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.
“Arc de Tree-umph”
While at the Art Institute of Chicago, I was jarred, and a bit delighted, to see this macabre thing on the wall facing Hopper’s Nighthawks:
Ivan Albright was commissioned to paint this for MGM’s production of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (released 1945). Apparently, he painted it over the production period in order to reflect the lead character’s changes.
A closer look:
It’s by no means an appealing painting, but I do like that it’s seen as more than a “mere” movie prop–in fact, it has a long history of exhibitions (including stints in Italy and Germany) as representative of American art. As Albright’s Dorian Gray signifies two mediums–painting and film–it certainly fulfills that role.
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.