We spent about 2 hours exploring Castle Combe. There is a free car park as one enters Upper Castle Combe. On the road down to the village, a large house on the right is known as the Dower House and it was used for the filming of Doctor Doolittle with Rex Harrison and Tony Newley. This Market Cross and historic monument is the centerpiece of the village and dates back to the 1300's.
I first visited Lacock near Chippenham about 17 years ago. Not much had changed when I was there in July, 2005. It's a nice village and a popular tourist destination because of Lacock Abbey and the Fox Talbot Museum. The village has been the location for film and TV productions - Prie and Prejudice, Moll Flanders and Emma. There are umpteen restaurants/pubs to have a meal in and some nice craft shops are also there.
Stonehenge is a famous stone circle listed as World Heritage Site. It dates from between 3000 BC and 1600 BC and it's not clear what exactly had been the purpose of this. But of course there are many theories, legends and myths. And several excarvations are made in the sourrounding area to get some more insight. What is known is that the stones are aligned with the rising and setting of the sun at the solstices. So it seems that this place was from a sun culture with midsummer festivals. In any case I still wonder how the people in these times were able to carry the stones and build this, the stones are really large and look massive!
You already can see Stonehenge from the A303 and it's located directly at the A344. I have to admit that seeing all the tourists marching around that stone circle discouraged me to have a closer look (although there are probably busier times!). So we just took a short look from the street instead of enqueuing with the other tourist.
Open daily from at least 10am to 4pm, please check the web page for details.
Admission: 6,60 £ adults, 3,50 £ children. Free as English Heritage member or with Oversea Visitors Pass.
The Fovant Badges are regimental badges, carved into the chalk hills near the village of Fovant. They date from the times of World War I, when there was a military camp there. The badges were carved into the hill by soldiers to remember the people that had died. There used to be more of these badges, but over the years the decayed and not all could be restored. You can read more on the history and restauration work on the Fovant Badge website (see below).
Old Wardour Castle is the middle of nowhere. At least that was the impression that we had when driving through the labyrinth of narrow streets! Although we followed the signs we felt like driving in a circle.
But it was worth it, the castle is very nice, located on a little hill next to a lake. It was built in the 14th century as a fortified luxurious residence, but was destroyed later so it's in ruins now. Neverthless it's interesting to visit and still lots is left. There are several floors that are still accessible and you have a nice view on the lake and the are. You can get a free audioguide (in English) which is well done, with narratives from the view of different people like the builder or employees of the castle.
Open daily from 10am to 4pm (5pm April-June + Sep; 6 pm July + Aug)
Admission: 3,60 £ adults, 1,80 £ children. Free as English Heritage member or with Oversea Visitors Pass.
Owned by English Heritage the Stones are not normally accessible to the public but on the 20/21st June, the gates are opened ... for free.... for 12 hours and visitors/Druids and anyone who just fancies staying up all night to see the sunrise (or not as is more usually the case)... can touch the stones.. hug the stones... dance naked round the stones... kiss the stones... get off their faces on the stones.... absolutely anything you feel necessary to celebrate the Summer Solstice and English Heritage and the police will more or less turn a blind eye provided you don't actually damage the stones.
Just remember to use the bin bag you have been provided with to clear up your rubbish when you leave.
Buses leave Salisbury Station around 7 or 8pm on the 20th and take about 20 minutes to get to the stones. Then there is a 2km walk across fields. After sunrise the following morning, the first buses leave around 5.15am. A return ticket costs £9 (2008). EH will only allow visitors through the gates with SMALL rucksacks... no tents and no chairs and no glass bottles. There are a few food stalls but bring your own alcohol as there is no where to buy it.
Wear plenty of layers, bring a rain coat and an umbrella and be prepared NOT to see the sun rise over the heel stone... this is England in Summer... glorious sunrises don't happen that often! Don't expect to sleep either... no one else is going to.
There are between 25-30,000 visitors in those 12 hours - so if you don't like cold wet dark crowded places don't bother coming.
A 14th century castle, built for Lord Lovel at a time when comfort and 'fashion-victim' status was becoming as important as fortification. Consequently, though it was very much a stronghold, Wardour Castle was sited by a lake. Modified in the 16th century besieged by both sides in the Civil War, Wardour sustained considerable damage - as early as the 18th century it was incorporated into the grounds of New Wardour House by Lord Arundel as a 'romantic ruin' - fashionable as they were at this time within landscaped gardens.
The main frontage of the keep remains standing moreorless in full - but behind. the structure has collapsed, leaving the entire back exposed. But with its grounds, lake etc it's worth a couple of hours exploration.
Old Wardour Castle is managed by English Heritage
Open 7 days a week, April - November (10am - 4pm - later during June/July/August). Open weekends only, November - March.
Entrance fees: 3.40 gbp adult, 1.70 child
Old Sarum, on the edge of Salisbury, is an evocative site, reliant more on the imagination than what's actually there - the giant earthworks dating from 500 BC and remnants/foundations of Roman, Saxon and Norman settlements remain (although the site was first settled 5000 years ago). It was here that William the Conqueror, with a new town and palace, chose to hold the Oath of Allegiance ceremony from his barons. A new cathedral was built, but only 5 days after its consecration, it was badly damaged in a storm in 1092. It was rebuilt, but internal strife resulted in the bishop and his clergy upping sticks and building a new cathedral 2 miles away in what was to become Salisbury. It spelt the decline of Old Sarum, with the castle being demolished in 1514 for building materials.
It was in 1915 that excavations took place to reveal the foundations that are on display today.
Built in record time (1220-1258), the Cathedral has a long list of 'most amounts', 'biggest', 'tallest', 'first' to its name - including having Britain's tallest spire (404 feet/123 metres - although this wasn't added until 1310-33), Europe's oldest working clock (1386), the largest cathedral close in Britain (80 acres), the first cathedral girls' choir (although not until 1991!!). The cathedral recently underwent a major facelift - necessary as it attracts 500,000+ visitors a year
Estimated to have built in 3100 BC, built in three stages, with the larger Mahirs (stones) having been possibly bought from South Wales, a couple hundred kms away. Its reason for existence and use are still opne to debate - ranging from human sacrifice through to astronomy.
Whatever the reason, it is one of the most visited spots in the UK today, attracts Summer and Winter solstice visitors from the UK and around the world, and, such is the interest of these visitors, you can sadly no longer walk among the stones themselves (except on special occasions). Nowadays a perimeter fence some distance from the stones allows a full circumference walk, but without getting close. The site is now administered by English Heritage
Stonehenge is open every day of the year except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (24/25 December)
16 Mar - 31 May: 09.30am-6pm, 1 June - 31 Aug: 09.00am-7pm, 1 Sept - 15 Oct: 09.30am-6pm, 16 Oct - 15 Mar 09.30am-4pm
GBP 5.90 (adults), 4.40 (concession), 3.00 (kids), 14.80 (family - 2 adults and 3 kids)
It's a bit off the beaten track - closest train station is Salisbury (9 miles), closest main bus station is Amesbury (2 miles). But local buses connect.
It was a frosty but bright Monday morning in December, 2005 as we set out on our stroll from the Swan Hotel, in fact the difference between the sunlit parts and the shaded valley bottom made photography a bit difficult, as you can see! The town's name actually derives from Saxon times when there was a 'broad ford' here which allowed people to cross the Avon River. Eventually, in the Norman period, records indicate that sometime in the late 1200s, a stone bridge was built here to make life a little easier. Two of those old spans still exist, with one partially visible to the left of the stone tower in this photo. However, because the original bridge was a single-lane affair without guardrails of any sort, a plaque on the bridge says that construction was undertaken in 1769 to modernize it with a second lane and parapets to prevent passengers from inadvertently falling into the Avon. The stone tower actually started life as a medieval chapel (see my 'Bradford on Avon' page for more details).
