The Henge Hopper

3 04 2011

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum is planning to launch a bus service to link Stonehenge and Avebury. At the moment, it is extremely difficult to travel between the two, and the Museum hopes to be able to boost tourism in the Vale of Pewsey and the Avon Valley. They hope to launch a service in due course.



The Community Bus Service will be operated by minibuses, and the route would take in a range of archaeological sites and monuments in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, including Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow and Woodhenge.

The ‘hop on, hop off’ service would include free entry to the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, encouraging people to discover the collections excavated from the World Heritage Site.

The Henge Hopper enables you to visit:

Britain’s largest stone circle, at the centre of a remarkable complex of monuments, including stone circles, burial mounds, two stone-lined avenues and Silbury Hill.

Alexander Keiler Museum, Avebury Manor
Explore the world famous stone circle. The bus starts from just outside the Museum, which features fascinating finds from Alexander Keiler’s excavations at Avebury, and, in the barn, interactive displays bring the Avebury landscape to life. Explore also Avebury Manor and its wonderful garden. Cafe, toilets and shop.

Silbury Hill
The largest man-made mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporary Egyptian pyramids.

West Kennet Long Barrow
One of the largest, most impressive and most accessible Neolithic chambered tombs in Britain. Built in around 3650 BC, it was used for a short time as a burial chamber, nearly 50 people being buried here before the chambers were blocked.

Wansdyke / White Horse Trail
Massive Saxon defensive ditch and bank running along the top of the North Wessex Downs. Walk along the Wansdyke, following the White Horse Trail, with stunning views over the Vale of Pewsey.

Marden Henge
Britain’s largest henge, Excavations in 2010 have revealed much about its fascinating story.

Alton Barnes White Horse
Dominates the landscape of the Vale of Pewsey.

Adam’s Grave / Wansdyke
Neolithic chambered tomb on the summit of the Downs. Walk along the Wansdyke, following the White Horse Trail.


The most sophisticated stone circle in the world, at the centre of a remarkable sacred landscape. Includes the cursus, a 3km long earthwork and the Avenue, leading from the River Avon.

Winterbourne Stoke

The most impressive barrow cemetery – a Neolithic long barrow and a line of Bronze Age burial mounds.

Normanton Down
Cemetery of over 50 round barrows, including the famous Bush Barrow.


Amesbury is an attractive small town embraced by a loop of the River Avon as it cuts through the high plateau of Salisbury Plain. The town has served the needs of travellers for centuries. Highlights include the Amesbury is the closest settlement to Stonehenge.

Durrington Walls / Woodhenge
Durrington Walls is a massive henge, the site of the recent discovery of Neolithic houses, where the people who used Stonehenge may have lived. Nearby is Woodhenge, where excavations showed a series of concentric circles of wooden posts, enclosed by a bank and ditch.

Where to Stay
Local accomodation listed by VisitWiltshire.

Alternatvley you could join a guided sightseeing coach tour with ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ or a privat tour with ‘Histouries UK’ or ‘SalisburyGuidedTours‘ based is Salisbury

The Henge Hopper –
Stonehehenge Tour Companies –

However you get there, get there…………………….

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

The Great Stones Way – Britain’s newest long-distance walking trail opens in March 2011

8 12 2010

The Great Stones Way, a superb new 30 mile walking trail between the World Heritage Sites at Avebury and Stonehenge, will become one of Britain’s best loved and most used walking routes. 

Passing through the landscapes of the Wiltshire Downs, the Vale of Pewsey, Salisbury Plain and the Avon Valley, The Great Stones Way will be a great walk in itself. The combination of immense vistas and magnificent archaeology along the route will be irresistible – no other walking route has so much ancient heritage packed into such an attractive 30 miles.

Alton Barnes Chalk Hill Figure
Alton Barnes Chalk Hill Figure

The Great Stones Way is being developed by The Friends of The Ridgeway using existing footpaths and rights of way. Ian Ritchie, Chairman of The Friends of The Ridgeway says: “The Great Stones Way is a vital part of our ambition to open up the whole 360 miles of the Great Ridgeway from the south coast to East Anglia.  The section between Avebury and Stonehenge is currently a big gap in that route, and The Great Stones Way will fill it brilliantly.”

