I think it’s over rated. I just don’t get it.

There, I’ve said it. To be honest I’ve never found Stonehenge fascinating. When I knew I was moving to Wiltshire, I thought maybe I’d see it and it would capture me. My first glimpse of it in the fading light of a November afternoon when we arrived after the long drive from Scotland underwhelmed me. And it has underwhelmed me ever since.

The official English Heritage site waxes lyrical about uncovering the story of the ‘henge. Of it being a spiritual place and a source of inspiration to many. I’m not so sure. Being relieved of fifty quid or so for a family ticket and then viewing it with the drone of the notorious A303 road in the background detracts from the spiritual vibes quite a bit.

Photo by Samuel Wu00f6lfl on Pexels.com

If the purpose of it all has never been confirmed, what are we uncovering exactly? How do we know we aren’t getting carried away in the theories of spiritual things and deeper meaning. What if Stonehenge was actually something really mundane. Stone age version of Aldi or the settlement social club or something?

It’s not that I don’t love history. I do, I really and truly do. There’s a special place in my heart for the late 1800’s to the 1980’s but I find every period interesting. I’m just not in love with the way some historical places get overhyped, overcrowded and over commercialised. That’s a small bit of a bigger rant of mine about how heritage is managed and how families are being priced out at times. Do I dare write that post? Husband says please do, it might stop me banging on to him about it. He gets all of me, unfiltered and unedited. Isn’t he blessed!

All of this to say; In this corner of England if you fancy seeing the historical stuff, Stonehenge is the well known and well worn path but there is so much more. Much of it free or very low cost. So, what would I suggest if not Stonehenge? Glad you asked. I start off with a run out to…

Avebury Village

Avebury is a very pretty National Trust managed village, watched over by a historic manor house. That in itself would be worth a visit, right? But more than that, Avebury sits partially within the worlds largest Neolithic stone circle.

Things Helen Loves, stone circle with thatched cottage in the background
Stone Circles & Open Space…Red Lion pub in the background reputed to be haunted.

Stonehenge and Avebury actually belong together as part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. Avebury is free to visit bar a small parking charge and you are free to wander amongst the stones as you please. The village sits at the heart of a sweeping, historic landscape and the best way to explore it is on foot. The National Trust has plotted some routes to explore the Avebury landscape, all beginning and ending in the village. Sturdy footwear a must. It’s wet and muddy here in autumn / winter and dusty the rest of the time. It’s also largely farmland so if you stand in something in your sandals, it’s likely not mud.

For a more in depth look at the Avebury seen today and the area it belongs to, drop into the Alexander Keiller museum. The museum ( small charge, free to National Trust and English Heritage members) will help you make sense of the huge henge , ditches and avenues but there are also some interesting displays. Like animal skeletons estimated to be around 5000 years old, including a dog. Proving that mans best friend has always been, well, mans best friend.

My own ‘man’s best friend’ @ Avebury

One last thing on Avebury. If you like a good back story, look up the story of Alexander Keiller. The Dundee born marmalade heir turned archaeologist led quite the colourful life and then when he was done, left Avebury as his legacy. There is a movie in his shenanigans. Netflix, take note.

Andover Museum

Less than an hours drive through some very pretty countryside lies the historic market town of Andover. As well as being keeper of a rich history, Andover is home to the Andover Museum. Actually, two museums in one : The Andover Museum and The Museum of the Iron Age.

The Museum of the Iron Age is a glimpse into the world of another local historical site, Danebury Hillfort. You can’t throw a stone round here without hitting a bit of history. The hill fort, located just outside the town, was excavated in the 1960’s and has become one of the most studied British Iron age sites… although subsequent excavations have suggested the use of the place dates back even further.

Museum of The Iron Age, Andover

The museum explores all aspects of hillfort life from farming to defence using a mix of artefacts and recreations. Displayed items include mammoth bones, Bronze aged finds and items recovered from a Saxon grave.

Within the same building, the Andover Museum charts the history of the town. Exhibits explore the town growth and decline as a mill town; delving into local scandal and why the town was the scene of a riot. Even the building itself is a little piece of local history. The Grade II listed building began life as fine Georgian townhouse before being gifted for use as a grammar school. Look beyond the museum displays and you’ll still see finer aspects of the buildings past in the sweeping staircase, wooden panelling and ornate fire surrounds. Definitely the kind of place you can day dream about being a lady. Even in jeans and Converse.

Andover Museum.

Leaving the museum behind, Andover is a pleasant place for a stroll. Look up, there are some lovely historic buildings including some gorgeous Georgian architecture and the old town mill. There’s no shortage of places to grab a bite to eat and a coffee, from well known high street coffee chains to independent cafes. Or you could pick up a few bits for a picnic and head out to…

Danebury Hill Fort & Nature Reserve

It’s only a short drive from Andover and having delved into the story of the site in the museum, it would be a shame to be so close and not to walk the ground itself. The Danebury Hill Fort area is beautiful. You can walk the geography of the settlement, stand in the footprint of a roundhouse and take in the panoramic views of the Test Valley.

