Summer solstice has been celebrated differently around the globe. In my country, Romania, 23-24th of June represents a magical date when the skies open and the world of spirits gets into contact with our world. Sânzienele, beautiful goddesses, descend to Earth dancing and singing. They bring luck, heal the sick, help the poor. But that is Romania…
My question was how do the English celebrate the summer solstice? So, I booked a trip to the legendary Avebury stone circle to find out the answer. I could have taken a train or a bus and go straight there, but I decided to take the longer route instead and walked from Marlborough to Avebury to see the countryside and the nosy cows.
Malborough is a chic, quiet, little town in the Wiltshire county, only 2h distance from the London’s turmoil. It is very picturesque to see the English houses lined up on a sunny morning, hardworking men painting their fences, housewives taking care of their garden and above all that, to get the serenity and the slow pace of a Saturday morning.
The path to Avebury starts just outside of Malborough, next to a golf terrain.
The road continues through the beautiful hills and friendly clouds (so lucky it was a sunny day). Prepare to see a lot of poppies smiling at the sun and many beautiful wheat fields, which weren’t ripe yet.
Also, don’t miss the nosy, cute cows, which could stare at you and your camera all day.
There is about 2-3 h of walking until you get to the famous Ridgeway (which is said to be Britain’s oldest road and passes through ancient landscapes such as secluded valleys, woodland). Don’t be afraid of the cattle, just go through them relaxed, without giving them too much attention. The important objectives are near Avebury so a lot of walking is done through the plain and boring English countryside. The be honest, I was really disappointed by the lack of variety of flowers.
Anyway, until the stone circle, we need to make two stops: one for the Silbury Hill and the other for West Kennet Long Barrow. Also, close to Avebury, I noticed a lot of hippies, living in tents and having lunch outside while playing the guitar. A really cool and bohemian atmosphere.
Silbury Hill is the largest artificial mound in Europe, but its purpose remains unknown until today. Comparable in height with the Egyptian pyramids, it is believed to had been build around 2400 BC. At first, I didn’t know it was man-made so I was staring confused at the weird-shaped pile in front of me.
West Kennet Long Barrow is a Neolithic burial mound dating back 5,500 years. Apparently, 46 people were buried here over a 1000 year period. Interesting how they used to bury their deads, right? The inside is quite refreshing after spending so many hours in the sun and it was also quite busy. No need to be afraid, there are no skulls or bones left there.
Last but not least… the stone circle and the purpose of this exhausting journey. The stone circle was built and altered over many centuries from about 2850 BC until about 2200 BC and is one of the largest, and undoubtedly the most complex, of Britain’s surviving Neolithic henge monuments. The area includes part of Avebury village and the stones are a symbol for the dead. They are scattered on the field and many people touch them thinking they will give them positive vibes. Some meditate near the stones or simply lay down next to them. Others, hang on the tree branches written sheets of paper with their wishes. It took me about 40 minutes to see the circle and enjoy it. Beware of the sheep poo!
Avebury Stone Circle
When I thought I wouldn’t see much more than a bunch of hippies praying at the stones, I noticed some dancing and singing, which I have to admit, it was very catchy. The costumes were purple for some reason and they had a wreath on their head.
For me, the highlight of this trip was the tasty creamy ice cream at the gift shop. You can find pendants, lucky charms, dream catchers and other mystical objects, but also postcards and of course, ice cream made from farm milk. What a joy eating something sweet after a 20km walk in the sun!
The whole trip took approx. 5h with lunch breaks and stops for pictures. Next on my list is the famous Stonehenge, of course!