There is no doubt that Stonehenge should be on anyone's list of places to see when travelling to London. However, there are many other attractions nearby that are also worth a visit, from other prehistoric remains to interesting towns and cities.
If you have time to spare, I recommend getting a map of the area around Stonehenge, which has been declared a World Heritage Site. With that information, try to get to places like Salisbury, the Neolithic remains of Avebury, Lacock or Old Sarum, among others.
1. Discover the world's largest stone circle at Avebury
Stonehenge is only half an hour away from this World Heritage village. The beautiful town of Avebury is known for the world's largest stone circle, ancient tombs and other remains from the Neolithic and Bronze Age.
The remains are located within the town and can be visited every day of the year. In addition to the stone circle, the largest Neolithic tomb in Britain, the nearby avenue and Silbury Hill, the largest man-made hill in Europe, are also of great interest. All of this makes it a worthy comparison to some of the best tours you can do in London.
If you've had your fill of archaeological remains, Avebury is still worth a visit. There you can visit:
- St. James's Church, built in 1000 AD, which you can enter for free.
- Avebury Manor, whose gardens are a must for those who have already enjoyed London's parks.
How to get to Avebury
The most convenient way to get there is to book your trip to Avebury in advance, as you'll also be able to tour other amazing villages in the surrounding area, accompanied by a local expert guide, which will help you learn about the place and save you a lot of hassle in making the arrangements.
However, as well as being accessible by car (about a 2-hour drive), Avebury is well connected by train from London. So, take a train from Paddington station (there's a tube stop of the same name and see how to get around the London Underground here) to Swindon and then catch the number 49 bus.
2. Walk around Avebury
If you've had the good idea to visit Avebury, you should try to make the most of its charms. This is, in a nutshell, the same thing you do in the British capital when you can visit some of London's secret spots beyond the better-known attractions. In this way, you can estimate that a visit to the stone circle and the museum can take you about an hour and a half. The rest of the time, you can:
- Go and see the mansions I mentioned earlier.
- Discover some lesser-known but equally interesting places such as Windmill Hill, one of the oldest sites in the area. It is thought to have been built around 3675 BC and was a meeting place for festivals and exchanges. Over time, several burial mounds worth visiting were built on the same elevated site.
- The aforementioned Silbury Hill, which is an artificial hill that is considered to be one of the most mysterious prehistoric remains in the country and at 30 metres high is the largest mound made in Europe.
Getting around Avebury
In reality, the best way to visit the area around Avebury is on foot. Although there is a car park next to Silbury Hill, my recommendation is that you try to get there on foot, as with the rest of the town's attractions.
3. Stroll around Lacock
Lacock is one of the most picturesque villages in the area and is actually protected by the National Trust, an institution dedicated to ensuring that England's historic and natural sites are not damaged. You may have already seen some images of it, as it was one of the locations for the Harry Potter films. It is therefore a good complement to a visit to Harry Potter-related sites in London.
The village is situated in the north of Wiltshire, relatively close to Bath. Its origins date back to the 11th century, although its importance grew two centuries later when the nearby abbey was founded.
A stroll through its streets is the best way to immerse yourself in the typical rural architecture of the south of the country, which mixes stone facades with whitewashed and half-timbered ones. Although these walks alone are enough to make up for a visit to the village, you can always round off the trip with a visit to one of its churches, such as St Cyril's Church.
Getting to Lacock
If you're in Bath or travelling from London, Lacock is only a half hour's drive away, so it's easy to get there. In that case, I recommend you leave your car in the car park at the entrance to the village and visit its attractions on foot.
In case you want to arrive by public transport you will find several possibilities:
- Train London-Chippenham and bus to Lacock.
- Train to Bath and bus to Lacock.
4. Enjoy the beauty of Bath
Like other towns I've talked about, Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is best known for its Roman baths, built more than 2000 years ago. To do so, they took advantage of the thermal waters present in the area.
Although it was the Romans who began to use these baths, in the 18th century the city became the meeting point for the London elite who sought to take advantage of the properties of the thermal waters.
Other attractions you can visit in the city and for which there are excursions to Stonehenge and Bath from London that combine both cities are:
- Pulteney Bridge.
- Prior Park.
- Bath Abbey.
- Several interesting museums.
How to get to Bath
There is a fast train from London Paddington Station which takes just 1 hour 30 minutes. Alternatively, there is a regular train from Waterloo which takes an hour longer to get to Bath.
The National Express bus company runs a regular line from London Victoria Station to Bath, but the journey takes 3 hours. However, the price is significantly lower.
5. Don't miss Salisbury and its impressive cathedral
As you will have seen in my article on how to get to Stonehenge from London, most public transport requires a transfer in Salisbury and it is also included in some of the organised tours that depart from the capital. However you get there, Salisbury is a great place to spend a few hours wandering the streets and discovering some of the city's most iconic sights.
Although the walk through the streets of this medieval city is worth the visit, you should know that:
- Salisbury's great attraction is its magnificent Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This building began to be built at the beginning of the 13th century and the English Magna Carta is preserved inside.
- Also worth a stop is the Salisbury Museum, where part of the exhibition is related to Stonehenge, making it the perfect place to delve into the history of the monument.
- Finally, if you're a fan of country pubs, you shouldn't leave Salisbury without popping into the Haunch of Venison. This pub, opened in 1320 no less, has nothing to envy to those you can find in London's nightlife, to the point that its visit is recommended by the prestigious National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.
