10 Things to do near Stonehenge
Stonehenge could be considered the center of a series of sites that are really worth visiting if you have a few hours to spare or, better, a full day to do so.
No one doubts that Stonehenge should be on the list of places to see when traveling to London. However, there are many other nearby attractions that are also worth a visit, from other prehistoric remains to towns and cities of great interest.
If you have time to spare I recommend getting a map of the area where Stonehenge is located and which has been declared a World Heritage Site. With that information, try to approach places like Salisbury, the Neolithic remains of Avebury, Lacock or Old Sarum, among others.
1. Don't miss Salisbury and its impressive cathedral
As you will have seen in my article How to get to Stonehenge from London, almost all public transport requires a transfer in Salisbury and, in addition, it is also included in some of the organized tours that depart from the capital.
No matter how you arrive, this city offers great attractions to spend a few hours wandering through its streets and discover some of its most emblematic corners.
Although this walk through the streets of this medieval city already make the visit worthwhile, the great attraction of Salisbury is its magnificent Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This building began to be built in the early thirteenth century and inside it is preserved the English Magna Carta.
In addition to the cathedral it is also worth stopping at the Salisbury Museum. Part of its exhibition is related to Stonehenge, making it a perfect place to delve into the history of the monument.
Finally, if you are a fan of country pubs you should not leave Salisbury without entering the Haunch of Venison. This place, opened no less than in the year 1320, has nothing to envy to those you can find in the London night, to the point that his visit is recommended by the prestigious National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.
Joaquin's Traveller Tip
From Salisbury is quite easy to reach the megalithic monument of Stonehenge. Just look for the bus called The Stonehenge Tour Bus.
How to get to Salisbury
Salisbury train station is well connected to London. Trains run very frequently from the capital's Waterloo station and it takes about an hour and a half to travel the distance.
Another option to go from London to Salisbury is by bus and, in fact, there is a direct bus from Heathrow Airport itself. If you have decided to go by car, the journey takes about 2 hours.
Finally, the most convenient option is to hire an organized tour from London to Stonehenge, such as the one that allows you to visit Stonehenge, Bath and Salisbury in the same day.
2. Immerse yourself in the past in Old Sarum
A mere 14 kilometers from Stonehenge, history lovers can visit the hill of Old Sarum, considered to be the birthplace of neighboring Salisbury.
Old Sarum was first occupied by hunting parties and later inhabited by some of the earliest farmers. A fortress was built in this location during the Iron Age and, in time, witnessed the passage of Romans, Normans and Saxons. In total, 5,000 years of human history.
The site, located on the hill itself, is now part of the English Heritage Association and is open to the public to visit. It requires the purchase of a ticket.
How to get to Old Sarum
Being located only about 3 kilometers from Salisbury, it can be reached on foot from the city. Just head north and take the opportunity to see the banks of the River Avon and part of Victoria Park and Hudson's Field.
The closest town geographically to Stonehenge is Amesbury, to the point that many include it among the things to see when approaching the monument. This small town was founded in 976, although there is evidence that the area was inhabited some 10,000 years ago.
In addition to its proximity to Stonehenge, Amesbury is also known for its connection to the myth of King Arthur. There, in a convent, was where Queen Guinevere took refuge after the death of the king at Camlann. If you like the Arthurian legend, you can check if any musical is being performed in London on this theme, something quite frequent.
Near this locality one of the most luxurious Bronze Age cemeteries was found. Specifically, the remains of two men (possibly nobles of the time) were found with more than 100 objects around them, such as gold earrings or copper knives. One of them is known by the nickname "King of Stonehenge".
Strolling through the vicinity of the town you can enjoy a unique view of the Avon River until you reach the jewel in the crown of Amesbury: its ancient abbey, now converted into the Church of St. Mary and St. Melor. The building dates from the 10th century and was the burial place of Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III.
How to get to Amesbury
Although the most convenient is to join one of the tours that go from London to Stonehenge, you also have the option of going on one of the buses of the National Express company.
You can also get there easily from Salisbury, as you only have to take one of the buses that link this town with Stonehenge.
4. Durrington and Woodhenge
Just 3 kilometers from Stonehenge is Woodhenge, a Neolithic wooden monument dated around 2500 BC, that is, practically contemporary to the monument.
Woodhenge consisted ofsix ovals of upright posts, which were surrounded by a ditch and a bank. The structure was built in such a way that it was aligned with the sunrise during the summer solstice at Stonehenge, one of the best times to visit the monument.
This wooden monument is today part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, as is the nearby South Circle of Durrington Walls.
The latter is aligned with sunrise at the winter solstice (another of the best times to visit Stonehenge), so it is thought to have been complementary to Woodhenge. It is known that many people came to Durrington for winter celebrations even before the wooden structure was erected.
How to get to Durrington and Woodhenge
Both monuments can be visited very easily from Amesbury or Stonehenge, without the need to seek any transportation.
5. Discover the world's largest stone circle at Avebury
Only half an hour separates the Stonehenge monument from another World Heritage village. The beautiful town of Avebury is known for the world's largest stone circle, ancient tombs and other remains from the Neolithic and Bronze Age.
The remains are located within the village and can be visited every day of the year. In addition to the stone circle are also very interesting the largest Neolithic tomb in Britain, the nearby avenue and Silbury Hill, the largest artificial hill in Europe. All this makes it not detract in any way from the best tours that can be done in London.
If you are already tired of archaeological remains, Avebury is still worth a visit. There you can visit the Church of St. James, built in 1000 AD, and which you can enter for free.
Other attractions are its typical houses, such as Avebury Manor, whose gardens are a must for those who have already enjoyed the London parks.
Getting to Avebury
Besides being reachable by car (about 2 hours drive), Avebury is well connected by train from London. So, you will have to take a train from Paddington station (there is a tube stop with the same name and here you can see how to get around the London Underground ) to Swindon and there look for the bus number 49.
6. Take a walk around Avebury
If you have had the good idea to visit Avebury you should try to squeeze the most of its charms. It is, in short, the same as you do in London when you can visit some of its secret places beyond the best known attractions.
In this way, you can calculate that the visit to the stone circle and the museum can take you more or less an hour and a half. The rest of the time, besides going to see the mansions I mentioned before, can be spent discovering some lesser known but equally interesting places.
One of these places is Windmill Hill, one of the oldest sites in the area. It is thought to have been built around 3675 B.C. and was a meeting place for festivals and exchanges. Over time, several burial mounds worth visiting were built on the same elevated site.
The aforementioned Silbury Hill is, without a doubt, another place not to be missed. This artificial hill is considered one of the most mysterious prehistoric remains of the country and its 30 meters high make it the largest mound made in Europe.
How to get around Avebury
Actually, the best way to visit the area around Avebury is by walking. Although there is a parking lot next to Silbury Hill, my recommendation is that you try to get there on foot, as well as the rest of the attractions of the town.
Lacock is one of the most picturesque villages in the whole area and, in fact, is protected by the National Trust, an institution dedicated to ensuring that England's places of historical and natural interest are not damaged.
Although it is quite likely that the name of the village is not familiar to you, it is also quite possible that you have already seen some images of it. The reason for this is that it was one of the locations for the Harry Potter films. It is, therefore, a good addition to a visit to Harry Potter related places in London.
The village is located in the north of the county of Wiltshire, relatively close to Bath. Its origin dates back to the eleventh century, although its importance grew two centuries later when the nearby abbey was founded.
Strolling through its streets is the best way to immerse yourself in the typical rural architecture of the south of the country, which mixes stone facades with other white and timber-framed.
Although these walks alone make up for a visit to the town, you can always complete the excursion with a visit to one of its churches, such as St. Cyril's Church.
How to get to Lacock
If you are in Bath or you arrive there from London it will be quite easy to reach Lacock, since it is only a half hour drive away. In that case, I recommend you to leave your car in the parking lot at the entrance of the village and visit its attractions on foot.
In case you want to get there by public transport you will find several possibilities:
- Train London-Chippenham and bus to Lacock
- Train to Bath and bus to Lacock.
8. Castle Combe, England's prettiest village
Castle Combe is recognized by many as the most beautiful village in England. It is a very small town, with only about 350 inhabitants in which reigns a tranquility only broken by visitors who come to see it.
The village consists of just one main street, but the beauty of its buildings will make you want to photograph them one by one. Its location, in the middle of wooded hills, also contributes greatly to give it a magical atmosphere.
As for the places you should visit during your visit, the small Church of St. Andrew, with a history dating back to at least the thirteenth century, stands out. Likewise, I recommend that you enter The White Hart, a pub that has been open for more than five centuries.
One of the main symbols of the town is the Market Cross, in the market square. The town also has a five-star hotel(Manor House Hotel) with a Michelin-starred restaurant. This hotel is housed in a 14th century building and its gardens cover more than 140 hectares.
How to get to Castle Combe
One of the attractions of the village is being away from major transport routes. This, which has allowed its streets to remain unchanged, means that it is not easy to get there to visit it.
The best way to get there if you do not have a car is to take the train from London to Chippenham, which is about 5 kilometers away, or to Bath, about 10 kilometers away. From both cities you can take a cab or, if you are in Chippenham, a bus.
9. Prehistoric, medieval and industrial times in Devizes
It seems incredible that such a small city has more than 500 buildings listed for their historical or artistic interest. This town, Devizes, is home to everything from Neolithic remains to buildings from the industrial era, including a medieval layer that can be seen throughout its streets.
To begin with, Devizes is one of the most important centers for learning about the history of Stonehenge and the rest of the sites in the area, as it is home to the Wiltshire Museum. This museum is as important in this field as the best museums in London and its visit alone is worth coming to the town.
The museum exhibits all kinds of objects found in the different excavations carried out at Stonehenge and Avebury. Likewise, there are also those from Bush Barrow.
Outside the museum, it is essential to walk through the Market Place, a space shaped like a crescent in which a large outdoor market is held every Thursday.
From that same square you can see the village brewery, crowned by a Victorian tower. Similarly, it is worth visiting the neoclassical town hall, as well as the various Georgian houses.
Finally, in the surroundings is one of the most impressive works of the early industrial era: the Kennet and Avon Canal.
Getting to Devizes
From London there are plenty of buses to get to Devizes. Here you can find the timetables. At present, there is no train stop in the village.
10. Enjoy the beauty of Bath
Like other towns I have talked about, Bath was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is mainly known for its Roman baths, built more than 2000 years ago. For this, they took advantage of the thermal waters present in the area.
Although it was the Romans who began to use these baths, in the eighteenth century the city became the meeting point for the London elite who sought to take advantage of the properties of the thermal waters.
Other attractions you can visit in the city are the Pulteney Bridge, Prior Park, Bath Abbey and several interesting museums. For these reasons, there are tours to Stonehenge and Bath from London that combine both cities.
Getting to Bath
From London Paddington station in London there is a fast train that travels the journey in just 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you prefer another option, there is a normal train that leaves from Waterloo and takes an hour longer to reach Bath.
The National Express bus company has a regular line that connects London Victoria Station with the city of Bath, but the journey takes 3 hours. Of course, the price is much lower.
Finally, Bath is part of many organized tours from London. This is the best option if you want to combine the visit with Stonehenge.