Should you visit Stonehenge with its large stones that you’ve seen in hundreds of photos?
Or should you visit Avebury with its stones scattered about the fields?
It’s a dilemma if you only have time to visit one.
If you have the time and ancient stone sites are your thing — then I highly recommend doing both.
I was fortunate enough to experience both this past spring.
But let’s take a step back and look at both of these amazing sites — and consider the pros and cons of each.
Stonehenge is definitely the classic stone circle. Everyone knows Stonehenge.
And the stones are massive.
The visitor center is really beautiful and has some impressive displays making Stonehenge more than just seeing the stone circle.
One of the things that I was unaware of was that you can take the bus from the visitor center to the circle or you can walk.
And the walk is lovely through the Wiltshire countryside and only takes about 10 minutes.
Along the walk you’ll see what is known as the Cursus barrows which are long burial mounds.
It’s just a short detour of a few minutes to walk out to them.
So you’re getting more than just Stonehenge.
I was able to take a tour bus from Salisbury to Stonehenge.
The ticket included my admission to see the stones and to take in the visitor center.
And I got some good information via the prerecorded audio (you get headphones as you step onto the bus) of the landscape surrounding this ancient site.
There are loads of tours to Stonehenge so finding one that gets you some additional information is easy. Just choose the one that’s right for you at a price that works for your budget.
Or you can simply go on your own.
If you have a car and are touring the area, there is parking.
So you can park, get your ticket and take the bus or walk to the stone circle.
I’ll admit I was prepared to be a bit underwhelmed by this site.
I’m always skeptical of the hype.
But it was really cool and truly fascinating.
With the pros come some cons to Stonehenge.
First of all it can get a bit busy.
I was prepared for it to be more crowded, but I think the Stonehenge folks do try to keep it limited to a certain number of visitors per day.
Still it can get annoying.
You do have to book in advance per the website:
“Entrance to Stonehenge is now managed through timed tickets and advance booking is the only way to guarantee entry on the day and time of your choice. By booking in advance you will also benefit from an advanced booking discount.”
So you can’t just wing it or decide at the last minute.
If you do you may not get to actually see Stonehenge.
You’ll have to do a bit of planning in advance.
The tickets are a bit pricey at £16,50.
For a family of 4 this can be a bit much when you add it up.
And it does cost another £5 to park if you are driving yourself.
The biggest minus to Stonehenge is that you can’t get up close and personal with the stones.
There’s a rope that goes around the stones that puts you a good 20-50 yards away depending on which part of the circle you’re viewing it from.
Now there are tours that will allow you access to the “inner circle.”
But they are going to cost you.
However if you’re a die hard ancient stone circle kind of person, then this might be the tour for you.
For the rest of us we just have to admire Stonehenge from afar.
And use the zoom lenses on our cameras!
Now Avebury is another well-known stone circle and henge.
The circle is actually bigger than Stonehenge.
Actually there are 3 circles — one very large one and 2 inside of that.
But because it’s spread out, it’s not as obvious.
There are 2 factors that — to me — are the best of the pros about Avebury.
The first is that it’s free.
You don’t have to pay to see the stones.
But you do have to pay to park.
And you do have to pay to enter the Avebury Gardens and Museum.
The second biggest pro — which might be my first pro — is that you can get up close and personal with the stones.
Now this doesn’t mean climbing on them.
If fact they do have a sign asking you to basically behave yourself and treat the stones and the landscape with respect.
But I love touching these stones.
And I could do that at Avebury.
My friend, Sue, who I was with (and her family) thought I was nuts.
She was the opposite and didn’t want to touch them — out of respect.
I like to touch them as I believe these stones have a certain energy to them and I want to feel it.
A bit new age-y.
But that’s me.
Since the stones are basically spread out and in a mound circle you also get to wander through the gorgeous Wiltshire landscape.
There are even sheep grazing around the stones of Avebury.
I love this!
The village of Avebury is built around the stones.
There’s not much to the village, but it is quaint with some lovely old homes
Nearby are some other ancient sites such as Silbury Hill and the West Kennett Longbarrow.
Both are within walking distance though far enough that on a rainy day we drove to West Kennett.
Also I would say that Avebury is less touristy and less crowded.
This is a plus for those who prefer quieter sites.
There are some cons to Avebury.
As I mentioned above, while it’s free to see the stone circles it does cost to park and to go into the museum.
It’s £7 to park and the museum and garden ticket is about £10 in summer.
Because I didn’t go into the museum I won’t comment on whether it’s worth it.
However I do think having a really nice visitor center with interpretive displays would be a welcome addition to Avebury.
I think for some folks the biggest con is that the stones are spread out.
This can be an issue for those who are not as mobile.
I also think it makes it less impressive in some ways as you don’t see that cluster of large stones all together.
Another con is that there are roads near the stones — like right there.
For some folks this may be a bother as you’ll hear the sounds of traffic.
But it’s not like there are a lot of cars.
So for me it wasn’t an issue.
One last minus is that there aren’t as many tours going to Avebury as Stonehenge.
Not to say that there aren’t any — just that there aren’t as many choices.
Stonehenge is just a bit more popular!
So Stonehenge or Avebury?
If you only had time for one I can’t tell you which one to choose.
Here’s my advice.
If you’re the type of person who wants to see the big, famous landmarks then choose Stonehenge.
If you’re the kind of person who can imagine what things were like way back in 2500BC and wants a more intimate experience then choose Avebury.
Avebury takes some creative thinking and a wild imagination since the stones are spread out.
Yet it is intimate since you can see the stones up close and actually touch them.
If you’re a tactile person then Avebury is for you.
Do you want to be more wowed by big stones clustered closer together?
Then Stonehenge is for you.
And if you can do both…
Then do so.
They’re equally impressive.
And both Stonehenge and Avebury were important to the ancient people of this land.
I also find that it is interesting to compare them.
Both have their upsides
And both have their downsides.
Whatever you decide — if you’re a fan of ancient sites — you can’t go wrong with either one!