Avebury, Stourhead Gardens, Salisbury Cathedral, Old Sarum


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Europe » United Kingdom » England » Wiltshire
September 20th 2019
Published: October 3rd 2019
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After dropping off my colleagues, I made my way to Avebury. One of my biggest gripes about driving in England are the roads themselves. They make just enough roads to accommodate traffic, which in theory is fine; however, when construction is necessary, you're basically screwed. So I got completely turned around in Marlborough and I was frustrated further when my GPS crapped out again. I was able to see my location, but no further directions, so I had to use a map - normally I like, but the tiny country roads with fast moving cars added to the stressful experience. One of the saving graces was that due to the change in approach to town, I was able to see the Alton House White Horse on the side of the hill as I made my way north. So, that made me feel better and once I got into the vicinity, I was fine.

Avebury

Avebury has one of the largest and oldest stone circles in the world, as well as some associated archaeological sites nearby, such as Silbury Hill (the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe) and West Kennet Long Barrow (a large burial chamber). The site itself has a large henge (a bank and ditch), a large outer stone circle, and two smaller inner circles. Unlike the slightly younger Stonehenge, you can walk around and up to the individual stones. It was quite peaceful. The village was built within the stone area before many people realized what it was. As such, there is a busy road that goes through the center of the circles so there are fences that you have to access to cross the whole thing (sheep are still grazing all over the area). It was busier than I thought it would be, but still far less touristy than Stonehenge. And, aside from the car park and museum, it was free! I saw a couple in front of me on the path with a bag of drinks - it made sense once you realized you could have basically a picnic if you wanted and admire the views.

The Lamb - Hindon

I slowly made my way south toward the tiny village of Hindon where I was planning to stay the night. I like staying on the outskirts of towns sometimes, especially in England, because parking can be a nightmare in town and there was no way I was driving into Salisbury. The drive mostly went pretty smoothy except for a detour through Devizes (see above minor rant of construction), which actually seemed somewhat unnecessary. Other than that, I was able to find the hotel easy enough even without the GPS.

The Lamb was on a corner on basically the only intersection in a little village, looking slightly different from the website photo, but still obvious. Parking was limited, but I found a spot (pulling out the next morning however almost made me wet my pants - I still can't believe how fast people drive on these small, hidden lanes!). The pub slash inn was pretty nice, very British. I found my room on the upper floor, which meant no one was above me and that I would not have to hear people walking around on the very creaky floors. The room was super nice and tastefully decorated - a rustic theme with amazing little touches you would not even notice - and the bathroom was big and clean. I went down for dinner, somewhat disappointed in the choices since I felt so big and there were not many healthy meals to choose; I tried sausages and sweet potato mash. I had been craving dessert every time I went out and I figured I would do it on my last night, only the choices here were limited as well - I think I got a berry crumble, which was good, but where was the toffee pudding with ice cream??? Oh well. The most memorable part of the night was I woke up around 4:30 due to a crazy dream - I won't go into the dream itself, but it coincided with me feeling like someone kissed me on the forehead. I could not go back to sleep and turned a light on- it really creeped me out and even though I know my room was not haunted, I could not shake the weird feeling....

Stourhead Gardens

I was trying hard to determine what to do on my last day; since my flight did not leave until 9:30pm, I had the whole day! Initially, I planned to hit Salisbury, Old Sarum and Winchester Cathedral. However, the weather was just too perfect to spend the majority of my day indoors - I'll save that for the more usual rainy days I tend to have in England. Instead, I decided to start at Stourhead Gardens, about 15 minutes west of my hotel. I was able to fill up my hybrid Hyundai Ionic - only 60£ for this whole trip! I pulled into the free car park and when I went to get my ticket, I almost choked. 17£! Holy crap. It's part of the English Heritage, so if you have the pass, totally worth it, but I was second guessing my decision.... then I figured, meh, I am already here and really have not spent that much this trip. I got my ticket, walked down to the village area and Spread Eagle Inn courtyard, where there was a cafe, ice cream shop, and art store. Then there was the entrance to the gardens, where I showed my ticket. When I walked through, I stopped and gasped. Yep, totally worth it!

