Visit Avebury and Stonehenge: Explore these World Heritage Sites with the new English Heritage Map

3 12 2013

The Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is internationally important for its outstanding prehistoric monuments. This new map would make a great Christmas gift!

Stonehenge and Avebury MapStonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, while Avebury is the largest.  Around them lie numerous other monuments and sites, which demonstrate over 2,000 years of continuous use.

Together they form a unique prehistoric landscape. There is no better way to learn about and experience the monuments than to go out and explore the World Heritage Site on foot.  This map is ideal for walkers and others wishing to explore the fascinating landscape of the two areas of the World Heritage Site.

The map uses an Ordnance Survey 1:10,000 base and draws upon information from the English Heritage Archive and recent archaeological investigations.  With Stonehenge on one side and Avebury on the other, the map shows and describes both visible and hidden remains, with information about where you can find out more. The map is divided into two parts on a durable double sided waterproof sheet.

A great Christmas Gift! You can purchase a copy now at the excellent Wiltshire Museum in Devizes: The Museum shop is located in the entrance hall and sells a variety of items.  Non-Museum visitors very welcome to go in, browse – and hopefully purchase.

You can also pre order a copy of the book on Amazon:

Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle Links:

Stonehenge and Avebury were inscribed together on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1986. The Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site was one of the UK’s very first World Heritage Sites

The Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site (English Heritage):

Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle guided tours:

Wiltshire is proud to be the home of Stonehenge and Avebury which form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and our mystical landscape.

Stonehenge News on Twitter:

The Stonehenge News Blog

The Stonehenge prehistoric landscape. A Satellite view,

30 03 2012

I found this wonderful image on the stone-circles web site.  See it here:
 Satellite image of the Stonehenge Landscape

It shows the “ritual” and non-ritual features in the Stonehenge area — with the features themselves overlaid onto a satellite image of the district.  Click to enlarge.


Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’

Merlin says “Stonehenge is so much more than a Stine Circle and I encourage you all to explore this prehistoric Landscape”

Merlin @ Stonehenge Stone Circle 

Stonehenge tunnel idea resurrected.

17 01 2012

The idea of building a tunnel under Stonehenge has been resurrected by a consortium of council leaders from across the South West.

Stonehenge tunnel planWiltshire was among the authorities represented at a summit meeting to discuss A303 improvements, organised by Somerset County Council last week.

They discussed ways to raise the £1billion needed to widen the remaining single lane sections of the road between Wiltshire and Devon.

The tunnel, which would have cost more than £500million at the last count, is one of five separate schemes they believe are needed.

Somerset’s leader Ken Maddock believes there is scope to seek new funding in the light of Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement, which said that pension funds could be used to fund up to £20billion of infrastructure schemes.

He said: “This is a fabulous opportunity to put a joint bid together that will bring huge benefits to the whole of the West Country.”

The 2.1km tunnel plans were shelved in 2007 after the government said the soaring cost was not justified.


Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’ –

Stonehenge tunnel “Why not plant a hedgerow along the A303 ?  It would reduce road noise, prevent accidents because of people looking at the monument whilst driving and considerable cheaper and quicker”

Anyone agree with me ?

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Haulage companies set to by bypass Stonehenge

5 11 2011

Fleet drivers will have to seek alternative routes when travelling through the county of Wiltshire later next year, following an announcement that roads around Stonehenge will be closed.

The news came after roads minister Mike Penning backed plans for a £3.5 million investment in diverting traffic away from Stonehenge in a bid to reduce congestion in the area.

Under the plans, the 879m length section of the A344 and its junction with the A303 will be closed.

Along with this, a 263m length segment of the B3086 and its junction with the A344 are also set to be closed under the scheme.

According to Mr Penning, further improvement will see “increased capacity delivered on the A360/A303 at Longbarrow Crossroads”, to compensate for the stopped up roads around Stonehenge.

The move was greeted positively by English Heritage, with Stonehenge project director Lorraine Knowles calling it “necessary in order to enable the Stonehenge Environmental Improvements Project to proceed”.

“It will significantly improve the experience of visitors to the Stonehenge monument and facilitate greater access to the wider World Heritage Site landscape,” she said.

At present, the Highways Agency is set to finish improvements to the Longbarrow roundabout in the area before closing the roads near the site from next year

Hope that will stop them ‘honking’ their horns as they travel passed as well (noisy bas***ds)

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehenge Tour Company’

Where will they go ?