Danebury Hill Fort

The landscape and atmosphere here is quite different to other places in the area and I’d highly recommend a visit. Sunrise or sunset is glorious, but any time is good. Free to visit and as an added bonus, if you’re into bagging Trig points you’ll find one here. If your not and am wondering what I’m on about, details here.

So there you have it. A day or two’s worth of early history exploration, no Stonehenge required. My itinerary is also a budget friendly, outdoorsy one that supports some grass roots heritage and that always makes me happy. Do you know what else makes me happy? When there’s a bit of chat in the comments of my posts so please do go ahead and like and comment. It makes my day every single time.

I like to end on a positive so let me tell you something I do like about Stonehenge. When Mr THL has been away soldiering for a longish old time, he sometimes snaps a quick pic of it as he comes back in and sends it to me. No words, just a snap of Stonehenge, usually at dusk. It’s his way of telling me he’s nearly home. I can honestly say for a few seconds on those days, Stonehenge is the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Maybe there’s hope yet for me and the ‘henge?

Helen x

If you liked this post, maybe have a look at Three Unique Wiltshire Villages

19 thoughts

  1. I think the achievement of building Stonehenge in its time, whatever it is for, is amazing, and I also think I was lucky to visit at a time (maybe late 80s) when you could more or less just wander up to it. I do agree about the hype: there’s a happy medium somewhere between neglect and over-promotion. Like you, I would usually seek out the less-visited.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m always amazed at historic buildings and structures that were built without the technology or computer aided design. I’m in a Facebook group about history in the Wiltshire area and lots of people recall being able to visit Stonehenge fairly freely. I think the organising and control of it all is fairly recent.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a fan of over-hyped sites either, and in fact haven’t visited Stonehenge since the 1960s, when it was free. It is an astonishing achievement, and worth celebrating for that alone. But I get far more out of sites less known and visited, still retaining the feel they might have had back when it was first constructed, such as Cairn Holy in Dumfries and Galloway. Less spectacular, but more involving, I find: https://margaret21.com/2020/10/01/two-of-a-kind-cairn-holy/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an amazing site. I’d love to know the story of the folk tasked with getting the grave artefacts from the Alps to the burial site. They had quite the responsibility!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Strangely enough, we were driving past Stonehenge on the way to Cornwall, a few weeks ago. I did remark to my husband that I could remember when you were able to get ‘up close and personal’ with the stones. It seemed much more atmospheric back then, unless that’s my memory playing tricks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you can still get up close and personal but you have to buy it as an experience. Hope you had a good time in Cornwall and the weather was kind!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Even in 2004 when I visited, you couldn’t really get very close to the stones of the Henge. If your ever in Cumbria it has some fine stone circles including Castlerigg which has a beautiful mountains backdrop and Long Meg and her daughter’s in the Eden Valley. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not at all familiar with Cumbria, I’ll have to have a google. On the look out for some Autumn destinations currently, with good walking for the dog and hopefully a spot of a wild swim for me. All suggestions welcome!

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      1. Norfolk is wonderful , we loved our time there in June. Cumbria has lots of wild swimming spots and there are fab places to visit in and out of the Lakes area. X

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve never been to Stonehenge and I don’t feel anything missing from my life. I always find these big tourist draws disappointing and would rather sniff out something little known. Places like Stonehenge are over priced and over crowded. I visited a kind of Stonehenge tribute act when I was in Australia, built using local stone and without the missing bits; you could just wander amongst the stones and take selfies. I think that’ll do me.
    On a separate note, how great that your husband warns you when he’s coming home 😊

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    1. Yes! Absolutely! I think I just like freedom in all the things. Yes a warning is good, means i can quickly tidy up the house and myself and pretend it was like that the whole time he was out of the way 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more, so many places like this are over-rated. I sometimes wonder if it’s me so I’m glad you’re on board! Another thing that really, really annoys me, are the crowds of people just there to tick the place off their list of ‘must sees’. I’m thinking abroad now, more than here, the people who go to Pompeii having no idea what it’s about, Petra ditto – and who then invariably, complain of the heat and having so far to walk! Split (only for Game of Thrones), ditto Northern Ireland. Don’t get me started………..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I had this same conversation- well, rant really- in London as these multi stop, one day tickets seem to be really popular. But there surely comes a point where you cram so much in it’s just a race to do it all rather than any kind of experience. I’m definitely one to bimble and plod and get distracted along the way.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a bit interesting, for all it hasn’t quite captured me! I am glad it’s being cared for and preserved though, as these things should be. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, appreciated.

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