Over the years several people have asked my advice about what to see and do when spending a day at Avebury.....I thought it might be of value to add some pages to the website that the first-time visitor can print and use as a guide & introduction to the wonders of Avebury. It should be possible to complete most of this tour in 4 or 5 hours with plenty of time to spend having a thorough look at everything and taking some refreshment on the way (visiting shops and museums might extend things though).
Others might recommend a different itinery depending on their direction of approach to the area but I always advise trying to start a visit at the Sanctuary and will therefore proceed assuming the visitor has found their way to this rather unspectacular but nonetheless important component of the Avebury complex......
(Use this itinery with the accompanying map....a matching "Google Earth" view is here).
Ideally you will be approaching the area from the direction of Marlborough and your first real indication that you are nearing the ancient Avebury landscape will be the row of Bronze Age round barrows that appear on the skyline to your right as you follow the A4 road up Overton Hill.
As you near the top of the hill be prepared to stop as on the left side of the road opposite the round barrows there is a small lay-by ( 1 ) for visitors to the Sanctuary which is immediately visible.
The circular jumble of small concrete blocks lying in the grass give no hint of the wonders to come but the elevation of the site makes it the crown of the complex and it is from here that you will gain your first sense of the vast scale of what was once constructed in the landscape during the Neolithic period. The almost surreal spectacle of Silbury Hill looming out of the trees in the valley makes an immediate impression but a more careful look around around reveals much more.
The maintained section of the pre-historic Ridgeway path commences from this point and can be seen stretching away across the countryside adjacent to the round barrows on the other side of the A4 road.....Between the Ridgeway and Silbury Hill and a mile or so distant in the fields below can be glimpsed the surviving stones of the West Kennet Avenue marching on their way to Avebury itself which lies hidden in the dip beyond a conspicuous clump of trees.....The point at which the now decimated Avenue once joined the Sanctuary is indicated by concrete blocks.
If you now look across the valley toward the open fields to the left of Silbury the West Kennet Long Barrow and its facade of stones appears as a low mound on the distant hillside....Much further to the left the unexcavated East Kennet Long Barrow can be seen as a large clump of trees above the buildings of East Kennet Village.
After visiting the Sanctuary a visit to the West Kennet Long Barrow is next on the list. A continuing ride down the hill and through the hamlet of West Kennet will bring you to another roadside lay-by ( 2 ) that will be obvious as Silbury Hill comes into view on the right of the road. This lay-by is at the beginning of the track which leads up to the barrow. It is a walk of about half a mile up a gentle incline to reach the monument which is silhouetted on the skyline as you approach. It is here that you get your first glimpse of the massive stones that have been used throughout the Avebury complex and a powerful sense of the remoteness of our prehistoric past is evident as you explore the stone chambers within the mound. Once again a look around the landscape from this viewpoint is recommended.....The Sanctuary is easily located by watching the traffic passing over Overton Hill and the tree-covered East Kennet Long Barrow is obvious as you look further to the right.....Silbury Hill again dominates the view as you look back to the lay-by whence you came.....If you look down toward the trees in the valley mid-way between Silbury and the Sanctuary you are looking at the location of the massive palisaded enclosures that once existed in that area.
When in the Avebury area Silbury Hill seems to make its presence felt wherever you are....
When you are back in your vehicle continue along the A4 past the awesome bulk of the hill without being too distracted as this can be a busy road and there is a sizeable car park ( 3 ) on the right of the road a few hundred yards further on. From here you are able to get a more relaxed and safer view of the spectacular and mysterious mound.
When you have finished trying to work out the whys and wherefores of this amazing construction it is time to retrace your route to some extent....Turn left as you exit the car park and return to the hamlet of West Kennet. As you reach the houses look for a small road off to the left ( 4 ) and turn down it.....The next mile or so must be one of the most fascinating stretches of road in the whole country. You will soon encounter two largish stones either side of the road which are a precursor to your first good view of the West Kennet Avenue stones as they stand in the field alongside the road. These are the survivors of an avenue that once led all the way up to the Sanctuary but nevertheless still make a fine and unique spectacle.....A small lay-by ( 5 ) exists nearby which allows you to stop and examine the stones. next page