The Great Stones Way will be launched on Saturday 26 March 2011 with a series of walks along the trail.  Ian Ritchie explains: “Ambitious and experienced walkers will want to do the whole 30 miles in one day, and there will be an alternative 13 mile route from Casterley Camp on Salisbury Plain to Stonehenge.  A gentle four miles from Durrington to Stonehenge will suit people who want to walk a shorter distance.”

In addition to the two great stone circles at the World Heritage Sites of Avebury and Stonehenge, The Great Stones Way passes Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, The Sanctuary, the Wansdyke, Adam’s Grave, Marden Henge, Broadbury Banks, Durrington Walls and Woodhenge. 

“Because The Great Stones Way could take some people up to three days to walk its entire length, we are creating a series of shorter circular trails of varying lengths and challenges to suit walkers of all abilities,” says Ian Ritchie. The whole experience will be enhanced by a dedicated local bus service, the Henge Hopper, which will enable walkers to minimise the use of their cars and to plan their own walks along The Great Stones Way

The Friends of The Ridgeway commissioned a professional feasibility study which estimated that opening up The Great Stones Way will bring more than 250,000 visitors to the area and over £6million into the local rural economy each year.  This will benefit accommodation providers in nearby towns and villages as well as several pubs and village shops along the trail.

Claire Perry, Devizes MP supports the new walking trail: “I believe that The Great Stones Way will be a vital link at the heart of the Ridgeway.  It will take walkers over some of the most ancient and important paths in our great country and link two extraordinary World Heritage Sites.  To be able to walk along a well signposted and well surfaced path will be a pleasure for both British and overseas walkers and will bring important benefits to our local economy.”

The Friends of The Ridgeway group has already held several public meetings with parish councils and communities along the route, and more are planned.  The group is fund-raising to improve signage, install disability access gates, repair the path surface in places, and to produce The Great Stones Way guidebook. 

Details of the inaugural walk will be published on The Great Stones Way website (currently under construction). Anyone who would like to take part or contribute to fund-raising can visit the website for more information or contact The Friends of the Ridgeway via

If you have not got the tme or the energy there are a few tour companies offering guided tours using cars or mini coaches.  You could try the Stonehenge Tour Company based in London, the excellent Histouries UK private guided tours from Bath or London or Salisbury Guided Tours.  We also have several discounted tours available on our website – click here

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website


Stonehenge Private Access tours 2011 – Go beyond the fences!

4 11 2010

Hot off the press – Stonehenge Access Dates!
I have just been sent 2011 dates for Stonehenge ‘private access’ tours (see below)  If you are planning on visiting Stonehenge in the next 12 months then I highly recommend joing one of these trips.

Stonehenge Inner Circle Tours - Go beyond the fences

Stonehenge Inner Circle Tours – Go beyond the fences

For those of you who have not visited this sacred site, I should mention that the complex is roped off. Visitors observe the stones from a distance and are not permitted within the temple complex……….Stonehenge special access tours allow you to be amongst the stones and to experience the magic.

There are a few sightseeing tour operators who offer this service and I have just been advised of the 2011 dates.  There are limited spaces and I highly recommend booking sooner rather than later – this is a very popular tour.  A fantastic photograph opportunity!

  • Stonehenge Special Access dates 2011
    January 2011 – 2nd, 14th, 21st, 24th, 31st
    February 2011 – 4th, 7th, 18th, 28th
    March 2011 – 7th, 14th, 25th, 28th
    April 2011 – 3rd, 6th, ,7th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 17th, 20th, 21st, 24th, 25th, 28th
    May 2011 – 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 29th
    June 2011 – 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 21st
    July 2011 – 3rd, 6th, 7th, 11th, 10th, 14th, 17th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 28th, 31st
    August 2011 – 4th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 17th, 18th, 21st, 22nd, 25th, 28th
    September 2011 – 1st, 5th, 8th, 11th, 15th, 18th, 29th

Private tours can often be arranged for alternative other dates for families and small groups  but need to be booked well  in advance

These Stonehenge access tours can be booked through the excellent  ‘Stonehenge Tour Company’  website.  For a selection of other Stonehenge Tours from London that can also include:  Bath, Lacock Village, Salisbury Cathedral, Windsor Castle, Avebury Stone Circle, The Cotswolds, Oxford etc click here

The Stonehenge Tour Company

The Stonehenge Tour Company

Avebury Stone Circle

One or two operators offer tours that include Stonehenge and Avebury plus nearby Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, Chalk hill figures and even crop circles (April – September) Try The Stonehenge Tour CompanyHistouries UK and Salisbury Guided ToursShould you need any unbias advice on organising a tour to Stonehenge please do email me –

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Silbury Hill – David Attenborough’s big dig

26 10 2010

Silbury Hill is as ancient and enigmatic as Stonehenge. David Attenborough tells us why he set out to crack it

Tomb or temple? ... Silbury Hill, Wiltshire.

