Stonehenge. Of all the places in all the corners of England, it was, hands down, the one place that everyone wanted me to go see. Right after asking me if I was crazy for going to England alone people would ask me if I was going to Stonehenge. So it’s sort of funny that it wasn’t as far up my list of priorities. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have some inexplicable desire like every other person in the world to see over sized stones. I just didn’t have the inexplicable desire to see those oversized stones. I wanted to see the giant stones at Avebury.
Lizzie and I (along with her dog Satchel) drove over to Avebury. The drive took longer than expected due to a faulty GPS system, which led us in the opposite direction, and a shocking lack of signs pointing to our destination. But, it was a lovely drive. I didn’t mind the extra time in the car because it gave me a chance to see England.
The average person outside of England hasn’t heard of Avebury. It’s a shame too because in my opinion it is far more impressive. Unlike Stonehenge which requires a ticket and doesn’t allow you to get close enough to the stones to touch, Avebury is free and allows you to get as close as you want to the rocks. This openness makes it feel as though it is much more natural for the stones to be there and less like you’re walking through an amusement park. Aside from feeling more natural, it is also larger. The stone themselves are not large, but the overall size of the circle is huge.
We spent time simply wandering around the circle. Staring at the unique formations and placement. Realizing the skill it must have taken long before machinery to place the stones. We paused occasionally to take a few cheesy photographs of me next to the stones pretending to push them up and a handful of photographs of the grazing sheep.
Avebury hasn’t had the easiest past. In the 18th and 19th century locals began destroying and burying the stones because it was believed they were linked to paganism. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that they were unearthed and returned to their original spots above the surface. The tragic history of the stones mimics how the English opinions about the occult and religious have changed over the years. It makes the history of Avebury tied to the history of the English culture.
Most people go to Avebury to see the stones. As a result they tumble upon the rest of the charming little town and its historic mansion. We perused the little gift shop located in what appeared to be an old church. We didn’t go into many of the buildings around the village, because we had Satchel, but I poked my head into the tiny old church, small and quaint. The little Dovecote on the property, a stone structure, looks like it could be Hagrid’s cottage from Harry Potter.
It should be a relief to know that despite my desire to go to Avebury, I did make it to Stonehenge. I didn’t go in. We drove past, hopped out of the car and stared at it through the fence. It is impressive. It’s giant and unyielding. At the same time, I don’t think it is worth the high entrance fee to walk in and wander around on a green rug like I’m being herded through cattle gates.
No matter if it is Stonehenge or Avebury, the stone circles that dot the English countryside are fascinating. They add to England, providing another level to the English culture and history.