During our February, 2004 trip to England, we came across Lacock Abbey in the course of our travels through Wiltshire. The Abbey began its life in 1232 as a nunnary for Augustinian canonesses. Following the break-up of the power of the church by King Henry VIII, ownership of the Abbey passed to William Sharington, who began to transform it into a family home in 1539. This involved adding its octagonal tower, a courtyard and a brewery and also the destruction of the church portion of the original Abbey.
Having entered the tiny village of Avebury by passing through its encircling ring of standing stones near the clump of trees in the photo, our first order of business was to find a parking spot and then a bite to eat for a late-lunch. This accomplished, we walked straight out of The Red Lion pub, crossed the street and we were amongst the standing stones you see here!
Information on these stones from the Kennet District Council web-site states: "The Avebury henge is one of the largest known examples of its class and the stone circle which runs around its interior is the largest stone circle in Europe. The henge enclosure consists of a roughly circular ditch and outer bank enclosing an area roughly 11.5ha. The ditch measures 23m wide at its top and originally had a flat bottom 10m wide and between 7m and 10m below the ground level, cut into the natural chalk. There were four causewayed entrances into the interior, all roughly aligned with the cardinal compass points. The outer bank which was built with the material excavated from the ditch, measures between 22m and 30m wide at its base and stood up to 5m high.
Within the enclosure stood a stone circle of some 100 stones, built c.2,500 BC. Inside the massive circle stood two further stone circles. The northern circle contained 27 stones and had an inner horseshoe of stones known as the Cove. The southern circle of 29 stones included a 6.4m high stone known in recent times as the Obelisk. These stones all came from the sarsen ?fields? within 3km of the site, mostly on the Downs to the east.
The monument remained little affected by ... later human activities until in the 1700s a concerted effort was made to remove the stones by breaking them. Excavation has shown that earlier attempts to bury and remove stones were also made and one such action resulted in the death of a Barber Surgeon in c.1300 AD."
The next thing that caught our attention, as we drove a few miles directly south of Avebury on the A4 highway, was the huge mound of Silbury HIll suddenly jutting up out of the landscape! It was hard to miss seeing it, and its regular conical shape immediately suggested that this was not a natural hill. We stopped the car for a look, but actual access to the hill is forbidden. It turns out that Silbury Hill is Europe's largest prehistoric artificial mound, with testing indicating that it was built about 4300 years ago, near the end of the phase that was characterized by the building of the nearby even more famous standing stones.
The dimensions of the mound are quite impressive at 40-m (130-ft) high and with a base diameter of 160-m (520-ft). Various digs and explorations of Silbury Hill over the past 150 years indicate that the vast majority of the mound is comprised of a circular chalk cone stair-stepped up to a 'point' in 5 layers. This chalk inner structure is covered with an outer skin of gravel, earth and grass giving the stepped-construction a smooth appearance. Based on the volume of material involved, it is estimated that it would have taken labourers between 40-50 years to build the mound.
Inside the very heart of the structure, at ground level, the probes have revealed two more much smaller mounds. The innermost one is made of turf and is surrounded by a wooden fence. Covering this small mound is a chalk mound 3.5-m high and 20-m in diameter which has a circle of sarsen stones leaning on it around its bottom edge. The larger mound covers both of these smaller ones.
Although no definite reason has been determined for the building of Silbury Hill, excavations in 1723, 1776, 1849 and 1967 have turned up, from the innermost mound, 'caudal vertebrae of the ox, or perhaps the red deer, and a very large tooth of the same animal'. Finds such as this suggest a ritual purpose for the mound rather than as some sort of fantastic burial site such as inside the pyramids of Egypt.
...................because it is a superb example of a prehistoric (probably Bronze Age) stone circle, set within a massive ditch-and-bank enclosure. The two museums are very good. And the (only) pub has a real fire and real ales.
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