Gold-rush style excitement as researchers scramble into aircraft and fly drones to find the outlines of previously hidden remains before the rain makes them disappear again.
The current heatwave is providing a near-unprecedented bonanza for archaeologists, as scorched conditions all over Britain expose the previously undiscovered or long-hidden outlines of everything from ancient fortifications to remnants of the Second World War.
In what was described as “a frantic race against time and weather”, archaeologists are scrambling into aeroplanes or flying drones to search for the outlines which are visible from the air as “crop marks”, before they are once more erased by rain.
In Wales alone the new discoveries have included an early medieval cemetery in south Gwynedd, a Roman villa in the Vale of Glamorgan, a prehistoric or Roman farm near Newport and a Roman fortlet near Magor, south Wales.
And for the professionals, something akin to archaeological gold-rush fever has set in.
“It’s hugely exciting,” said Louise Barker, a senior archaeological investigator at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW). “There have been whole new discoveries, covering all periods of time.
“Our senior aerial investigator Dr Toby Driver is flying all over Wales, going over landscapes and saying, ‘Oh my goodness, there is something I never expected down there.’ He says so much new archaeology is showing it is incredible.
“There probably hasn’t been anything like this for more than 40 years. It is pretty spectacular.”
Source: The Independent
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
The Local Experts
Stonehenge builders may have transported megaliths down ‘stone highway’ from Wales. Has the secret of Stonehenge been solved?
The mystery of how the gigantic rocks of Stonehenge were transported may finally have been solved.
A new study claims the huge hunks of hardened earth and minerals were moved from Welsh quarries on a ‘stone highway’ encompassing roads and rivers.
Experts have long been baffled by how the massive boulders were transported from Wales to Salisbury Plain.
Now, they believe they may have found the source for the stones as well as the route used to deliver them from Pembrokeshire to Wiltshire.
- New study claims to have uncovered the mystery of how Stonehenge was built
- Giant stones that made up the monolith were transported from Wales to England
- Experts are baffled as to how neolithic man moved them to Salisbury Plain
- New study claims ‘stone highways’ of roads and rivers were used
Stonehenge, located near Amesbury, in Wiltshire, is an iconic site but historians often debate the origins of its…
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World Heritage Day 2018
A celebration across Wiltshire of everything that is unique and special about our World Heritage Site. Join people in other World Heritage Sites around the globe in getting out, having fun and learning more about our internationally important heritage.
World Heritage Day is a wonderful opportunity to showcase some of the many things that are so special about the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site landscape and to help people explore and enjoy it. This year the theme is Heritage for Generations.
Why not get together across the generations with your family and friends and explore more about World Heritage right here in Wiltshire.
Our amazing partners have arranged special talks, walks and exhibitions, and there is a fun day for families too. Turn over for more detail about all of the events and visit
View the Event Flyer for the 2018 World Heritage Day: WHDleaflet_online_version-1
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Celebrating the building of Stonehenge may have been as important to Neolithic people as worshipping there
Building Stonehenge ‘may have been ceremonial celebration.
English Heritage will begin moving a replica stone on Friday using teams of volunteers in an “experiential archaeology” project
The arduous task of building Stonehenge may have been part of a ceremonial celebration, claim historians.
The circle in Wiltshire was built more than 4,000 years ago using bluestones from south Wales – a decision which has long baffled experts.
Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said they now believed that Neolithic people did not want to make “things as easy and quick as possible”.
Building the monument was as important as “its final intended use,” she added.
Experts have tried to discover why the people who built Stonehenge chose to use some stones from the Preseli Hills, about 155 miles (250km) away.
The stones were probably transported via water networks and hauled over land, using a huge amount of labour over the long and…
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The causewayed enclosure, which dates between 3650 to 3750 BC – pre-dating Stonehenge by 600 years, was uncovered by archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology in 2016.
Si Cleggett, project manager and archaeologist at Wessex Archaeology now believes the community who built the causewayed enclosure may have been more closely involved in the planning of Stonehenge than previously thought.
He said: “The causewayed enclosure at Larkhill was constructed during the late Stone Age, a period of transition when our ancestors gradually moved away from a mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle and embraced a farming existence where the domestication of livestock and control of agriculture began.”
