Three nights: Friday, July 20 to Monday, July 23
For our final stop in the UK, we headed down to the Cotswolds to visit Donna’s friend Suzanne. It was great to see her and she was a wonderful host, taking time to show us around some of the more interesting sites in the area – like having own personal tour guide. Thanks Suzanne!
Our first full day was focused on visiting Stonehenge as well as other neolithic sites around Avebury. While a bit crowded and touristy, Stonehenge was nevertheless impressive to see in person. It struck me as being somehow smaller than I imagined (though not in a Spinal Tap kind of way), but it was still pretty majestic. It does boggle the mind thinking of the effort people put in 4,000 years ago to collect and arrange these massive stones.
From Stonehenge, we continued to the Avebury area and set out on foot to check out the many sites. We parked not far from the man-made Silbury Hill and hiked up past a rapeseed field to take a look the West Kennet Long Barrow. I found the stone entrance and interior rooms pretty interesting, as apparently did some local Wiccans who were busy meditating/praying and burning incense inside the barrow. We hiked back down the hill, across the road and through the countryside to reach the hamlet of Avebury, which was literally built half within another stone henge. On the way to the town, we also walked along an avenue of huge stones, kind of a linear Stonehenge. On the way, we passed a hawthorn tree that had many ribbons and trinkets tied to its branches. Turns out that this was a wishing tree. Finally, we hiked back towards the car, taking a route that led us around the base of Silbury hill. All in all, a very impressive day of neolithic structures.
On our second day, we headed to the Snowshill Manor to check out the gardens and collections of Charles Paget Wade. Turns out he was a bit of an eccentric (and obsessive?) collector of hand-made items. While he did little traveling abroad, he managed to collect tens of thousands of items (many viewable online) from across England, which he kept in his manor house on display for guests (including the Queen of England). In fact, his house was so full of stuff that he lived in a separate detached building. Fascinating.