Merlin ‘ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Stonehenge A344 road closure approved

1 11 2011

Plans to close a main road running past Stonehenge have been backed by the government following a public inquiry.

An aerial view of Stonehenge without the A344 road

An aerial view of Stonehenge without the A344 road

English Heritage wanted to stop traffic from travelling close to the stones and “restore the dignity” of the World Heritage Site by closing the A344.

Following a public inquiry, an independent inspector recommended part of the road could be closed off.

Roads minister Mike Penning has approved the plans and £3.5m will be used to improve nearby roads.

In June 2010 Wiltshire Council granted planning permission for a new visitors centre at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles (2km) west of Stonehenge.

At the public inquiry, opponents claimed the plans would give English Heritage a monopoly on access to the site.

The scheme will see an 879 metre section of the A344 from its junction with the A303 closed.

Part of the B3086 from its junction with the A344 will also be closed and “increased capacity” added at Longbarrow Crossroads.

A decision over the remainder of the A344 and other byways will be decided by Wiltshire Council.

“This is an important contribution to improve the setting of the monument and ensure its preservation as an iconic World Heritage Site,” said Mr Penning.


Sponsored by the ;Stonehenge Tour Company’

Merlin @Stonehenge

Stonehenge news. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World ?

16 08 2011

Stonehenge may not be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but that’s probably only because Heroditus never came to Britain. If he came here now, he’d be appalled by the site of the stones – sandwiched as they are between two busy main roads, a car park complete with portaloos, and a visitor centre that makes you wish you were visiting something else.

A “national disgrace” is what a committee of MP’s called it more than a decade ago, and nothing much has changed since then. Until now that is. After years of wrangling over a series of schemes involving tunnels, by-passes and road closures, the Government believes it may finally have a plan that does Stonehenge justice. Others, including several prominent archaeologists, are not so sure and have set up The Stonehenge Alliance to fight the proposals.

When Sir Jocelyn Stevens took the reigns at English Heritage in 1992. He vowed to make Stonehenge his top priority, to “sort out” the mess of roads criss-crossing the site, and the inappropriate and inadequate visitor facilities that had been branded a national disgrace by the Public Accounts Committee:
From the top of the King Barrows Ridge heading south on the A303 it’s easy to see what the problem is. The road itself, and the smaller A344 that forks off to the right, dominate the landscape as the raised bowl in which Stonehenge sits opens out in front of you. The view of the stones is a good one – and is much appreciated by motorists – but it’s hardly an appropriate setting for such an historic monument.

Buried in the down right beside the stones themselves the bunker-like concrete visitor centre, with it’s shop, ticket office, take-away cafe, and portaloos, is little better. Everyone agrees something must be done. The question is what?

Earlier plans, for a 4 kilometre tunnel bored under the entire site were rejected by the then Conservative government in 1996 on the grounds of cost. The current proposal, the “master plan” as it’s called, is backed by both English Heritage and the National Trust which owns much of the land. The idea is to bury the A303 in a 2 kilometre cut-and-cover tunnel, to close and green-over the A344, and to re-locate and improve the visitor facilities at a site outside the boundary of the World Heritage Site:

Kate Fielden, is a founding member of the Stonehenge Alliance. The problem with the master plan is that a shorter tunnel, although missing the stones, would both start and finish well within the boundaries of the wider World Heritage Site. Opting for cut and cover construction rather than a bored tunnel would more than halve the cost, but means digging up the ground along its entire length. An act of archaeological vandalism the alliance says beggars belief:

And the Stonehenge Alliance is not alone. In July ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, urged the Government to “pay due regard to the World Heritage Site as a whole, and not just that part closest to the stones”. And now even the National Trust’s support for the scheme is under attack from within. A motion before this month’s AGM calls on the charity to abandon its position. The Trust’s Mark Harold accepts the master plan is far from perfect, but he believes, its a good compromise:

Sponsored by ‘The Stonehehenge Tour Company’ –

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Bulldozed Stonehenge would incur monolithic backlash

3 07 2011

So why has the eradication of the 4,000-year-old prehistoric Priddy Circles site not caused more national interest?
Priddy Circle Map

Hands-up folks, which of you had even heard of the Priddy Circles before last week? I would not anticipate there to be a large number of people, even locals, who had and I’m afraid to admit that I would not be among them.

