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Bed and breakfast availability
Amesbury b&b, guesthouse and hotel accommodation

Amesbury in Wiltshire

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Visit Amesbury and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:

Amesbury, Wiltshire. Two and a half miles west of Amesbury is Stonehenge. There is nothing quite like this awe-inspiring monument anywhere else in the world, yet at first sight it is curiously disappointing, probably because it is set on a plain so vast that in comparison the stones at first seem insignificant. It is only when man stands close to the stones that he seems so puny in comparison and it is hard to imagine how centuries ago, with only primitive tools to help them, men could possibly have placed these huge boulders into position.

First to be seen are a bank and a ditch some 100 ft from the stones. Inside this earthwork is a circle of some 56 holes, some of them marked with chalk. These were discovered by John Aubrey in the 17th century and named after him, but at no time did the holes contain stones.

The ancient doorway to this site was formed by the so-called Slaughter Stone, now fallen, at the entrance to the earthwork. About 100 ft outside the entrance is a large stone known as the Heel Stone. Both are sarsens, a type of sandstone boulder.

All this work belongs to Stonehenge I, or the first phase of building, which took place in the late Neolithic period somewhere around 2000 B.C., but little is known of its purpose.

Between about 1700 and 1600 B.C., during Stonehenge II, about 80 blue stones, brought over by sea from the Prescelly Mountains in Pembrokeshire, were placed in two concentric circles with the entrance at the north east. This work was never quite finished, but the stone avenue, leading from the entrance to the Avon and enclosing the Heel Stone, also belongs to this period. It probably marks the route by which these stones were brought on to the site. This was all the work of the Beaker Folk, agricultural invaders from the Continent. They settled peacefully here and were given their names from the pottery vessels they used.

Stonehenge III started soon after 1600 B.C., during the Bronze Age - a rich and successful time for those who lived then. At this time the blue stones were moved and about 80 enormous sarsen stones were dragged here from the Marlborough Downs. These were formed into the outer ring of large uprights, linked together by capping lintels, some curved. Others were made into an inner horseshoe shape, consisting of five trilithons - a trilithon consisting of two upright stones topped by a lintel.

During the second phase of Stonehenge III, from about 1550 to 1400 B.C., an oval of blue stones was placed inside the horseshoe of sarsens and included two small blue-stone trilithons. A sandstone block, named the Altar Stone, was brought over from Milford Haven, dressed, and then placed in the centre. Outside the sarsen circle two circles of holes were dug but never filled, since for some reason the whole project was then abandoned.

The third phase of Stonehenge III took place in about 1300 B.C., the oval of blue stones being then arranged into a horseshoe shape, consisting of some 19 stones which still stand. Meanwhile, a circle of blue stones was also placed between the sarsen horseshoe and the outer sarsen circle.

The whole history of Stonehenge covers a period from about 2200 B.C. to 1300 B.C., but exactly why it was built remains something of a mystery. A great many theories have been advanced. But one fact is certain. The axis of Stonehenge was carefully aligned with the sunrise on 21 June, the longest day in the year. Lately it has been discovered to be an extremely sophisticated arrangement; but, to oversimplify, it seems that, among other purposes, Stonehenge was built in order to calculate the annual calendar and seasons. It was, in spite of popular belief, nothing whatever to do with the Druids, since they arrived in Britain long after Stonehenge was completed. Nor is there any proof that the Altar or Slaughter stones had anything to do with human sacrifice.

Whatever its use, to build Stonehenge must have required an enormous and disciplined labour-force, working over a long period and using primitive tools for such exact work as curving the lintels and carving tenons in the uprights to slot exactly into the holes made in the lintels to receive them.

For a long time it was thought that the Bronze Age builders of the later period must have had connections with the Mediterranean civilizations. This has been confirmed by the discovery of carvings of axe heads and of a dagger on sarsen stones. The axes were of a kind exported from ireland to the Mediterranean between about 1600 and 1400 B.C. and the dagger's counterpart has been discovered in the graves at Mycenae in southern Greece.

Near Stonehenge are prehistoric barrows of various shapes. About 2 miles north east is Woodhenge. It consists of a large circular bank with a ditch inside, inside this ditch are six concentric rings for holes. Remnants of wood were found in these holes, which led to the theory that this was once a roofed building supported on wooden posts. However, little remains today.

Nearby attractions: Stonehenge

Nearby cities: Salisbury

Nearby towns: Andover, Devizes, Pewsey, Tidworth, Warminster

Nearby villages: Allington, Cholderton, Enford, Figheldean, Fittleton, Great Dumford, High Post, Lugershall, Orcheston, Over Wallop, Shrewton, Tilshead, Upavon, Winterbourne Stoke

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Accommodation in Amesbury:

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Fairlawn House
Fairlawn House... more than just a B&B. A fine Georgian Grade II listed town house. Offering good old-fashioned service in lovely surroundings and at a reasonable cost. The Fairlawn is conveniently situated 2 miles from historic Stonehenge and just 8 miles away from the Cathedral City of Salisbury. The house has free wi-fi internet access.