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A Touchable Stonehenge?
I loved Stonehenge. Standing outside this circle of monoliths I was mesmerized by the determination of ancient peoples who determinedly hauled these to a designated location for purposes we can still question.
And I was so frustrated that I could not touch. Not feel any residue of magic that might still remain.
So, I headed to Avebury.
Twenty miles north of Stonehenge lies the world's largest henge and hardly anyone visits. This mystic circle of stones was created at about the same time as Stonehenge and its purpose, too, remains a mystery. So why visit? Because you can touch and wander among the remaining stones with almost no one to keep you company but the resident sheep calming grazing on the village green.
These giant sandstone configurations of Avebury are not as complete as those at Stonehenge and in many places have had the "dots" connected with concrete blocks to give you a complete picture of the circle, with its inner and outer rings. If you absolutely must make contact with your inner druid by running your hands over these "magical" stones, Avenbury is the place to go.
Avebury appears to have been created at about the same time as Stonehenge and other stone circles scattered throughout the British Isles and as far away as Sweden, France and Germany. The stones at Avebury are not as large as those at Stonehenge, but the overall site is almost four times as large, making this site the largest henge in the world.
Although a village has grown up, around and through this site, there are still two very separate areas. First, the circle of stones which remains a village green. Second, is the site considered to be a ritual center, nearly 1 mile (2 km) away, which is reached by West Kennet Avenue, a pathway flanked with stones. The ritual center itself no longer has any standing stones, but less than a mile away.
Unlike Stonehenge, you can spend the night in Avebury. There is a small pub with four bed and breakfast rooms available. Even if you can't stop for the night the food at Red Lion is worthy of lunch or dinner.
Avebury is easy to reach by public transportation. Take a train from Paddington Station to Swindown, and then a #49 bus to Avebury. If you decide to drive it's a quick zip down the M4 which will also take you past Stonehenge, just in case you can't resist these stones, too.
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