I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son.
I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Published July 24th 2017
Avebury's Ageless Charm
Driving through the hazy fields of Wiltshire is the perfect way to escape the city (lovely though Bath is). A leisurely hour long drive along A roads brings you to a large and well signposted National Trust Car park at the edge of Avebury village. This beautiful spot is famous the world over for its magnificent Neolithic standing stones, but there are all manner of other delights to enjoy. Whoever you arrive with and whatever your interests are, there will be something that makes your visit both special and memorable.
Our afternoon began with a picnic in the spotless grounds of Avebury farm, which is an open space of flat grass with a National Trust gift shop, toilet facilities, cafe, a small pond and a museum. Surrounded by a stone wall, the picnic space is protected from the wind, and gives tantalising glimpses of the standing stones.
There's over 6000 years of history and heritage at Avebury, and at its heart are the massive standing stones and man-made banks and ditches. They surround the village in huge geometric patterns, and it is possible to walk around these marvels. Many of these are arranged in gigantic circles, although there are also collections or clusters of stones within the village.
I love the fact that the stones are unfenced and completely accessible, so visitors can touch the stones as they walk around them. This is in complete contrast to Stonehenge where the stones are all roped off and can only be viewed from a distance. It is a remarkable experience to see these huge monoliths, and many of them are decorated with flowers and charms. For many people, Avebury is a deeply spiritual place, and we saw several groups celebrating and offering prayers around the circles.
The Cove stones, said to resemble femininity and masculinity
A very moving highlight of our visit today was coming across a grove of 'wishing trees', all decorated with coloured ribbons and charms. Even the immense roots of the beech trees were decorated with tied on gifts, and I found it very emotive to see so many people's thoughts offered up together. Spiritual or not, I think most people would find a walk among these trees to be remarkable. There is a palpable calmness and peace to this part of Avebury, and I will go back there as soon as I am able to.
There are so many shops and refreshment places to discover here, but my favourite area for this has to be the Henge shop, which is right next to the farm and picnic area. This superb shop is packed full of jewellery, crystals, books, talismans and ornaments, all of which celebrate the history and spirituality of Avebury.
Along this same street there is an idyllic Bed and Breakfast and a coffee shop, along with the Red Lion pub, reputed to be one of the most haunted pubs in England. With another cafe next to the museum, visitors are spoiled for choice really, which is a lovely position to be in. All of the buildings in the village look and feel as if they are from decades in the past, and it is almost possible to imagine that time has stopped here.
Although the village is residential and privately owned, the stones and land fall under the care and protection of the National Trust. The NT also operate the car park, and it is only possible to park here if you are visiting Avebury. Parking is free to members of the trust, but not extortionate to non-members. Due to its location, I feel that the village would be difficult to access if without a car, although I saw many, many coaches and minibuses that appeared to cater for pedestrians. There were public buses driving through, although the best bet would probably be to arrange transport from Marlborough, the nearby market town.
However you get to this wonderful place, I truly recommend making the effort to see it. The views of the undulating fields are breathtaking, and this part of the world has left a deep impression upon me. It is a place that I want to keep a connection with, for a very long time.