It’s not surprising that they’re so little known as any reference to them makes only vague speculation as to their former purpose. The same could also be said to be true of Stonehenge, but, as any users of the A303 will attest, the mysterious splendour Stonehenge has captured the imagination of many, whereas Priddy Circles have remained unacknowledged by most.

I align them with Stonehenge because academic research on the phenomenon has claimed that ‘although no dating evidence has been found, they appear to be contemporary with Stonehenge’.

They are also said to probably be ‘Neolithic ritual or ceremonial monuments similar to a henge, they are external rather than internal ditches makes them unique in Britain and all this makes the circles the most important surviving Neolithic sites in Somerset’.

The recent rise in interest of the site is as a result of discoveries that English Heritage experts have been investigating claims that one of the four Priddy Circles has been obliterated.

Land near the circles appears to have been recently re-seeded and tree saplings have been planted close by.

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 makes it a criminal offence to destroy or damage a scheduled monument including agriculture, forestry, flooding and tipping.

If you want to view the site for yourself, they can be located using the map above – you are looking for an arrangement of four circular earthwork enclosures. The circles, each nearly 200m across, are best seen from the air. The damaged circle was the most clearly defined of the four. The total arrangement covers roughly 1.2km.

Other eyewitness accounts can be found at the Modern Antiquarian website. English Heritage has refused to be drawn on the extent of the alleged damage at this stage. 

To see the full extent of the damage from an aerial perspective, check-out these astounding photos by Pete Glastonbury.

Sponsored by the Stonehenge Tour Company –

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Magic circles: walking from Avebury to Stonehenge

14 05 2011

A new walking path links Britain’s two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, and is as epic as the Inca Trail

The Great Stones Way is one of those ideas so obvious it seems amazing that no one has thought of it before: a 38-mile walking trail to link England’s two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, crossing a landscape covered with Neolithic monuments.

But like any project involving the English countryside, it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. The steering group has had to secure permission from landowners and the MoD, who use much of Salisbury Plain for training. They hope to have the whole trail open within a year, but for now are trialling a 14-mile southern stretch, having secured agreement from the MoD and parish councils. The “Plain & Avon” section leads from the iron age hill fort of Casterley Camp on Salisbury Plain down the Avon valley to Stonehenge. Walkers are being encouraged to test the route, and detailed directions can be found on the Friends of the Ridgeway website.

It’s an area all but the boldest have avoided: negotiating the MoD areas needed careful planning. Few walkers come here and not a single garage or shop along the Avon valley sells local maps. The Great Stones Way should change that.

What makes the prospect of the Great Stones Way so exciting is the sense that for more than a millennium, between around 3000 and 2000BC, the area it crosses was the scene of frenzied Neolithic building activity, with henges, burial barrows and processional avenues criss-crossing the route.

Stones mapAt Casterley Camp, high on Salisbury Plain, it takes me a while to realise what is strange about the landscape, as wild and empty as anywhere in southern England, and with a large burial mound directly ahead. Then it hits me: this is perfect high grazing country, but there’s not a single sheep. Maybe they have read the MoD notice which points out that “‘projectile’ means any shot or shell or other missile or any portion thereof”, and that over much of what you can see you’re liable to be hit by one. You can also be arrested without a warrant. But the trail cleverly and legally threads its way past the firing ranges towards a delightful and ancient droving road that plunges down between cow parsley to an old farm.

Five minutes in we are passed by a lone woman wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and heading determinedly towards the shooting area, where the red flags are up to signify that it’s a “live” day. In a Kensington and Chelsea accent, she tells us that she regularly drives down from London as it’s one of the few places “where you don’t run the risk of meeting anybody else”. I murmur that this might be because they know they’ll get shot at. “Oh, I love all that. It gets my endorphins going. I got back to the car once and found it ringed by military police. When I told them that I just enjoyed the walking, they didn’t believe me. They said, ‘How can you claim to enjoy walking when you don’t have a dog?'”

One animal practising its duck-and-cover technique here is the remarkable great bustard, recently reintroduced to the UK after its local extinction two centuries ago. At 40lbs, the male bird is one of the largest flying animals in the world, so it’s unmistakable even for the most hesitant birdwatcher. As we reach an isolated farm building, we pass a Land Rover full of enthusiasts heading off to track some down.