Causewayed enclosures are believed to be meeting places, centres of trade and cult or ritual centres to name but a few. They are only 70 known examples.
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The Stonehenge Travel and Tour Company are based near Stonehenge and widely considered at the local Stonehenge experts. Operating both scheduled Stonehenge tours and customised bespoke driver / guide tours from Salisbury, Bath and London. If you are travelling independently and would like to make your visit to Stonehenge truly memorable then why not use one of our expert local tour guides. We can arrange for them to meet you at the English Heritage visitor centre any time of day throughout the year
Perfect Individual, family and group tours
Stonehenge Inner Circle special access tours
Sunrise or Sunset private access tours
Stonehenge landscape tours including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, The Cursus and ceremonial landscape.
Virtual reality tours
Nearby Avebury Stone Circle and West Kennet Long Barrow
“The best way to approach Stonehenge is on foot across the landscape, the same way that the ancient Neolithic and Bronze Age people did over 4000 years ago”
“Travelling on foot is a great leveller of centuries, reminding you of the impact sites such as Stonehenge must have had millennia ago”
Our Stonehenge tour guides are all experienced, local and passionate about prehistory and ancient Britain. Some have archaeological backgrounds, others are authors, story tellers, astronomers – all eager to share their in-depth knowledge with you. We can often arrange these tours at short notice but we recommend booking in advance
Please email us for further information: tours@StonehengeTravel.co.uk
The Stonehenge Travel Company
The Local Stonehenge Experts
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Attraction-packed Wiltshire cuts a verdant swathe through southern England. High chalk downs and gentle valleys characterise the landscape, which is home to chocolate box villages (Lacock, Tisbury, Castle Coombe) charming market towns (Malmesbury, Devizes, Bradford-on-Avon) and a top-notch cathedral city (Salisbury). 40 per cent of the county is classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. English Heritage have produced this wonderful inspirational guide for visitors to Wiltshire, please visit their website for full details.
Wiltshire is famous for its ham, white horses and, above all, for its many prehistoric monuments. In fact, it’s got more than any other county in England. In this guide, we’ll explore some of these places that shine a light on our ancient past, visit a couple of castles, and point out a few other fascinating places along the way.
DAY 1 – AVEBURY AND DEVIZES
The remarkable village of Avebury can be found between Swindon and Devizes. It’s part of the same UNESCO World Heritage Site as Stonehenge.
The main stone circle here is around 4600 years old, and it’s the largest in Britain. It’s thought that it would have taken 1.5 million man hours to construct the ditch and bank and to transport the stones.
Today, the vision of its original builders can be hard to appreciate. The circle is bisected by roads, and the stones rub up against a medieval church, a timber-framed pub, rose-covered cottages and flocks of friendly sheep. But this jumbled palimpsest is part of Avebury’s unique charm.
And we’re lucky that there’s anything to see at all. In medieval times some of the stones were pushed over or buried, and in the 18th century many of those that survived were broken up for building materials. Alexander Keiller restored some of the stones in the 1930s, and he gives his name to the village’s museum, which tells the story of Avebury and its nearby monuments. The National Trust has also recently refurbished and opened up part of Avebury Manor.
There are toilets, a shop and a café near the museum. On the high street you’ll find a quirky gift shop, a community store and the Red Lion – quite possibly the world’s only pub inside a stone circle.
You can walk around Avebury’s stone circle and see the museum in about an hour and a half. But it’s worth exploring some of the other sites around Avebury to really get a sense of how important this place was to our prehistoric ancestors.
The oldest site in the area is Windmill Hill. It’s a ’causewayed enclosure’, built around 3675 BC. It’s thought that people gathered here for trading, festivals or feasts, or all three. Much later, Bronze Age barrows were built on the hill.
West Kennet Avenue joins the stone circle at its southern edge. Once, 100 pairs of stones lined a 2.3km course joining Avebury to the Sanctuary. Today there are 27 upright stones, again restored by Keiller. The Sanctuary itself was begun in about 3000BC, and its purpose is unclear. Circles of timber posts once stood here, and human bones and food remains have been found buried beneath them.
West Kennet Long Barrow is one of the best examples of a long barrow in the country, and you can actually get inside it. This was the resting place of at least 46 people, buried here between 3000 and 2600 BC.
