Immerse yourself in Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial history at Wiltshire’s UNESCO World Heritage listed Stonehenge and Avebury sites. These are the world’s most famous groups of megaliths with circles of menhirs (standing stones) arranged in a patterns with astronomical significance yet to be understood.
Thousands flock to Stonehenge (and other stone circles in Britain) for the Summer Solstice, so think carefully about a visit around 20, 21, 22 June. The Stonehenge Summer Solstice Festival for 2016 is from 18 – 21 June, with sunrise at 4.50am on 21 June.
Under the care of English Heritage, Stonehenge and Avebury are part of the same chalkland site with Stonehenge designated by World Heritage as the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, while Avebury is the largest.
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There’s much more to both sites than first meets the eye – the Stonehenge complex also includes Woodhenge, the Avenue, the Cursus, Durrington Walls and many barrows (burial mounds). The Avebury area includes Silbury Hill, the Sanctuary, Windmill Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow and Palisaded enclosures, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues as well as many barrows.
The excellent visitor facility at Stonehenge has an atmospheric display showing the stone circles in different seasons and lights and there is much information available for the curious.
Just ten miles south of Stonehenge, the city of Salisbury makes an ideal base for exploring by car. There’s also a Stonehenge Tour Bus which picks up passengers from both central Salisbury and the train station. An all-in-one ticket includes your travel, entry to the stones plus entry to Old Sarum (the original site of Salisbury), Salisbury Cathedral and Magna Carta.
Explore the visitor center and take the site bus or walk to the stone circle. There are walks from the site that take you into the wider area where you can see burial mounds, the Cursus and approximately two miles away, Woodhenge.
Once you have explored, hop back in your car and head north towards Avebury, the lesser-known part of this World Heritage Site and a place where you can wander freely amongst the stone circles and village.
To gain further knowledge of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site visit the Salisbury Museum and the Wiltshire Museum, both of which have newly opened exhibition spaces explaining more about the history and heritage of Stonehenge and featuring objects found within the sites.
Booking a guided tour to Stonehenge: Several tour companies offer guided tours to Stonehenge – some of these include inner circle tours, where you get to stand within the stone circle. Find out more about these tours on the VisitWiltshire website.