The trail curves below to cross and then follow the Avon, a river that loomed large in the affairs of Neolithic man. It was along the Avon that the bluestones of the Preseli hills in Wales are thought to have been transported by boat to Stonehenge, after being moved an almost unimaginable distance around both the Pembrokeshire and Cornish peninsulas to the river mouth at Christchurch.

There are some pretty villages along the upper Avon: Enfold, with its flint and stone church, and old funeral wagon in the nave; Longstreet, with the Swan pub appearing at the right moment for a lunchtime reappraisal of the route; Coombe and Fittleton, with their judas trees, mill ponds and dovecotes. At Figheldean (pronounced “file-dean”), an allotment holder tells me he doesn’t grow courgettes “because they’re foreign food”.

Woodhenge, WiltshireWoodhenge, Wiltshire. Photograph: AlamyIt’s a peaceful valley to stroll along, with some beautiful stretches under beech trees and past bluebell woods. Which is why it comes as a shock to have to stop for a couple of tanks to trundle past at Brigmerston ford. The route follows the tank tracks back across the river and out onto the plain, so the last stretch again has wide-open vistas of the prehistoric landscape. At Durrington Walls, the trail cuts through a huge enclosed area where the builders of Stonehenge may have lived – the site is aligned to face sunset on the summer solstice – and on past Woodhenge, with its concentric circles of wooden posts (marked now by concrete posts).

As the walk gets into its finishing stride, you pass the King Barrows still sleeping along their ridge, some of the few sites that remain unexcavated (the local farmer didn’t want the trees cut down), and the mysterious Cursus group of Bronze Age barrows, so named because 18th-century antiquarian William Stukeley thought it must have been built by the Romans for chariot races. Across a meadow land of dandelions and buttercups, the familiar silhouette of the stone and lintel circle finally appears, at the end of the processional avenue that once led there from the river. In the distance, the stones themselves are a flat grey. What gleams all around them, like fish circling, is the traffic on the A303.

I can’t help thinking how much better it is to arrive at Stonehenge on foot. The comparison that comes to mind, and which I know well, is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The experience of trekking to both sites is immeasurably richer, not just because you’ve “earned it”, but because both sets of ruins are only properly understood in the context of the sacred landscape that surrounds them.

• For details of this 14-mile section of the walk, and accommodation and transport, see the Friends of the Ridgeway website:

Hugh Thomson’s The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland (Phoenix, £10.99) has just been reissued to mark the centenary of the discovery of Machu Picchu. His most recent book is Tequila Oil(Phoenix, £8.99)

There are already ‘Crop Circles’ in Stonehenge and Avebury area well worth exploring.  If you do not have the time or require a guide try the excellent ‘Stonehenge Tour Company’
There is also a new ‘Henge Hopper service covering this area

The Henge Hopper

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website

Beltane Facts (May Day)

1 05 2011

May Day is Beltane, which means ‘day of fire’. It is an ancient Pagan festival. Bel was the Celtic God of the sun. May Day marks the seasonal transition from Winter to Summer and celebrated the first spring planting.

Beltane Celebrations at Stonehenge

Beltane Celebrations at Stonehenge

Beltane kicks off the merry month of May, and has a long history. This fire festival is celebrated on May 1 with bonfires, Maypoles, dancing, and lots of good old fashioned sexual energy. The Celts honored the fertility of the gods with gifts and offerings, sometimes including animal or human sacrifice. Cattle were driven through the smoke of the balefires, and blessed with health and fertility for the coming year. In Ireland, the fires of Tara were the first ones lit every year at Beltane, and all other fires were lit with a flame from Tara.

