24 miles from Stonehenge, to the West of Marlborough, in the ancient kingdom of Wessex.


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This is an intriguing place. The village of Avebury sits some 24 miles from Stonehenge, to the West of Marlborough, in the ancient kingdom of Wessex. Like it’s more famous neighbour, it’s a World heritage site, but while Stonehenge is now, sadly, fenced off & inaccessible to the general public, at Avebury you can wander right up to the stones, touch them, climb on them, hug them, dance naked around them if you want to, though I really wouldn’t recommend that until well after pub closing time.
Although not as immediately obvious a tourist destination as ‘Henge, (did you know there’s also a Woodhenge?), Avebury has far more standing stones & is spread over a far wider area. A huge earthworks, enclosing part of the picturesque village contains a large circle of stones covering several fields, with two smaller circles within that, plus two long avenues, each comprising some 100 standing stones.
There are over 600 “megaliths” in all, striding across the Wiltshire countryside. The inner circles are believed to have been temples, with the Northern one’s axis aligned with the Midsummer sunrise.
Dragged by hand or oxen from the Avebury Hills, several miles to the East, the Eocene sandstone is a staggering 26 million years old. For some time a few of the larger stones were fenced off as potentially unsafe, but when work began to secure them it was found that, like icebergs, a large proportion of their mass is actually below ground, making them perfectly visitor-safe.
The average above-ground height is around 15 feet. Some show evidence of carving with crude human heads clearly visible.
Over the years several stones have fallen, been moved or simply broken up for use in local housing. Thankfully the importance of the site as a whole is now recognised. It’s believed the first obelisks were erected around 2800BC with others being added over the next 5 centuries. By my hazy school-boy history that would mean construction spanning the agricultural Neolithic age right up to early Bronze Age, so this was no overnight project.
Several artefacts have been found beneath fallen stones that relate to the “Beaker Folk” -disappointingly not the carrot-haired lab assistant from the Muppets, but Bronze Age dwellers known for setting drinking vessels in the graves of their dead.
In the early 20th century wealthy local marmalade magnate, (what a great title!), & amateur archaeologist, Alexander Keiller, spent a big chunk of his personal fortune reconstructing various parts of the circles & avenues, even going as far as buying up & demolishing properties around the village to suit his vision. Unknown to many new age pilgrims, some of the stones were deliberately moved & set in concrete by Keiller & his workers to enhance the overall layout. Despite that though, the scale of the circles & the stones themselves is pretty impressive. The way they dissect the village itself & loom up out of the fields gives a strange, ethereal feel to the place.
So what’s there to attract us bikey types then?

Well, the surrounding roads are great on 2 -or 3 wheels. The nearby A4 in particular is unusually wide with long sweeping bends & a good clear view meaning it’s very easy to find yourself travelling at warp factor speeds. Slow down a little though & you’re rewarded with some gorgeous scenery -rolling Wiltshire hills & wide flat agricultural vistas. In the centre of Avebury village is the large & very pretty Red Lion pub, which serves great food & is a Mecca for bikers on Summer Sundays. Wednesday evenings have also become known as bike nights. For me it’s just a very pleasant ride with a good pub & somewhere interesting to stroll around or just sit & chill out at the end of it.

Try it yourself & let me know what you think.

Avebury sits just off the A4 to the West of Marlborough. The stones belong to the World Heritage Trust. Entry is free 24 hours, but watch out for the sheep poo!
M.M.Motors does not condone naked midnight stone-dancing unless performed by trained professionals.