Were they burial grounds...?
Or astronomical instruments...?
Or sacred areas to the Neolithic cultures that built them?
We've heard all kinds of theories about their origin, but we don't think you need to get too caught up in the theories to enjoy visiting them.
Stonehenge is the most famous of the stone circles. One interesting little fact is that it is not, however, a henge. Let's get the boring technical stuff over with... Henges are, strictly speaking, circular or oval spaces that are defined by a bank with an internal ditch... so the dirt bank probably came from the inner ditch... right?
The word "henge" came from an ancient name for Stonehenge which meant something like hanging stones. Soon all the circles they found were dubbed henges.... then archeologists found that Stonehenge does not have the classic bank and ditch of what is now regarded as a henge monument... So it's Stonehenge... a great example of a stone circle... but not a henge.
There are several henge monuments and other neolithic sites in the Stonehenge Historic Landscape which is also called the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.... Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, and Avebury. There are several burial mounds such as the West Kennet Long Barrow. And there is Silbury Hill... a large man made hill of unknown purpose.
We love Stonehenge, but our favorite stone circle is Avebury... which is, by the way, a henge. It is about 20 miles (32 km) north of Stonehenge. You walk among the stones, feeling very special. The ancient stones wrap around a little village. The Red Lion Pub actually sits within the circle... stop and have a pint.
A little further north find The King Stone and the Rollright Stones.
Beyond this rich landscape in Wiltshire, England, you can find several henge monuments in the Cumbia Lake District. Look for Castlerigg Stone Circle, Mayburgh, Long Meg and Her Daughters, and Swinside which some have called the finest stone circle in England.
Scotland has many sites... standing stones, stone rows, stone circles, cairns and hillforts.
Cornwall is another rich area for neolithic standing stones and henges. Park and walk to the site called Men an Tol... a three stone alignment; the center stone is a ring large enough to crawl through.... All kinds of legends associated with that one! Wales also has many burial chambers and standing stones.
Sometimes you'll have to climb fences or go through gates or walk through fields to get to these monuments. That only makes it feel more like exploring doesn't it?
If you really get into this, you can go looking for neolithic stone monuments in Ireland and Italy. And France has some amazing "alignments" and standing stones deserving a trip.
Wet your appetite for henge monuments with Stonehenge and Avebury, you may find that looking for those ancient stones gets you traveling to places you wouldn't see otherwise.
Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark
You might be surprised what you can find.
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