.

What is a Henge?

The dictionary definition of a henge is ‘a prehistoric monument consisting of a circle of stone or wooden uprights.’

A henge is a Neolithic earthwork, consisting of a circular area enclosed by a bank and ditch and often containing additional features including one or more circles of upright stone or wood pillars. It is believed they were used for ritual purposes or for marking astronomical events, such as solstices and equinoxes.

Avebury henge dates from around 4,600 years ago. The bank and ditch are a mile in circumference, with the ditch measuring 9m deep. The outer stone circle is made up of local sarsen sandstone, some of the stones are as large as 40 tonnes and a height of over 4 meters. Originally there were around 100 stones in the henge. This outer circle then encased a further two inner circles.

Avebury Henge and Stone Circles
Avebury Henge and Stone Circle

Did you know: Avebury Henge is the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world.

Why visit Avebury Henge and Stone Circles

Where do I start…honestly, for fans of English Heritage sites, historical buildings and ancient landscapes, Avebury has it all. Depending on how much time you have available to visit, you can:

  • Walk around the Avebury Henge and touch the stones within the circle (which you can no longer do at Stonehenge)
  • Wander along the West Kennet Avenue following the pairs of sarsen stones leading to The Sanctuary
  • See the monument of concentric circles that make up The Sanctuary, which dates back to 4,500 years ago
  • Observe the strange and wonderful looking Silbury Hill, over 30m in height, a particular favourite of mine growing up. I always wanted to climb to the top and roll down to the bottom 🙂
  • Visit the West Kennet Long Barrow, a burial mound built 5,600 years ago. There are five burial chambers, which you can go into.
  • Go and say hello to Adam and Eve, the two remaining visible stones at The Longstones. A second avenue of stones
  • Walk a little further out of Avebury village and ollow the signs to Windmill Hill, where there are three concentric rings of ditches and Bronze Age burial mounds.
  • Go in search of Falkner’s circle, another prehistoric stone circle with only one of twelve remaining stones visible
  • Take a walk along a section of The Ridgeway, the ancient track popular with walkers and cyclists runs past Avebury Henge and Stone Circles

So as you can see there’s plenty here to see and do. But if you still need convincing then here’s an English Heritage informative video too.

How to Get To Avebury

Avebury is located 7 miles west of Marlborough in the county of Wiltshire in the UK. For Satnav users the postcode is SN8 1RF

There’s a good sized National Trust Car Park on the A4361 next to Avebury Manor. Parking is FREE for National Trust and English Heritage members. Otherwise there is a £7 parking charge for non-members (as of Dec 21 when we last visited). From the car park follow the signs along a short path which takes you into the village. There is free disabled parking available in the village car park.

For keen cyclists, Route 45 of The Sustrans Cycle Network includes Avebury on its route between Chester and Salisbury.

Love English Heritage? Why not become a member.

Who owns Avebury Manor?

The major monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury are jointly managed by the National Trust and English Heritage.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Avebury Henge and Stone Circles
UNESCO World Heritage status for Stonehenge and Avebury Henge

Avebury Manor dates back to Tudor times and each room has been decorated and furnished in a different historical period to give visitors a better understanding of what it would have looked like over time. On walking through the attractive stone gate, a path of scented lavender leads visitors through a lawned garden to the entrance to the manor house. Once inside the manor you are invited to wander around the manor at your leisure.

Avebury Manor - Avebury Henge and Stone Circles
Avebury Manor

Each room has a friendly volunteer guide who are happy to share their knowledge of the room you are standing in. The guides share which period the room represents as well as interesting stories and facts about the family who lived at the manor.

My favourite rooms in Avebury Manor are the Edwardian Kitchen with it’s large fire stove oven. Also the dining room with an unusual wall paper design and lovely long dining room table. There’s also a fabulous wall covering in a small side-room that you walk through between the main bedroom and the ladies sitting room. The more you look at the walls the more animals and characters you see in the drawings, I wonder what history stories they are trying to tell us.

Avebury Manor Gardens

For garden enthusiasts be sure to explore the 4 acres of Arts and Crafts styled gardens at Avebury Manor. Probably best viewed during the spring and summer months.

Alexander Keiller Museum

Alexander Keiller was a Scottish archaeologist, pioneering aerial photographer, businessman and philanthropist. On the death of his father in 1899, Alexander Keiller, at the age of nine, became sole heir to a vast fortune derived from the family marmalade business; James Keiller and Sons.

As a keen archaeologist, Alexander Keiller purchased the Windmill Hill site, a little under 2 miles from Avebury. Keiller funded a series of excavations on the site, which was known to be neolithic. He also funded a two-year programme excavating another area in Avebury, the West Kennet Avenue, which led south from the stone circle. Buried stones were uncovered and re-erected, and stone-holes marked with pillars. Through his explorations, Keiller was responsible for restoring and preserving the Avebury site for future generations.

