Three* stone circles that are way better than Stonehenge

And now for some light diversion.  David Hembrow describes the travels and travails of a Dutch family trying to get to Stonehenge by bicycle, faced with south east England’s network of motorways and motorways-in-all-but-name.  I think I have solution to the Stonehenge cycle tour problem: don’t go to Stonehenge.  It’s a bit crap.  Stonehenge fell apart over the millennia, but the stones were stuck back upright at various times in the early 20th century.  They were still concreting it back together right up into the 1960s.  Stonehenge just looks weird, neither ruin nor full restoration.  If you go there you’ll be behind a rope on a concrete footpath, next to thousands of vehicles each hour squeezing through the bottleneck on the A303.

Any alternative to Stonehenge is going to be blighted to some extent by Britain’s poor cycling conditions, but at least when you get to them it will have been worth it.

The obvious alternative is Avebury, a couple of dozen miles north of Stonehenge.  Larger, more complicated, enigmatic and interesting than the famous neighbour.  And sat on a confluence of Sustrans routes.

Avebury

Avebury: dull enough that I've never been back for a better photo.

But you know Sustrans routes.  I wouldn’t trust them to get me to Avebury.  Better not risk it.  Instead go for Castlerigg.  More beautiful and breathtaking than the soft southern stone circles, set high on a hill yet dwarfed by the massive landscape of the Cumbrian Fells.  And on NCN 71 from Penrith station, a generally delightful, if not perfectly direct, set of lanes and rail trails.

Castlerigg

Castlerigg: even on this freezing february weekday I had to hide the tourists behind the stones.

Castlerigg

Castlerigg

But at Castlerigg you’ll still be sharing with tourists.  You’ll hear the distant traffic on the trunk road, and pass the car park on your way in.  If you want something proper special, head for Machrie Moor.  Machrie Moor is not a stone circle but a collection of them, all different designs and styles.  I lost count of how many.  To get there you’ll be needing a ferry, a half day’s ride, and a half hour walk up a winding track to a tumble-down old barn and the circles beyond.

Machrie Moor

Machrie Moor: perfect.

Machrie Moor

Machrie Moor

Of course, as Kim illustrates, you’ll be sharing the roads with idiots, but at least it won’t have all been for the sake of Stonehenge.

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5 responses to “Three* stone circles that are way better than Stonehenge

  1. I would positively recommend a visit to Avebury, which made the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I first went there (on a quiet weekday when no-one else was around).

    And yes, Stonehenge is sh1t…..

  2. Even quieter than Avebury is Stanton Drew stone circles; its considered by many Pagans to be the third most prestigious stone circle after the above two; also its getting to be on the way to Glastonbury, if they are looking for something closer; Rollright stones are still quite spectacular.

  3. I would suggest that the Callanish Stones on Lewis in the Western Isles should be at the top of anyone’s must see list. If you are really luck, you should view the stones during a Aurora event…

    • Kim — you beat me to it!

      Here are some pictures I took there, but there are probably better ones elsewhere. Even in August it didn’t get warmer than about 17°C, and there were hardly any cars.

  4. Pingback: AWWTM: Three* stone circles that are way better than Stonehenge | Joe D

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