Stonehenge — A Solstice Post for #BriFri
Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British-themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post.
Last week’s British Isles Friday posts included two reviews of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey along with other book reviews, photos of Wells in Somerset and Nottingham, and this fun collage of author pictures compiled by Suey. How many can you identify?
Since tomorrow is the Summer Solstice, I thought this would be a good week to learn about stone circles and plot my journey to Stonehenge in September.
I can’t remember where I learned this, but it was in the last couple of years — the term henge refers to a circular earthwork. Only some henges surrounded the stone or timber circles used to honor, track, and predict celestial events like the solstice.
Both Nova and National Geographic have done videos about some of the newer archaeological finds in and around Stonehenge that lead to a broader focus on how the stone circle fit into the ritual life of the community. One or both of these are likely to be available at your local library. They were both helpful with great photography.
- Secrets of Stonehenge: Nova
- Stonehenge Decoded: National Geographic
Mike Parker Pearson is one of the archaeologists doing some of this new work and featured in the above documentaries. Stonehenge-A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument is the book he published last year.
The BBC has a great animation video — watch Stonehenge’s construction and decline in a little over a minute.
When we were first considering a trip to England, a couple of years ago, I read a few novels about the pre-history of Britain that featured Stonehenge and enjoyed them all.
- Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
- The Ghost Knight, a middle grade novel by Cornelia Funke
- Stonehenge: 2000 B.C., a novel by Bernard Cornwell
The DK Eyewitness Travel book, Great Britain, (the book I’m using for most of my trip planning) has a two-page spread on Stonehenge that also highlights nearby Avebury Stone Circle — a larger circle of smaller stones.
We’re staying four nights in Bath, which will give us three full days to explore. One day we’ll take a coach tour that will include Stonehenge and, maybe, Avebury. The Visit Bath official tourism site has a helpful page on tours. I’m trying to choose between these:
Greenman Tours go to Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Lacock and only run on Saturdays in September.
Scarper Tours take a purple bus to Stonehenge for a 4-hour round-trip tour at two departure times every day, leaving time for other things earlier or later in the day.
Mad Max Tours visit Stonehenge, Avebury, a Cotswold village, and Lacock in an all-day tour, 7 days a week.
So, it’s Greenman if I want to see Salisbury (although this page describes the lovely train journey from Bath to Salisbury, so that’s another option), Mad Max if I want to see Avebury, and Scarper if I want to spend more time seeing Bath. So hard to decide! Maybe it’s just because it’s the solstice, but right now I’m leaning toward the Mad Max tour so we can see Avebury where tourists can get up close and personal with the stones.
Several book bloggers have visited Stonehenge.
Suey of It’s All About Books posted video of her rainy day visit to Stonehenge.
Swapna Krishna of S. Krishna’s Books took some amazing photos when she visited the area: Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Avebury.
Michele of A Reader’s Respite and the whole family went directly from Heathrow to Stonehenge because that’s how Big Kid wanted it. Love all that enthusiasm and cute pictures!
Megan of Working Title took some glorious cloud and Stonehenge photos on her way from London to Cornwall.
When the Olduvai Reads blogger visited Stonehenge in 2006, she quoted Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Edited to add: Don’t miss the Junk Boat Travels post of a tour day that included Stonehenge.
Resources for news and travel:
Edited to add: If you’re not going to Bath, there are day trips to Stonehenge that start in London, too. Here’s one that found my blog and asked, nicely, for a link: Stonehenge Express Tour.
Have you been to Stonehenge? Do you have any advice?
Hopefully for next week I will have some good British Isles content for you. I’ve just written about my trip to Scotland’s book town, but haven’t posted it yet. And I will be writing about the line up for the Edinburgh Book Festival soon.
Salisbury is where we got outfits for our bridesmaids, Paul’s nieces, and it’s a lovely city. Driving back from there to Guildford we passed Stonehenge in his 1963 Morris Minor and just as we noticed Stonehenge, the car died. This was in 1995 and well before we had cell phones, so I stayed with the car while he trekked to a farmhouse and called the British AAA (which is just AA).
So I’d recommend not driving past Stonehenge in an old car! 😉
DK Eyewitness guidebooks are the best!!!
Here’s a link to our day tour that included Stonehenge.
This tour was a bit rushed. I would have liked more time in Windsor and Bath.
Good stuff! I love Stonehenge and all it invokes in me…we’ll celebrate the Solstice tomorrow.
Hi Joy! My husband and I visited Stonehenge several years ago and it was a wonderful trip. We too stayed in Bath and rented a car and drove ourselves around. It was really quite simple and I’m so glad we did because we were able to set our own pace. We visited Stonehenge, Avebury and we also went to Glastonbury which was awesome as well. One of my favorite photos from there was my DH and I sitting on King Arthur and Lady Guinevere’s grave site. It’s an awesome place and you will have a blast–but don’t be afraid to do it on your own. ~Kathy
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When I went, a few years ago, I didn’t really plan anything in advance. I did the audio tour and loved the guide’s accent and the spooky music playing in the background. I really enjoyed it – you’ll have a blast!
Photos of Stonehenge are stunning. Stopping by from #SpreadtheLove, have a fantastic trip, I’m excited for you! For the time being, I will just have to travel in books 🙂
I never made it out to Stonehenge, one day! Also, aren’t those DK Eyewitness Travel Guides THE BEST? I had a giant pile of them from when we lived overseas until recently letting them go to the Goodwill.
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There are also many other monuments oriented towards the summer solstice and, like Stonehenge, towards a specific point in the earth denominated “site 145″.
See this TEDx talk:
Javier Ropero Peláez