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Jul '12

England and Spain Adventure, Day 7: Stonehenge, Avebury, & the Cotswolds

On Wednesday of our trip to England we took a day trip from Bath with Mad Max Tours to see a few nearby sights: Stonehenge and Avebury, plus two quaint villages called Lacock and Castle Combe in the Cotswolds.

I had read about the tour group in Rick Steve’s guide to England, and we felt it was a good, affordable way to see these places.

I visited Stonehenge as a BYU student years ago, and I clearly recall my professor saying how difficult it was to see Stonehenge in good weather because of its location. It’s often very windy, which only makes a typical overcast and rainy British day even worse. Sure enough, when I went in college, it was cold, windy, and rainy. Kind of miserable.

However, we hit the jackpot this time around. Wednesday had the most beautiful weather of any day we had in England–blue skies, sunny, semi-warm. This was one of my favorite days of our whole vacation.

We started the day by taking a taxi to Bath city center to wait for our tour van to show up. While we waited I crossed the street to take a look at this beautiful park. It seemed to cost money to get inside but it was pretty to perch Carissa in front of.

Our tour group was about fifteen people, and we all fit in a big van. John took this video during our drive. I’m not sure if maybe he didn’t realize he was filming at first…

After about an hour, we reached our first stop: Stonehenge!

Stonehenge was probably built between 3000 and 2000 BC. The “why” has different theories. In any case, the way it was built is pretty fascinating. I mean, from what I could catch from the audio tour guide, which Wesley held onto for most of the visit. I actually heard very little.

Stonehenge is in the middle of vast, expansive countryside with sheep in the neighboring field. The day we were there happened to be stunningly beautiful, with big open skies and gorgeous white clouds.

The Stonehenge stones themselves are roped off and you walk around them. My most favorite part of the whole visit: running with Wesley in circles around Stonehenge. It was good for him to get his wiggles out and good for me because I missed exercising. Plus, how often do you get to jog around one of the most famous historical landmarks in the whole world? We had fun and I wish I had video to prove it.

But I do have family pictures.

We stayed about 45 minutes to an hour and then it was time to push on. The countryside scenery:

Next stop: Avebury!

Avebury is comparable to Stonehenge, only it’s not. It’s the largest prehistoric stone circle in all of Europe, but the stones are smaller, and you can walk right up to and touch them.

One of the coolest things about Avebury is that it’s built (purposely) above an earth energy pattern called geospiral which charges the stones with magnetic energy. Our guide pulled out what I could call a diving rod–an L-shaped copper rod that he held up to the stone. We watched as it appeared to move on its own, and then we got a chance to try it ourselves. Surprise! The rod moved without me making it.

We hung out in Avebury for too short of a time. It’s a lovely little (LITTLE) place that you would enjoy strolling up and down along its country roads. For such a small place there seemed to be a number of tourists. Wes and I took a little wander and ended up at this church (St. James parish). The wonderful thing about churches in England is that usually you can just stride inside, which we did, and had a look around. The oldest part of the church dates from about AD 1000. The graveyard outside had some very old tombstones.

After Avebury we drove to a village in the area known as the Cotswolds called Lacock. Never heard of it? Me either. But have you seen the first and sixth Harry Potter movies? Harry Potter’s childhood home was set in Lacock.

And don’t tell me you haven’t seen the famous 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice… The lovely town of Meryton that Elizabeth and her sisters window shop in and meet the dashing Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham was filmed in Lacock. (I admit, I recognized the street right off the bat, I’ve seen that film so many times.) Try to picture it without cars and modern people walking around.

A few years ago some film studio(s) put a lot of money into the town of Lacock to hide all the electrical wires underground and change all the street lights to period-correct lamps to make filming easier. Now all they have to do is clear out the cars and throw dirt down on the pavement and, voila!, you have instant 19th Century British atmosphere.

We ate lunch at the very old and historic The George Inn. I think it dated back to the 1600s.

Our food was good, and we were hungry, but it is so sad to look back at our receipts and realize how much everything REALLY cost, after the conversion from pounds to dollars. I think our lunch here (two plates plus an orange juice) was about $40. We spent so much money in England on just food. But that’s just how it is. Things got MUCH more affordable in Spain.

St. Cyriac’s Church (which made a brief appearance in the first HP film in Godric’s Hollow).

Ceiling of the tithe barn, where people in the olden days were required to deposit their tithes.

Lastly we visited the small, quaint village of Castle Combe. When I say “small,” I mean it. It was about two streets big with a population of about 350.

Castle Combe is called “The Prettiest Village in England.” It was virtually unknown until one day a news story ran giving it this title, and the very next day it was overrun with tourists. Thousands of them. But it really does live up to its name. It’s a lovely little place. “Warhorse” was recently filmed here.

Standing beside a letter box (mail drop).

The group spent some time inside this church, but Carissa (and later Wesley, too) and I stayed in the churchyard to enjoy the serenity. A stream was flowing behind the church, and it was very peaceful and pleasant here.

I love this part of England–the phone booths.

We didn’t stay long here. Here’s a sampling of the typical narrow roads we drove on to get back to Bath.

Once back in Bath we paused for a meal at one of the more famous places to eat: Sally Lunn’s.

It’s famous for their giant scones (more like American scones–fried round pieces of bread) served with jam and clotted cream with tea. We tried it and, honestly, weren’t overly impressed.

Wes mostly ate salad.

And Carissa? Well, if you knew how much she adores whipped cream you would understand how she fell instantly in love with clotted cream. Yes, we let her eat the whole pot. Because we are bad parents like that.

This was our final evening in Bath. We did laundry (in our bathtub) that night, and the next day we packed up, got on a train, and headed north to Leeds.

1 Comment »

One Response to “England and Spain Adventure, Day 7: Stonehenge, Avebury, & the Cotswolds”

  1. tara72 Says:

    Cooooool post. Have you seen Warhorse? Good movie.

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