In his honour, there’s an Alexander Keiller Museum next to Avebury Manor. The museum has an array of objects on display, which have been found during excavations around the stones. Many are from Windmill Hill, one of the earliest settlements with objects found to date back 5,500 years ago. As you walk around the museum you get a glimpse into how people lived in and around the stones all those years ago.

Whilst wandering around the museum I picked up a National Trust leaflet called ‘Breaking Ground’. I was fascinated to read about the amazing women archaeologists who were working on the Avebury excavation digs. I am intrigued to find out more about these women so may have found myself a winter research project. I’ll keep you posted…

This is a small museum but the exhibition is full of interesting objects and commentary explaining what they are. Well worth a visit whilst visiting Avebury Henge and Stone Circles.

When is the best time to visit Avebury?

Avebury Henge and Stone Circles can be visited all year round. The UNESCO World Heritage status draws in a lot of visitors during the summer months, so July and August can prove difficult to park. If you’re able to come outside of these high season months then I would highly recommend it.

To be honest as long as its a dry day, your visit to Avebury will be rewarded with stunning scenery and lots of fascinating history to observe and learn about. Living so close I am privileged to be able to visit all year round. For me, my favourite times are autumn and winter. The Autumn sunsets over the stones is quite breathtaking. As the sun sets it surrounds the stones with stunning colours of oranges and reds.

This year we decided to visit Avebury Manor in early December so that we could see the National Trust Christmas Decorations. The National Trust Avebury volunteers have clearly spent alot of time to plan, create and display the beautiful Christmas decorations. This years theme is Christmas Colours, with each room in the manor decorated in a different colour. One of my favourites was the blue room, in which a majestic peacock made with paper, card and feathers, stands proudly on the dining room table. Eyeing up all the visitors as they pass through, his tail feathers cover the full length of the dining room table.

Get creative with your holiday photos

Is there anything to see in Avebury village?

Although Avebury village is small it is very charming and has:

  • a community shop
  • Traditional pub – The Red Lion pub is very popular all year round. It was first licensed in 1802 and is famous for its 86ft deep well which dates back to the 1600’s. The Well Room is named after Alexander Keiller who excavated the ancient stone circle surrounding the pub.
  • a post office
  • St James’s Church – the church within a henge stands alongside Avebury Manor, the oldest section is Anglo-Saxon stone built in the 9th century.
  • The henge a unique gift shop full of mythical and mystical objects, books, stones and crystals. This little shop is crammed full of wonders for both adults and kids. Why not treat yourself to a unique reminder of your visit to this magical part of Wiltshire.
  • And not forgetting the National Trust shop, which I can never leave without picking up a unique gift. We purchased some lovely Christmas gifts during our December visit

Where to eat and drink at Avebury Henge and Stone Circles

Its thirsty work all this travelling and exploring. Not a problem whilst visiting Avebury Henge and Stone Circles there are several great food and drink options available. There’s the National trust Coach House cafe located in the centre of the stone circles which serves takeaway snacks and drinks. There are picnic tables in the courtyard outside the cafe so this is a nice option on a warm day.

Alternatively you can visit the National Trust Circles Restaurant serving home cooked meals. We had a delicious hot and spicy veggie chilli when we visited in December. Perfect to warm us back up after a frosty walk around the stones. There are clean and well maintained public toilets behind the barn close to the courtyard.

In Avebury village there is also The Red Lion Pub for those that fancy a traditional delicious pub lunch and sample the local ales.

Which site should I visit Avebury or Stonehenge?

If you have limited time available during your visit to Wiltshire in the UK then I personally would recommend visiting Avebury Henge and Stone Circles. I’m sure there are others out there who will gasp and disagree with me. Don’t get me wrong, Stonehenge is a great place to visit, however if I had to choose one over the other then Avebury gets my vote every time.

Stonehenge has been fenced off to protect the stones. At Avebury you can get up close and touch them, which adds to the magical atmosphere. Stonehenge isn’t dog-friendly sadly, whereas Avebury welcomes well behaved dogs on lead. Being a 2 dog family we naturally aim towards Avebury for that very reason.

Whenever I visit Avebury it has such a positive impact on my mood. It’s a calm, relaxing location in which you can roam around the stones for FREE for as long as you like. Take photos and selfies from all angles and dangles, wander amongst the sheep, just mind their droppings which are blimmin everywhere! 🙂

Useful Information

  • English Heritage Website Avebury visitor information section
  • National Trust Avebury visitor information
  • Be sure to pick up the Welcome To Avebury FREE leaflet from National Trust shop. It has lots of visitor information as well as a good map showing where to walk to see the stones
  • Dogs are welcome at Avebury Henge and Stone Circles as long as they are kept on leads. There are sheep grazing around the site. Dogs are not allowed in Avebury Manor and garden.
  • Wear outdoor shoes such as boots that you don’t mind getting muddy. It can get a little muddy at the gate entrances to the fields, so leave your white trainers in the car.
  • Book Lovers: Don’t miss the second hand National Trust bookshop

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of my visit to Avebury Henge and Stone Circles.

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