Joaquin's Traveller Tip
From Salisbury it's quite easy to reach the megalithic monument of Stonehenge. Just look for The Stonehenge Tour Bus.
How to get to Salisbury
- Salisbury train station is well connected to London and it is easy to get to Salisbury. Trains run very frequently from Waterloo Station in the capital and it takes around an hour and a half to get there.
- Another option for getting from London to Salisbury is by bus, and there is a direct bus from Heathrow Airport itself. If you've opted for a car, the journey takes around 2 hours.
- Finally, the most convenient option is to book an organised tour from London to Stonehenge, such as the one that allows you to visit Stonehenge, Bath and Salisbury in the same day.
6. Immerse yourself in the past at Old Sarum
Just 14 kilometres from Stonehenge, history buffs can visit the hill of Old Sarum, considered to be the birthplace of neighbouring Salisbury.
Old Sarum was first occupied by hunting parties and later inhabited by some of the earliest farmers. A fortress was built on this site during the Iron Age and, in time, it witnessed the passage of Romans, Normans and Saxons. In all, 5000 years of human history.
The site, located on the hill itself, is now part of English Heritage and is open to the public to visit. A ticket is required.
How to get to Old Sarum
As it is only about 2 miles from Salisbury, it can be reached on foot from the city. Just head north and take the opportunity to see the banks of the River Avon and parts of Victoria Park and Hudson's Field.
7. Get to know Amesbury
The closest town geographically to Stonehenge is Amesbury, so much so that many include it among the things to see when approaching the monument. This small town was founded in 976, although there is evidence that the area has been inhabited for some 10,000 years.
Amesbury is also known for its connection with the myth of King Arthur. It was here, in a nunnery, that Queen Guinevere took refuge after the king's death at Camlann. Nearby, one of the most luxurious Bronze Age cemeteries was found, where the remains of two men (possibly nobles of the time) were found with more than 100 objects around them, such as gold earrings and copper knives. One of them is known by the nickname "King of Stonehenge".
Strolling through the vicinity of the town you can enjoy a unique view of the River Avon until you reach the jewel in Amesbury's crown: its ancient abbey, now converted into the Church of St. Mary and St. Melor. The building dates back to the 10th century and was the burial place of Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III.
How to get to Amesbury
You can also get there easily from Salisbury by taking one of the buses from Salisbury to Stonehenge.
8. Delve into history at Durrington and Woodhenge
Just 3 kilometres from Stonehenge is Woodhenge, a Neolithic wooden monument dating from around 2500 BC, which is almost contemporary with the monument.
Woodhenge consisted of six upright pole ovals, which were surrounded by a ditch and a bench. The structure was built in such a way that it was aligned with the sunrise during the summer solstice at Stonehenge. This wooden monument is now part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, as is the nearby South Circle of Durrington Walls.
It is aligned with the sunrise at the winter solstice (another of the best times to visit Stonehenge), so it is thought to have been complementary to that of Woodhenge. It is known that many people came to Durrington for winter celebrations even before the wooden structure was erected.
How to get to Durrington and Woodhenge
Both monuments can be visited very easily from either Amesbury or Stonehenge, without the need for any transport.
9. Discover Castle Combe, England's prettiest village
Castle Combe is recognised by many as the prettiest village in England. It is a very small town, with only 350 inhabitants, and its tranquillity is only broken by the visitors who come to visit it.
The village consists of just one main street, but the beauty of its buildings will make you want to photograph them one by one. Its location, in the middle of wooded hills, also contributes greatly to its magical atmosphere.
As for the places you should visit during your visit, some of the highlights are:
- The small St. Andrew's Church, with a history dating back to at least the 13th century.
- The White Hart, a pub that has been open for over five centuries.
- The Market Cross, in the market square.
- The village also boasts a five-star hotel(Manor House Hotel) with a Michelin-starred restaurant. The hotel is housed in a 14th century building and its gardens cover over 140 hectares.
Getting to Castle Combe
One of the attractions of the town is that it is set back from major transport links. This, which has allowed the streets to remain largely unchanged, means that it is not easy to get there for a visit.
The best way to get there if you don't have a car is to take the train from London to Chippenham, which is about 3 miles away, or to Bath, which is about 6 miles away. From both cities you can take a taxi or, if you are in Chippenham, a bus.
10. Prehistoric, medieval and industrial times in Devizes
It's hard to believe that such a small town has over 500 listed buildings of historical or artistic interest. Devizes is home to everything from Neolithic remains to industrial era buildings and a medieval layer that can be seen throughout the streets.
For a start, Devizes is one of the most important centres for learning about the history of Stonehenge and the other sites in the area, as it is home to the Wiltshire Museum, which displays all kinds of artefacts from the various excavations at Stonehenge and Avebury. There are also artefacts from Bush Barrow.
Outside the museum, a visit to the Market Place is a must:
- Stroll through the Market Place, a crescent-shaped space where a large open-air market is held every Thursday. From the same square you can see the village brewery, crowned by a Victorian tower.
- Take a look at the neoclassical town hall, as well as the various Georgian houses.
- Nearby is one of the most impressive works of the early industrial era: the Kennet and Avon Canal.
Getting to Devizes
There are plenty of buses from London to Devizes. You can find the timetables here. There is currently no train stop in the town.