From the top of the barrow you can see East Kennet Long Barrow, and also the enigmatic Silbury Hill, one of the most mysterious remnants of prehistoric Britain. 30 metres high, it’s the largest man made mound in Europe, and was built around the same time as the pyramids of Egypt. There’s a viewing area next to the car park, but to protect the site, you can’t walk on the hill itself.
WILTSHIRE MUSEUM, DEVIZES
One of the best places to dive into the prehistory of this part of the country is the brilliant Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. It tells 500,000 years of Wiltshire’s story, and it contains two thirds of all the Bronze Age gold found in Britain.
Its standout treasures were excavated from the Bush Barrow, half a mile from Stonehenge. It’s Britain’s richest and most important prehistoric burial. An adult male was buried in a crouched position with spectacular grave goods, including a dagger with 140,000 tiny gold studs in its handle, a mace made from rare fossil stone, and an exquisite sheet gold lozenge.
But just as fascinating as the Bronze Age bling is what the finds tell us about the people of Stonehenge. Cases tell the stories of characters like the Shaman and the Marlborough Lady, pieced together from their burials. These small glimpses into the lives of our ancestors help us remember that prehistory isn’t just about pots – it’s about people.
Other galleries cover the later history of Wiltshire and Devizes. Children can follow a stamp trail, dress up in period costumes and get hands on with interactive exhibitions dotted throughout the galleries. There’s a small shop selling gifts and books.
Devizes itself is a pretty market town, with over 500 listed buildings and the largest market square in the west of England. There are plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants. You can also visit the red brick Victorian Wadworth Brewery, where shire horses still deliver beer to the town’s pubs every morning.
DAY 2 – SALISBURY AND OLD SARUM
Seated high above the bustling city of Salisbury is Old Sarum. With its origins as an Iron Age hillfort, it’s almost brand spanking new compared to Avebury and Stonehenge. The Romans used it as a fort and as a temple, and after William the Conquerer built a motte and bailey castle a town grew up around it. A cathedral was also built here, but it moved down the hill to Salisbury in the early 13th century.
Salisbury attracted more trade and more people, and was the largest town in Wiltshire by the 14th century. Old Sarum dwindled in size and importance until it gained widespread notoriety in the 18th and 19th centuries for being a ‘rotten borough’ – it still sent two MPs to the House of Commons, despite being almost entirely abandoned.
Today it’s the perfect spot for a picnic, a walk or even a spot of kite flying. There are 29 acres of rare grass chalkland to explore, with wildflowers and ancient trees. The outline of the old cathedral is still visible, and the castle, although well ruined, is still impressive. You’ll get the most out of your visit with a guidebook in hand, but it’s worth the trip just for the stunning views over Salisbury.
There’s plenty of free parking at the site and a small shop by the entrance selling gifts and refreshments.
SALISBURY – CATHEDRAL AND MUSEUM
Venture down the hill to Salisbury’s Cathedral Close and you’ll find an array of attractions. The Cathedral houses the best-preserved of the four surviving copies of Magna Carta. English Heritage members can get two for one entry on Tower Tours on weekdays.
A variety of impressive buildings line the close, including the National Trust’s Mompesson House, Arundells (the former home of Sir Edward Heath) and The King’s House, which now houses the Salisbury Museum.
The museum is another fantastic repository of local prehistoric finds. Its new Wessex Galleries contain objects from Stonehenge and the surrounding area. Standout exhibits include the jadeite axehhead, coins from the Bowerchalke Hoard and watercolours by JMW Turner. There’s also a brilliant interactive exhibition that explores how archaeology has shaped our understanding of the past.
Other galleries explore the town’s more recent past. Highlights include a surprisingly interesting collection of objects found in the city’s drains, and the remarkable 3.6m tall Salisbury Giant, a towering figure used in pageants for hundreds of years.
The museum puts on temporary exhibitions and hosts events and talks – check the website for details. There are interactive exhibitions and trails for kids.
The King’s House Café can be found inside the museum buildings, and Salisbury city centre is a few minutes’ walk away.
DAY 3 – STONEHENGE AND OLD WARDOUR
Famous across the world for its iconic stone circle, Stonehenge is a real Wiltshire must-see.
