Discover the Avebury landscape, a vast complex of various prehistoric sites
Avebury Stone Circle
Built between 2850BC and around 2200BC this is the largest stone circle from this era in Europe.
Uncover the story of prehistoric Britain and explore not only Avebury Stone Circle but, Silbury Hill Neolithic monument and the burial chamber of West Kennet Long Barrow. Your guide will take you through the enigmatic and captivating chapters that are still visible in our landscape today. This ancient landscape and the monuments that adorn it allow us to come face to face with a world where our prehistoric ancestors lived and died, worshipped and evolved.
Today experts believe Neolithic people were shaping the land for communal rituals and processions, in theatre-like spaces. They suggest that ancient monuments, like Avebury stone circle, are simply a way to communicate these people’s spiritualism, politics, and relationship with nature.
Discover the epicentre of Prehistoric England
Stand in the footsteps of people, who just like us, had emotional depth, cultural ideologies, and religious beliefs. How did these people bury their dead? Answer Long Barrows. Communal, chambered tombs that still survive in our earth today. One of the worlds largest, impressive and accessible is West Kennett Long Barrow. This 5,650-year-old tomb held the remains of around 50 people before being the blocked off about 1000 years after construction.
Nearby, dominating the skyline, is 5000-year-old Silbury Hill, the largest human-made mound in Europe. To this day, experts have been unable to unlock the site's secrets of why it is here. Perhaps it was the grave of an ancient warrior king?
The 17th Century antiquarian, John Aubrey, passed comment that Stonehenge was merely a parish church compared to Cathedral like Avebury. The importance of Avebury and the surrounding area must surely represent a grand ancient Cathedral of sorts. It is not surprising he thought as much, Avebury’s earthworks are by far the most impressive. The site also contains some of the largest megaliths in Britain, and the huge outer circle is the largest in Europe.
Construction of the huge stone circle
There are three stone circles at Avebury, originally 250 megaliths forming the design and 400 more making up the avenues leading to the rings of stone. The heaviest stone, the ‘Swindon’ stone, weighs 65 tonnes, the average size is 15 tonnes. The stones are square or triangle in shape. Many of the megaliths are balanced on their corners are only buried a few feet into the chalk. It is particularly impressive when you realise the 65 tonne Swindon stone only has a tiny proportion of its mass underground and has stood for more than 4,000 years.
In about 2600 BC the building of Avebury began. The site is below the boulder clad Marlborough Hills, and close to the River Kennet, most henges are close to water. Imagine, thousands of people digging with antlers and the shoulder bones of cattle to remove around 120,000 cubic metres of solid chalk to create the vast circular ditch. That is sixty times more spoil excavated than that of Stonehenge. Visitors take note; The ditch today has filled up since its creation. An excavation team in the 1930s’ discovered that the ditch was 6m (20ft) below the current turf and banks 5m (16ft) higher. Also, you would have seen gleaming white chalk and not grass - a vast pure white irregular circle, sparkling in the sunshine.
The moving of such a large quantity and huge stones from the Marlborough Hills is one of the ancient world's great triumphs.
The two inner circles
The two inner circles are the same size (103m in diameter) and contain different ritual features. The south ring once had a tall (6.5 m or 21 ft) obelisk stone. In contrast, the north circle with only four stones remaining has a cove of rocks, possibly used for the ritual of execution or sacrifice.
The avenue of paired stones leads out from the south-east exit of the henge. A super grand procession route, passing between the sites of other monuments eventually reaching the River Kennet. It must have been quite a sight to see thousands of people marching towards the Great Henge. Four hundred stones may have made up the one and a half mile avenue.
Stonehenge is a temple to the sun, moon and the stars. While Avebury, although less studied, could well be a temple to life, death and fertility. Visit, and make up your mind and discuss the meaning behind it all with your private guide.
Silbury Hill - The Avebury complex
Silbury Hill is a huge human-made hill with a flat top, and it is the largest of its type in Europe with an excavation volume of 250,000 cubic meters of chalk. The temptation is to believe the hill was a giant burial chamber. Investigations have not revealed any evidence of burial. The flat-top would suggest a stage to perform, overlooking the entire complex of monuments. Could the hill be a place of coronation, sacrifice or marriage?
West Kennet Long Barrow - The Avebury complex
The barrow is an extremely old place of communal burial dating back 3,620-3,000 BC. It is rather large and measures 100 metres (330 ft) in length and around 20 (65 ft) metres wide.
The ritual around death seems to be of great importance in the past. Neolithic Britons adhered to the cult and worship of venerated ancestors, in the belief of receiving assistance in the life of the living. It could be that the burial chambers doubled as places of worship. The location of the barrows suggests a boundary marker of competing tribes, a signal to others of land ownership.
Archaeologist discovered various skeletal remains at West Kennet Long Barrow. There seem to be equal numbers of men, women and children. One individual male contained an arrowhead near his throat, suggesting a fatal injury in battle.
Touring and accommodation
The Avebury complex of ancient sites is a 2 hour 30 minutes drive from London making Avebury a day tour from London. Our itinerary Stonehenge and Avebury Tour from London works very well. Alternatively, include Avebury as part of an extended guided tour of England.
Staying overnight in the historic city of Bath makes logistical sense when touring Avebury. Spend the day getting to Bath stopping at Avebury on the way and stay over at The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath. You can spend the next day enjoying the city of Bath including touring the Roman Baths. There are many options we can discuss, so please contact us.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands.
Visit three principal ancient sites in one day
- Walk around the Stones at Avebury - Europe's largest Henge
- See Silbury Hill - Europe's largest man-made earthwork
- Go inside a 5,000 year old tomb
- Visit Stonehenge on the same day
- Tour with a Neolithic specialist guide
The Giant Sarsen Stones
Outer Ditch at Avebury
Cautiously Exploring the Barrow
Stone Gate into West Kennet Long Barrow
Inside West Kennet Long Barrow
The Avenue at Avebury
Footpath to Avebury