  • May Day is Beltane, which means ‘day of fire’. It is an ancient Pagan festival. Bel was the Celtic God of the sun.
  • May Day marks the seasonal transition from Winter to Summer and celebrated the first spring planting.
  • Putting a Maypole up involved taking a growing tree from the wood and bringing it to the village to mark the coming of Summer. Single men and women would dance around the Maypole holding on to ribbons until they became entwined with their (hoped for) new loves.
  • Social hierarchy was set aside on May Day to involve everyone from the highest to the lowest.
  • May Day is a celebration of fertility. In the old days whole villages would go to the woods and all sorts of temporary sexual liaisons would take place.
  • Robin Goodfellow, also known as the Green Man was the Lord of Misrule on May Day. He and his supporters would make jokes and poke fun at the local authorities.
  • Parliament banned May Day festivities in 1644.
  • Unlike Easter, Whitsun, or Christmas, May Day is the one festival of the year with no significant church service.
  • In previous centuries working people would take the day off to celebrate, often without the support of their employer.
  • William Davidson, a black trade unionist and a revolutionary, was executed on May Day 1820. Davidson was born in the then pirate capital, Kingston, Jamaica and put a skull and crossbones on a black flag to say:“Let us die like men and not be sold like slaves.” He was executed for being part of a conspiracy to kill the entire cabinet, which was hoped to give the spark to a revolution in Britain.
  • May Day is recognized throughout the world as International Workers’ Day, or Labour Day. In 1884 US and Canadian trade unions declared that after May 1st 1886, 8 hours would constitute a legal days work.
  • May 1st was declared a holiday by the International Working Men’s Association (First International) in Paris in 1889. This was to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs of 1886: 8 anarchists were wrongly accused of throwing a bomb at police and 4 were executed.
  • The USA and Canada do not recognize May Day. The US government attempted to erase the its history by declaring that May 1st was ‘Law Day’ instead. They pronounced that Labour Day was to be on the first Monday of September, a date of no significance.

    Sponsors: The Stonehenge Tour Company –

    Happy Beltane everybody!
    Merlin @ Stonehenge Stone Circle

Prehistoric man ‘used crude sat nav’

20 04 2011

Prehistoric man navigated his way across England using a crude version of sat nav based on stone circle markers, historians have claimed.

Silbury Hill, Wiltshire which may have been part of an ancient navigational aid for prehistoric
Silbury Hill, Wiltshire which may have been part of an ancient navigational aid for prehistoric

They were able to travel between settlements with pinpoint accuracy thanks to a complex network of hilltop monuments.

These covered much of southern England and Wales and included now famous landmarks such as Stonehenge and The Mount.

New research suggests that they were built on a connecting grid of isosceles triangles that ‘point’ to the next site.

Many are 100 miles or more away, but GPS co-ordinates show all are accurate to within 100 metres.

This provided a simple way for ancient Britons to navigate successfully from A to B without the need for maps.

According to historian and writer Tom Brooks, the findings show that Britain’s Stone Age ancestors were ”sophisticated engineers” and far from a barbaric race.

Mr Brooks, from Honiton, Devon, studied all known prehistoric sites as part of his research.

He said: ”To create these triangles with such accuracy would have required a complex understanding of geometry.

”The sides of some of the triangles are over 100 miles across on each side and yet the distances are accurate to within 100 metres. You cannot do that by chance.

”So advanced, sophisticated and accurate is the geometrical surveying now discovered, that we must review fundamentally the perception of our Stone Age forebears as primitive, or conclude that they received some form of external guidance.

”Is sat-nav as recent as we believe; did they discover it first?”

Mr Brooks analysed 1,500 sites stretching from Norfolk to north Wales. These included standing stones, hilltop forts, stone circles and hill camps.

Each was built within eyeshot of the next.

Using GPS co-ordinates, he plotted a course between the monuments and noted their positions to each other.

He found that they all lie on a vast geometric grid made up of isosceles ‘triangles’. Each triangle has two sides of the same length and ‘point’ to the next settlement.

Thus, anyone standing on the site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire could have navigated their way to Lanyon Quoit in Cornwall without a map.

Mr Brooks believes many of the Stone Age sites were created 5,000 years ago by an expanding population recovering from the trauma of the Ice Age.

Lower ground and valleys would have been reduced to bog and marshes, and people would have naturally sought higher ground to settle.

He said: ”After the Ice Age, the territory would have been pretty daunting for everyone. There was an expanding population and people were beginning to explore.

”They would have sought sanctuary on high ground and these positions would also have given clear vantage points across the land with clear visibility untarnished by pollution.

”The triangle navigation system may have been used for trading routes among the expanding population and also been used by workers to create social paths back to their families while they were working on these new sites.”

Mr Brooks now hopes his findings will inspire further research into the navigation methods of ancient Britons.

He said: ”Created more than 2,000 years before the Greeks were supposed to have discovered such geometry, it remains one of the world’s biggest civil engineering projects.

”It was a breathtaking and complex undertaking by a people of profound industry and vision. We must revise our thinking of what’s gone before.”

‘Prehistoric Geometry in Britain: the Discoveries of Tom Brooks’ is now on sale priced £13.90.

Sponsored by the Stonehenge Tour Company –

 Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website


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