I was 16 when I first visited England on a school trip and fell in love with it. The years have blurred the memories a lot, but I still remember the excitement of London, staying in hostels with weird furnishings, the feeling of freedom as I had a slice of pizza while walking around Covent Garden, attempting to compose a poem on London Bridge (which wasn’t quite what I envisioned it to be back then), seeing my teacher fall asleep while watching Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and of course the cute English boys in their jackets and ties, whose school we visited. Miles away from what my experience of the world had been at that point in time. Of course, that was also my first trip abroad without my parents and that could have added to that sense of exhilaration.
Which was why I was so incredibly thrilled about planning a trip back to England and also to visit the other parts of the UK. One of the places that I wanted to go back to was Stonehenge – we’d gone the last time round, but could only see the monument through the fences and I wanted an up-close experience. Also, I’ve always been fascinated by mystery surrounding the Neolithic sites and wanted to visit other sites like Avebury and Salisbury.
It’s well and good to travel on your own to these sites, but I decided that it would be more convenient to go on a day tour. Besides, I figured I’d learn more with an expert guide. In reading up on all the available tours, I came across a couple that suited my purpose, one of which was a tour of Stonehenge, Avebury, and Salisbury, led by an archaeologist. That would have been perfect, but unfortunately, that tour was not running the days I was there L I finally decided on an Avebury and Stonehenge tour that includes a stop at the West Kennet Long Barrow, a neolithic burial site that predates Stonehenge.
Absolutely no regrets choosing that tour. Avebury is a really pretty village and it was amazing being able to walk freely amongst the standing stones. The village itself is located with the stone circle, so it’s a very different feel from Stonehenge. It was also very fun using dowsing rods at the ley line in Avebury, I swear the rods really moved without me exerting any pressure! In Avebury, there is also the Red Lion Pub, supposedly the most haunted pub in a stone circle. Alas, the pub was closed for lunch for the day and I wasn’t able to have a meal with the spirits. There aren’t many options for food there, other than the pub, there’s the Circle Café, next to the Avebury Manor and Garden, where you can have a simple but delicious meal.
On the way to Stonehenge, we stopped at the West Kennet Long Barrow, and that was really a place I wanted to see. It’s a bit of a walk from the road but thankfully, it was a beautiful winter day when we went so it was a pleasant walk. You can go into the barrow and it was really cool setting foot in a place that has been in existence for over 5,000 years. What is equally amazing is that it’s not just a place that’s heavily protected and left to rot, but it’s part of the landscape for the people living there. While we were there, there was someone walking his dog and it was just running freely on the ridge.
From where we stopped to get to the barrow, there’s also a great view of Silbury Hill, which is the largest manmade mound in Europe, for which no one has yet been able to figure out what it was used for. For people to have spent an estimated 18 million man-hours to build this, it’s incredible that nobody now knows what its purpose was (but here are some theories). So many wonders of this world and we barely understand what they were meant to be.
When we got to Stonehenge, we thankfully got in before they closed for the day. This was definitely a different experience from my first visit. I’m glad we were the last group for the day because there wasn’t much of a crowd and it was almost peaceful walking around the stone circle. Plus, we got to see the sun set over Stonehenge and that was a majestic sight!
I enjoyed myself on the tour very much, the bus was comfortable. The pacing was just nice, despite the fact that we spent quite a bit of time on the bus, we got to spend enough time at each site to have a good feel of the place. The guide was really great and told us so much stories (like that of the barber-surgeon in Avebury – Sweeney Todd anyone?) and gave us a lot of information about the places that we went to. It was also a very small group, just 5 of us, so it was a really intimate tour. Probably because most people prefer to go the Stonehenge and Bath tour, which I’m sure is pretty amazing too, but this one suited me just fine. There was also another tour that included Stonehenge, the Cotswold and a SECRET PLACE that had many good reviews too. Would have loved to do that too!