The Mystery of Stonehenge
I haven’t seen Stonehenge, one of England’s most famous and oldest landmarks, since I was a little girl, so I was very excited to be going again on the Independent Stonehenge and Bath Tour from London. Although I had been to the city of Bath more recently and have many fond memories of family visits there, I was really looking forward to returning here too.
After an early morning pick up at Victoria Coach Station (which is just a few minutes’ walk from both the tube and overland railway stations) we were on our way. It took about two hours to get to Stonehenge. As we drove through the county of Wiltshire’s lush green countryside and farmland, our guide, Nick, told us much about the site’s history and the various theories about why and how it was built.
As we got near we could see the stones from the road, a magical moment for me. I think it is the mystery and uncertainty that makes this prehistoric World Heritage Site so fascinating. It was a glorious sunny, though chilly, November morning, and although we were given audio guides, I decided to simply walk around the site and enjoy it. After all, Nick had already told us so much about it.
The oldest part of Stonehenge is the circular ditch and banking, which was dug out using antler horns as picks some 5,000 years ago. Inside this are the huge sarsen stones weighing as much as 50 tons each and within this a circle of smaller bluestones. These are older than the sarsen stones and were brought to the site from Wales by river – a journey of about 250 miles. Each bluestone weighs 5 or 6 tons and there were originally nearly a hundred of them – a staggering achievement.
As a keen photographer I was delighted with the weather that morning. There was plenty of time to walk around the stones and visit the gift shop where I was offered a welcome glass of hot Celtic, honey mead – a treat that chased away the autumn chill!
The City of Bath
Bath, also a World Heritage Site in the neighboring county of Somerset in South West England, was founded by the Romans. They built baths and a temple around the natural hot springs here. Later, in the Georgian era, it was a popular spa town and much of the architecture you see today, including the famous Royal Crescent and Circus, was built in the 18th and early 19th century and made of Cotswold stone (also known as Bath lime stone) – a mellow, honey-colored stone. Again as we approached Bath, which is about an hour from Stonehenge, Nick told us a lot about the city’s fascinating history. Many of Bath’s building were designed by father and son architects, both called John Wood, who took much inspiration from the ancient Greeks and Romans; elegant columns, Grecian urns and flower swags carved in stone decorate the buildings giving the architecture of Bath its unique character.
There are many wonderful things to see in Bath and I opted to visit the Roman baths, which didn’t disappoint. Despite the weather clouding over a little I was still pleased with the shots I got. It took about an hour (although I could have spent longer) to walk round the baths and the museum, again with an audio guide.
I had two hours left to explore more of the city and grab some lunch. One of the many memories I have of Bath was of the 18th century Pulteney Bridge, with its quaint little row of shops over the arches of the bridge spanning the River Avon.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Pulteney Bridge, I found a wonderful place for lunch, The Best of British in Broad Street, selling homemade quiches, sandwiches, soups and cakes.
There was still time to wander around the quirky independent shops that Bath is known for and do some Christmas shopping.
As we left Bath, John our driver took us around the Circus so we could see one the best examples of the Woods’ architecture while Nick told us many interesting and amusing facts and anecdotes about Bath.
It was a wonderful day made even more interesting by our guide; I loved that he told us so much on the coach that once we were at each I site I could wander as I pleased.
Photos courtesy of Kathryn Burrington.
- Kathryn Burrington