We arrived at Avebury in mid-afternoon. The #49 bus lets you off just across from The Red Lion (“The only pub in the world inside a stone circle”).
We opted to enjoy a pint before heading to the B&B. A coach had dropped off a load of German tourists earlier, and we arrived at the pub just as these travelers queued to order their afternoon beers, teas, and coffees. Service took a bit of a wait, so we walked about the pub’s car park to get our bearings. Stones ranging from the size of a billboard to that of a La-Z-Boy recliner dotted the gardens and fields around us.
Divided from the circle by an A-road, some monoliths stand isolated in a neighboring field. Behind the car park, an arc of stones curves from the A-road’s boundary beyond the pub and associated buildings.
We sat outdoors, on a patio facing green space across the A-road. Sheep grazed and people strolled about the megaliths. Some folks touched or leaned heads against stones, some simply walked happy pups in the sunshine. We nursed our pints.
- Aside: if you enjoy an ale, I recommend Abbot Ale or Avebury Wells, both brewed by Greene King (the brewery owns the pub). The beer was surprisingly inexpensive (compared to prices in London and the southeast, at any rate. We assumed it has something to do with the amount of custom the pub receives daily).
We wanted to drop our luggage before any exploration, but, being a bit lost, we called Dorwyn Manor (for our experience of the B&B, please see this post). Happily, the young woman who answered the phone offered to the 1/2 mile to pick us up from the pub–a good thing as well because the A-road was particularly busy with day-trippers and commercial traffic at the time, and we were nervous about walking on the verge.
After we’d divested ourselves of baggage, the young woman drove us back into the village. After enjoying the pub’s “ultimate fish and chips,” we walked across the road, through the gate, and among the stones. We stayed close to the pub—no use rambling off onto the public footpaths until we had some idea of the layout—and went only so far the ditch that surrounds the stone circle.
We opted to walk back to the B&B as the road had quieted. Walking through the stones at dusk, well, that’s when we decided to skip Stonehenge and spend more time at Avebury.
As I’ve noted before, Avebury offers a limited number of guesthouses (it’s a World Heritage Site. Not much room for development to appease tourists). While surrounding towns such as Marlborough* and Swindon offer a greater variety of accommodation, you’ll find some wonderful Bed and Breakfasts in (or very near) the village. TripAdvisor has a helpful listing. However, please know that very few lodgings are actually in the village. If you’re not driving, be sure to check your preferred B&B’s proximity to the village and if it offers transport back and forth. A few guest houses are some distance from the village despite having an Avebury address, and several of them are on quite busy roads.
Based on TripAdvisor’s ratings, we reserved a room for one night at Dorwyn Manor. The house is just about half a mile from The Red Lion, but we had to ring them when we arrived because we were unsure of its exact location. A member of staff drove to pick us up.
As we’d just decided to stay a second day at Avebury, we were a bit anxious whether we’d be able to stay a second night (there are only about five rooms, and they are nearly always full up). Thankfully, we were able to add a second night just as we checked in.
Our room (named for archeologist Alexander Keiller) was clean, comfortable, and quiet–fairly ideal for our needs. We slept very well indeed.
I must say that the family operating Dorwyn Manor were absolutely lovely. We found them kind, helpful, and eager to talk about Avebury and the surrounding area (including several spooky stories about the Red Lion’s alleged haunting). To be honest, I generally dislike B&Bs as I feel like I’m intruding on someone’s home. Mike and Debbie, however, went out of their way to make us feel welcome and at ease. It’s mostly because of they’re warmth that I’d like to recommend Dorwyn Manor, but I do so for a few other reasons:
You have your choice of continental and/or “Full English” (eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, tomato, mushroom, toast, etc). The cooked breakfast was easily the best I had in the UK this past trip. I usually avoid breakfast, but I had it both mornings at this B&B.
The B & B offers a substantial packed lunch if you plan on spending the following day rambling through the countryside. Request your lunch the night before your adventure, and after breakfast you will receive a paper bag with water, a sandwich, fruit, crisps, and a sweet. It’s well worth the additional £ 5.00 (we actually had our packed lunches for dinner the evening after our walk).
While the B&B doesn’t offer dinner, guests receive meal discounts at The Red Lion. Let Mike or Debbie know if you’ll be going into the village for dinner, and they will phone the pub to arrange your discount.
A welcome drink on arrival. Plentiful supplies of water, tea, coffee, and biscuits in your room. Also, there’s an honor bar in the foyer.
- Heat and pressure
The shower had more than enough hot water and pressure to ease aching muscles after a hard day’s trek over hill and through mud.
