Exploring Prehistoric Wessex

1 10 2016

Visit atmospheric and inspirational sites and museums and follow a trail from Avebury and Stonehenge to Dorchester and Maiden Castle.

1. SILBURY HILL prehwsxmap
The largest man-made mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporary Egyptian pyramids.
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Details on English Heritage website

2. AVEBURY
With its huge circular bank and ditch and circles of standing stones, Avebury is at the centre of a remarkable ritual landscape. Visit the Alexander Keiller Museum and Avebury Manor.
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Details on National Trust website

3. WINDMILL HILL
Causewayed camp, set on a commanding hilltop above Avebury. Used for rituals, feasting and trading.
Details on English Heritage website

4. WEST KENNET LONG BARROW
The most impressive and accessible Neolithic
chambered tomb in Britain.
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Details on English Heritage website

5. WILTSHIRE MUSEUM
See Gold from the Time of Stonehenge in our award-winning new Prehistoric Wiltshire displays. See the spectacular treasures of the people who held their ceremonies at Stonehenge.
Open 7 days a week. Satnav: SN10 1NS
www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk

6. STONEHENGE
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 – a processional way lined with the Winter solstice.
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Details on English Heritage website

7. DURRINGTON WALLS
A massive henge, the site of the recent discovery of Neolithic houses, where the people who gathered from across Britain to build Stonehenge may have lived.
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Details on National Trust website

8. OLD SARUM
The original site of Salisbury – a Norman castle and cathedral, set within the impressive ramparts of an Iron Age hillfort.
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Details on English Heritage website

9. SALISBURY MUSEUM
Stunning new Wessex Gallery of Archaeology
featuring the famous ‘Amesbury Archer’
and unique finds from Stonehenge,
Old Sarum and Durrington Walls.
Open Mon – Sat & Sun (in summer). Satnav: SN1 2EN
www.salisburymuseum.org.uk

10. ANCIENT TECHNOLOGY CENTRE
Visit for special Open Weekends and Ancient Days. Experience the realities of daily life in the past and learn ancient skills and crafts in an authentic landscape
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Ancient Technology Centre website

11. DORSET CURSUS
The banks and ditches of a Neolithic cursus runs for six miles, surrounded by barrow cemeteries. Contact in advance to arrange a tour and to visit the private museum at Down Farm.
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Dorset Cursus

12. KNOWLTON HENGE
An impressive Neolithic henge, with a Norman church built inside the bank and ditch.
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Details on English Heritage website

13. DORSET COUNTY MUSEUM
Discover the story of Dorset’s rich landscape
unfolding in a range of fascinating displays.
Find out about Maiden Castle and the stunning
Bronze Age finds from nearby Clandon barrow.
Open Mon – Sat & Sun (in summer). Satnav: DT1 1XA
www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

14. MAIDEN CASTLE
The largest and most complex Iron Age hillfort
in Europe. Multiple ramparts once protected
an important settlement, but the site has 4,000
years of history, from a Neolithic causewayed
enclosure to a small Roman temple.
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Details on English Heritage website

HOW TO GET HERE BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
You can use coaches, trains & buses to visit many of these sites & museums.
Swindon – train connections & the
No.49 bus to Avebury & Devizes
Devizes – coach from London &
the No.2 bus to Salisbury
Salisbury – train connections, the Stonehenge Tour
bus service & the No.183 to Blandford Forum
Dorchester – train connections & the
No.184 from Blandford Forum

WHERE TO STAY
Details of quality assured accommodation:
http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk
http://www.visitdorset.com

SPECIALIST TOUR OPERATORS
Stonehenge Guided Tours (London)
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours (Salisbury)
Wessex Guided Tours (Bath)

The Stonehenge News Blog





Sights to visit around Stonehenge.

4 03 2016

While Stonehenge is by far and away the superstar of southern England, and no visit to Wiltshire is complete without touring it, Stonehenge is in fact just one of many ancient sites in the area. Indeed, the surrounds of Stonehenge contain the most densely-grouped collection of neolithic sites and monuments within England – and more are being discovered all the time. It’s thought that the nearby settlement of Amesbury (believed to be the oldest in Britain) was a major cultural centre during the island’s ancient days. If you’ve got some time to spare during your Stonehenge trip, and want to take in some of the area’s other sights, here are a few suggestions:

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Within Walking/Cycling Distance Of Stonehenge – Woodhenge, Durrington Walls, The Cuckoo Stone

In all fairness, you can strike out in pretty much any direction from Stonehenge and hit archeological gold – although you may not always recognise it as such. Just be careful not to wander into the path of the military (who train on Salisbury Plain). If you’re cycling, be sure that you’re properly prepared for historically significant (but nonetheless unexpected) bumps and tumbles! Woodhenge, less than four miles from Stonehenge, is an odd sight at first glance. However, once you understand what you’re looking at, it becomes much more impressive. It’s thought that this was once a large burial mound with a complex system of banks and ditches (now eradicated through ploughing). Thousands of years ago, six concentric rings of wooden posts may have supported an enormous building. Today, the position of these posts are marked with stumps. It’s an atmospheric and very interesting place! A short walk away from Woodhenge is Durrington Walls – a recently discovered monument which in its heyday would have dwarfed Stonehenge. The ‘Walls’ were formed by lines of enormous stones, which could possibly have formed a processional way leading to Stonehenge itself. There’s not masses to see there now, but it’s still a lovely area! West of Woodhenge is the Cuckoo Stone – a sarsen boulder lying on its side. It was once a standing stone, the origins of which remain a matter of debate. It’s an enigmatic piece of history in a very atmospheric location.

Salisbury – Old Sarum, Salisbury Museum

Old Sarum is a wonderful visit for anyone with an interest in history. It’s the site of Salisbury’s oldest settlement – a hilltop fort commanding absolutely incredible views over Wiltshire. There’s an iron age hillfort to walk around, the remains of a castle to admire, and an absolutely breathtaking panorama which will give the camera-happy everything they could ever dream of. There are also plenty of events put on by English Heritage throughout the year, giving people the opportunity to really step back in time! Down in Salisbury itself, the Salisbury Museum is packed full of fascinating finds from all over the county. It’s a well laid-out and beautifully explained museum, with some truly intriguing exhibits. You can find it just opposite Salisbury Cathedral – which it itself a beautiful and interesting building.

A Short Drive Away – Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill

A 40 minute or so drive from Stonehenge is Avebury. Managed by the National Trust, this ancient stone circle sits in a Neolithic landscape incorporating avenues of standing stones, a henge, and an enormous stone circle in which a village was once situated. The stone circle itself is the largest in the world, and contains two smaller circles. A short walk away is West Kennet long barrow, which can be entered by those who are neither claustrophobic nor fearful of our long-dead ancestors! Then, of course, there are the round barrows with which the landscape is littered, and the curious structure of Silbury Hill. Silbury Hill is the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, and would have taken similar effort to construct as its contemporary pyramids in Egypt. It was clearly important to those who built it – although, unlike most barrows of its kind, it contains no burial. Its purposes remain perplexing, but its presence is both beautiful and fascinating! Anyone with an interest in Stonehenge and its ilk, particularly those who enjoy the mystery of the structure, will find much to whet their appetites at Avebury and Silbury!

There are Stonehenge tour companies who operate guided tours of the area and the Visit Wiltshire webiste lists the best ones.  If you want to explore the Stonehenge landscape with a local expert then we recommend ‘The Stonehenge Travel Company

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