So, I took the walk around the lake loop, rather than visiting the house, moving to the left to start. Once you get your initial iconic view of the lake, bridge and pantheon in the distance, you walk to the left. I kept putting my camera (ahem, phone) in my pocket, only to take
Stourhead GardensStourhead GardensStourhead Gardens

I like the moon above the Pantheon
it back out about two steps later. The walk itself was just gorgeous. You walk along the path, through a little tunnel under the road, and make your way up. The next point of interest is the Temple of Apollo, where you have amazing views of the lake and gardens. Then you continue down the hill, and walk through a beautiful stone staircase which also goes over the road. You're now walking on a path which goes along the lake the whole way around - I saw a poor couple pushing an older lady along (she felt terrible about them pushing!); while most of the path is actually fairly flat, there is a slight incline to the approach to the Parthenon. Inside are marble sculptures and reliefs of Roman gods. Very interesting and thematic with most of the gardens. You keep moving and next is a little cottage, looks like it comes out of a fairy story. Then you have an option to continue along a straight path or down to the "grotto" - I went down. When you get to the bottom of a stone staircase, there is a statue of I think Neptune in a little grotto to the side. Then you enter the main grotto, a constructed stone structure with lots of room, little windows to view the lake, and a fountain with a water nymph in the back. Just charming.

Continuing on along the lake, across a bridge and to the other side, the next stop is the Flora Temple, a smaller version of the Pantheon and directly across. I think I walked just under 2 miles from my car around the lake and it took me just over an hour. I thought about continuing to the house, but I really wanted to see the next two sites for sure, so I decided to leave. It really is a gorgeous park and I could spend hours here. Bring a picnic. Enjoy the day. Take the kids and pets for a walk.

Salisbury Cathedral

I made my way towards Salisbury with my planned parking spot at the Beehive Park and Ride, which was right next to my last stop of Old Sarum. It was awesome - apparently, the parking was now free here, and I happened to come on a day with a free roundtrip bus ride into town. So far, the day was going fantastic! I got turned around just a little bit coming off the bus, but just looked for the giant steeple, the tallest in England (since the one at Lincoln collapsed). It was a nice approach through the quite busy town to the cathedral. I went in and paid the "recommended" 7£ 50p to enter. I have to say, while the cathedral was huge and grand, I was somewhat disappointed after seeing Lincoln Cathedral, which I just felt had more attention to detail -there had been something interesting to see everywhere you looked. Salisbury was just.... big. I did like hearing the organ playing while I walked through, which gave me a very intense feeling of being in the moment. But I felt there was not too much to see. Until I got to the chapter house, which I thought was far more beautiful than the one at Lincoln and this was where the detailed friezes of bible stories gave some character to the church. It also housed the Magna Carta, which is the best of all four surviving copies, and was in a simple tent in the middle of the room that you could view at your leisure. I mean, I was trying to wait outside the tent so those inside could see without us being crowded, patiently waiting my turn, until some idiot got in front of me and pushed his way through... Anyway, the chapter house made the trip totally worth it! And again, such a beautiful day.

Making my way back to the bus stop, I heard what sounded like a parade. After researching later, it turned out to be students protesting climate change all over the world. It was affecting traffic though, but I was able to find another stop and board my bus. I was also able to get off at the stop near Old Sarum and walk up to the site.

Old Sarum

It was pretty interesting and had been recommended to me last year by a friend, who liked the peaceful ruins that you can wander about. I got my ticket from a couple of super nice guys (as is ALWAYS the case at English Heritage) and walked in. This used to basically be the center of the Salisbury area, which had a well-fortified castle and large cathedral. One of the interesting things to me is that the queen of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was held prisoner here (comfortably, of course) for 16 years for inciting her sons to rebel against their father. She is one of the most interesting characters of the Middle Ages, and probably the most interesting woman in history (at least for me!) so I was a bit of a nerd about being in a place that she was held for so long, seeing some of the same sights she did.

Anyway, at some point, the cathedral moved from Old Sarum down to its current location in Salisbury due to the request of the Bishop of Salisbury, who conflicted with the Sheriff of Wiltshire, who was in control of the castle. Eventually, everything (stone for construction materials, people) moved along with it, leaving Old Sarum in ruins. Until its demise, there was the main castle and royal residence in the central upper portion, a motte and Bailey system. Outside of the inner fort was the outer wall which housed the cathedral and the village. So, you still see some of the foundation elements of these buildings as well as the ditches, banks, and gate locations which give you a pretty good idea of what it must have looked like at one point.

Driving and Flying Home

After walking back to the bus stop (about 10 minutes), I was able to find my route back to Gatwick pretty easily. Of course it was towards the end of rush hour on a Friday, but traffic really was not too terrible. I was able to find the airport, top off the car with just 5£ worth of gas, check in and wait patiently for my flight while eating at a restaurant. It was such a fun trip - a mix of work, family and tourism.


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8th October 2019
My haunted room at The Lamb

The Lamb
Haunted room stories are always priceless. Sweet dreams.

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