Its visitor centre has a short but sweet exhibition that introduces the development of Stonehenge and sets the stones in their prehistoric context. Have a go a moving one of the huge sarsens, and poke your head into the Neolithic houses. You can walk the one and a half miles to the stones themselves, or catch the bus. It’s well worth plugging into the audio guide as you walk around the stone circle – you can borrow a headset at the visitor centre or download the app from Google Play or the App Store.
The monumental mystery of Stonehenge has fascinated us for thousands of years, and it’s impossible not to be drawn in by it as you get close to the stones. Try to solve the puzzle of the circle’s purpose, or to imagine the immense effort that went into its construction. Or simply marvel at its survival through thousands of years of change.
Back at the visitor centre you’ll find a café serving up locally sourced food and drinks. We serve our snacks and lunches in sustainable takeaway packaging, making it perfect for picnicing.
THE STONEHENGE LANDSCAPE
Many people who visit Stonehenge are happy to see the stones and take a few selfies, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t explore the surrounding landscape and its monuments. Barrows, henges and earthworks fill the fields, and visiting them helps give you a better understanding of just how important this area was for our ancestors. The Stonehenge visitor centre gives a great overview of the story of the landscape, and you can use our interactive map to orient yourself before your visit.
The National Trust owns most of the land and looks after the monuments in it. Take care with dogs, as livestock grazes in the fields. Check their pages for restrictions.
DAY 3 – OLD WARDOUR CASTLE
Old Wardour Castle is hidden at the end of a single track lane, deep within a lush, secluded valley. It’s a world away from the wide open spaces of Salisbury Plain.
Perhaps surprisingly, Old Wardour has been a tourist attraction for longer than it was a working castle. It was built in the 1390s after John Lovell found favour with Richard II. He built his unusual hexagonal castle to confirm his status. In 1596 the godson of Elizabeth I called it ‘the wonder of the west’, but a large chunk of it was blown up during the Civil War in the 1640s.
It was never rebuilt, and 100 years later the owners decided to build a new, grander house a mile away. Old Wardour was preserved as a folly for the enjoyment of the family and their guests. Members of the public probably started visiting from the 18th century, and people have been flocking to Old Wardour ever since.
To this day, these are ruins to have fun in. Over the last few decades, we’ve restored floors and staircases so that you can wander the castle’s rooms and towers, and poke around its nooks and crannies. A brilliant audio guide breathes life back into the ruins with characters and stories from the past. There’s a shop selling gifts and refreshments and plenty of space for picnics. It’s also a good base for walks through the local countryside, which is part of the Cranborne Chase Area of Natural Beauty.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
The M4 skirts the north of the county and the M3 connects London to the A30 and A303 in the south. There are mainline rail stations in Salisbury, Swindon, Chippenham, Tisbury, Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury and Warminster.
There are plenty of places to stay in Wiltshire, but Salisbury is a particularly good base for exploring many of our sites. By rail it’s just an hour and twenty minutes away from London, or an hour and ten from Bristol.
You can get buses to Avebury from Swindon or Trowbridge. Buses connect Devizes with Bath, Chippenham, Swindon and Salisbury, and there’s a coach from London.
Old Wardour Castle is not too far from Tisbury, which is ten minutes from Salisbury by train. You may be able to get a taxi to the castle. Alternatively, Discover Nadder have designed a circular 5.5 mile walkfrom the village to the castle.
MORE IN WILTSHIRE & BEYOND
If you’re in Wiltshire for longer you can dive even deeper into the past.
Beautiful Bradford-on-Avon has a spectacular medieval tithe barn you can visit for free. Just over the border with Somerset is Farleigh Hungerford Castle – we’ve come up with a great circular walk that joins the two, making this a great car-free day out. Bratton Camp and its famous White Horse is also nearby.
We also look after the picturesque remains of Ludgershall Castle and Cross, one of the largest Neolithic henges in Britain at Hatfield Earthworks, the thatched Chisbury Chapel and the 18th century Netheravon Dovecote.
English Heritage Members can get two for one entry at Wilton House, as well as discounts at Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury Museum and the Wiltshire Museum.
Please visit the English Heritage website for full details
We specialise in private guided tours of Stonehenge and Wiltshire and would be happy to help you organise a custom tour for your family or small group. Our bespoke tours can depart from Salisbury, Bath, Southampton and even London
The Stonehenge Travel and Tour Company
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours