Avebury, Wiltshire - the largest stone circle in the world
Not far from Stonehenge, in the county of Wiltshire, lies the even larger Avebury stone circle. Though less complete - and a little less grand - than its more famous neighbour, Avebury boasts a more peaceful environment in which to contemplate antiquity, plus a handy country pub!
Built between 4000 to 5000 years ago, the standing stones of Avebury actually form the world’s largest megalithic stone circle.
Visitors can find circles within circles of stones at Avebury, as well as stone-lined avenues and a ditch around the whole site. No one really understands the purpose of the structures here.
It is thought that the Avebury henge originally contained around 600 standing stones, though only around 76 survive today. It is believed most have now been uncovered through various preservation and excavation efforts, although a handful more are thought to still be buried. It is presumed that many stones were destroyed over the centuries, as they were considered an affront to Christianity.
There is evidence of ancient Roman occupation in the area. Even back then, 2000 years ago, the stones would have been regarded as ancient and mysterious.
The stones are readily visitable, with no formal restriction on access, and parking available close by. They occupy a very large footprint, and to see them all is the basis of a very pleasant walk. Visitors are allowed to move freely between them, and touch the stones if they want. There's a visitor centre/museum, National Trust cafe & restaurant, and the delightful old thatched Red Lion pub, which has the distinction of being the only such establishment to be located within a megalithic stone circle. The Red Lion was first licensed in 1802 and is famous for its 86ft deep well which dates back to the 1600's. The Well Room is named after Alexander Keiller (from the marmalade family) who was among the first to excavate the ancient stone circle surrounding the pub, after he purchased the site in the 1930's.
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