- Rides into town
Staff at the B & B are happy to drive you to/from the Red Lion (the heart of the village). Because Dorwyn Manor is located on a fairly busy road, you need to walkon the verge for about 1/4 mile (the rest of the way has a pavement– part of itthrough the stones). If you’re anxious about walking too close to traffic, this courtesy is a godsend. Addendum: the traffic is not too awfully bad in the morning and in the evening. As long as it’s light out, you’ll be fine.
We truly enjoyed our stay at this Bed and Breakfast and thought it excellent value for money. We’ll definitely return.
*Recommendation for the Castle and Ball Hotel ( @castleandball on Twitter) in Marlborough. Beautiful 15th century building, lovely menu, great staff.
Unless you are a regular walker, cyclist, or drive a car,* Avebury might seem relatively isolated. No train services the village, and only one bus passes through. When I began organizing this leg of our trip, to be honest, I thought getting to Avebury might prove more trouble than its worth. Happily, it’s easier done than said: thanks to frequent train and bus services, it’s simple enough to get there.
Beginning at London’s Paddington Station, we took the Great Western Railway service to Swindon. On this hour-long ride, the train passes urban/industrial sites, but it also skirts some areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Once at Swindon, we crossed the road at the front of the train station and walked just over a block to the bus station. There, at bay 10, we caught the Stagecoach #49 (Swindon-to-Devizes service). After a 20 minute ride, we stopped in front of the picturesque Red Lion pub.
We crossed the road, turned, and this sight greeted us:
During the week, the #49 bus stops at the village hourly (both to and from Swindon). The hours differ at the weekends, so you might check Stagecoach’s website to ensure travel times.
** You catch the bus into Swindon at the Red Lion’s sign. You get off the bus from
Swindon in front of a shop called Elements (just beside a megalith group).
* Walking, Cycling, or driving to Avebury:
If you’re a walker, you can arrive via the treasured Ridgeway National Trail, an 87-mile-long track that was in use well before the Romans arrived in Britain. you can find more information about The Ridgeway here.
If you’re a cyclist, you might download this map to determine how you’d best like to approach Avebury.
Via auto, the busy A4361 passes through the village. If you’re day tripping, there’s a large car park near the village center; otherwise, your lodgings probably offer private parking.
When we began planning our recent trip to Britiain, my travel partner expressed interest in visiting some of Wiltshire’s Neolithic sites. Originally, we anticipated spending two days at Salisbury / Stonehenge and one day at Avebury. Plans changed the moment we arrived at Avebury; it’s where we spent all of our time in Wiltshire
Of course you’re familiar with Stonehenge, but if you’re not familiar with Avebury (the largest Neolithic henge in Britiain) you might be interested in English Heritage’s introduction to Avebury and its history; you might also take a look at The National Trust’s Avebury site.
Stonehenge and Avebury, separated by just 26 miles, belong to the same Unesco World Heritage Site. Yet while Stonehenge is treated as a museum piece (most visitors are guided, at a distance, around the monument), Avebury’s megaliths remain completely accessible. You wander about them freely and can touch them. In fact, people live within the stone circle—centuries ago, a village cropped up in its center. The village pub seems to stand at the very center of the stone circle. Moreover, other significant Neolithic sites (including Silbury Hill and the West Kennett Long Barrow) lie within an easy walking distance to the village. Consequently, once we stepped off the Swindon-to-Avebury bus we decided that Stonehenge could wait for a different trip.
To detail our Avebury journey would take far too long for one post. Instead, I’ll break it up into several. In these other posts, I’ll touch on transportation, lodging, and rambling. In brief:
- Unless you are walking, cycling, or driving, Avebury is accessible only by a single bus route. (See this post for transportation information)
- There is a magnificent pub, The Red Lion, and there are a few guest houses in/near the village. We stayed at a wonderful B & B called Dorwyn Manor, which is approximately half a mile from the pub. (See this post about our B&B experience)
- You are encouraged to interact with the landscape and its monuments. You can peer into each stone’s divots, touch each megalith, and even clamber atop and nose within a 4,000 year old barrow.
- We spent a day exploring the area outside of the village. We did not bring a proper survey map, so we got lost more than once while traipsing about the landscape. Thankfully, other ramblers would appear and advise us on directions. Even so, Wiltshire is not so uninhabited that one can be lost for very long.
I hope you enjoy these posts. If you have any questions or points you’d like to contribute, please feel free to let me know.
West Kennett Long Barrow, near Avebury, Wiltshire