Tomb or temple? ... Silbury Hill, Wiltshire.


The past,” says David Attenborough, “is a haunting and fascinating place.” The great naturalist is revealing a little-known side of himself: his love of archaeology – and his fascination with Silbury Hill in Wiltshire. The tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe, Silbury Hill rises to a height of 37 metres, making it comparable with the Egyptian pyramids and the ziggurats of Mesopotamia.

In a new English Heritage book about the hill, Attenborough tells how, in 1968 as controller of BBC2, he commissioned a programme that involved tunnelling into its depths to discover why it was there. At the time, the programme was judged a flop, since it found no treasure, no tomb, no real answers at all.



Attenborough is now seeking to set the record straight. He argues that, far from failing, TV’s first live dig triggered an unlikely chain of events that recently led to the tunnel being reopened and re-examined, using modern techniques. “They did not unearth any material treasure either,” he writes, but instead “added more details to our knowledge and understanding.” And this, you could say, is the true purpose of archaeology. In fact, the reopening of the tunnel vindicated the project Attenborough is so proud of: it revealed perhaps as much as will ever be known about this most mysterious of ancient monuments.

Silbury Hill is near Avebury, a quaint English village set inside a prehistoric stone circle. The village is part of a world heritage site that takes in Stonehenge and Silbury Hill. Raised in the same era as the mighty Stonehenge, and just as much of an enigma, the hill boasts chalk sides covered with grass. Construction of the vast, flat-topped cone would have required hundreds of workers and taken an age, but the people who built it left no records as to why.

BBC2 was a new channel in the 60s, with a brief to experiment. “We were going to do new television,” says Attenborough. “Everything we did would be in some way identifiable as new. With archaeology we thought, ‘Why can’t we do a live excavation?’ We would have cameras there so, if necessary, we could interrupt other programmes.”

The plan was to dig a tunnel into the heart of the hill. Professor Richard Atkinson, who led the dig, had interesting ideas about what might be in there. “Richard was the first to notice Mycenean daggers on Stonehenge,” says Attenborough. These made Atkinson believe Stonehenge was built by a culture in contact with ancient Greece, whose chief wanted a dramatic tomb.

This was TV as real adventure, and it captured the public imagination. Some saw it as a treasure hunt; others as a mix of horror and science-fiction. “Atkinson,” says Attenborough, “didn’t necessarily think there was going to be a burial [site]. The press said, ‘This is a treasure hunt, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘No, it’s about little bits of mud.'”

As the tunnel took shape, with news reported continually, nothing much emerged. “People kept saying, ‘It’s a failure,'” says Attenborough. “But we did discover how it was made.” Some people maintained the dig was actually harmful. “Since then, if there have been slumps in the top, people have said, ‘Ah ha, it’s the BBC’s tunnel.’ ”

In 2000, not just a slump but a hole appeared. Was the tunnel collapsing? No: this was caused by an 18th-century shaft, but archaeologists were still worried. They decided to reopen the BBC tunnel, deploying the latest tools and tests, and then seal it forever.

The new dig suggested that the hill was not a tomb, but a temple – perhaps the greatest in Europe 4,000 years ago. It also showed the hill started as a sacred site, where people came bearing stones; they may have believed they possessed healing powers. Certainly, stones are embedded in the structure and are thought to be highly meaningful by archaeologists. It is like Britain’s later cathedrals, which rose up over shrines. Sun worship flourished in prehistoric Britain, so perhaps this was – like those ancient ziggurats – a stairway to heaven to let priests get closer to the sun.

Atkinson’s tunnel is now sealed, but its creation marked a time when TV set out to bring drama and glamour to archaeology. As Attenborough says: “Anybody would be thrilled to find a Roman coin in their garden. I know I would.”

Visit Silbury Hill, Stonehenge and Avebury in a small group day tour – The Stonehenge Tour Company are the only operators who offer such a trip.  Histouries UK based in nearby Salisbury and Bath also bespoke private guided tours of the region.  You can look at more discounted tour operators here

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

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