I’ve been to the UK three times, but never got to Stonehenge. This trip, I made it a priority to do a day trip to Stonehenge. My colleague from Bristol agreed to rent a car (they say hire) to take us around the English countryside. I thought we’d just see Stonehenge. Instead, he took us on a world wind tour of several other historical sites near Stonehenge. I had no idea just how much history we’d see, and I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of it all.
Stonehenge Requires Imagination
I had zero expectations about visiting Stonehenge, which was a good thing. Our colleague asked us what we thought after visiting, and my reaction was pretty subdued. Although it was very cool to see these 5000-plus-year-old stones and structures, it was hard to envision their significance. He told us a bit about the history of Stonehenge and the theories behind the structures. I found the history fascinating, but it was still really hard for me to envision the size and scale of these stones. Luckily, he took us to Avebury right afterward, so that gave us a great opportunity to walk amongst the stones.
For those of you who would like to visit Stonehenge at some point, our friend gave us an insider tip. You should definitely visit during the summer or winter solstice. It is the two times a year where you are able to walk amongst the stones, which I imagine gives a much greater appreciation for the size and the sheer awe of it all.
Touch the Stones at Avebury
Prior to this trip, I hadn’t heard of Avebury. Our friend introduced it to us because he thought it would be a great way for us to walk amongst the stones and also see the breadth of the stone circles in England. I enjoyed Avebury so much because of the freedom to be able to walk right up to the stones and touch them. There were goats everywhere, just grazing the grass right near the stones. We even came up to a sheep who was scratching his back on a 5000-year-old stone, which made me chuckle. I enjoyed my time in Avebury even more than seeing Stonehenge. My friend and I were discussing it, and we think Avebury brought Stonehenge more to life than visiting Stonehenge alone. If you get the chance to go to this part of England, I would actually suggest spending time at Avebury first and then checking out Stonehenge. I also wish I had done some research online in advance. Seeing the pictures of the scale of Avebury online made it all more real and amazing.
Go Inside a Burial Tomb
Probably my absolute favorite stop on our day trip to Stonehenge was visiting West Kennet Long Barrow. It is a Neolithic chambered tomb built around 3650 BC. The reason I loved visiting so much is that I was able to walk right inside of the tomb. It is one of the largest chambered tombs in the world and is part of the Avebury World Heritage site. Although it looks even more impressive in pictures, the ability to actually walk inside of the tomb was a very special experience. It is hard to describe the significance of West Kennet Long Barrow, but it was the most moving for me. I think the ability to actually walk inside the tomb, stand inside and think about the fact that the rocks were more than 5000 years old, was very powerful.
Stop By the Giant Hill
Another unexpected stop on this trip was to visit Silbury Hill. It is the largest man-made hill in Europe, which is unique. But what makes it more interesting is the question as to why was it made in the first place. It was created around 2400 BC. Based on research, it doesn’t contain any burial grounds. So why was it made? No one knows. Just like Stonehenge has a lot of theories, so does Silbury Hill. The size of the hill, roughly the height, and volume of the contemporary Egyptian pyramids, seems much more impressive from aerial views.
Enjoy the English Countryside
I really lucked out on this trip to England. It didn’t rain at all and the sun even came out for most of the time we toured the English countryside. The green color was so vibrant and there were many different flowers in bloom. It was so nice to wander around the rolling hills, with golden yellow rapeseed in bloom everywhere we went. It was a very relaxing day, driving around the countryside, walking amongst the stones and other ruins, and imagining the lives of people who lived here 5000 years ago.
If you get the chance to take a day trip to Stonehenge and the English countryside, I highly suggest it. I really enjoyed my day, especially having an Englishman as a tour guide.