Tuesday, May 22, 2007


It has been a long time, but I needed a clear head to write about the place!

While I was in the UK, I was pulled inexplicably to Stonehenge – I do not know what these old ruins had for me – but I did decide to go!

There are a lot of options to choose from, rent a car and drive to Salisbury, take a train or take a tour! I did think of the tour and then decided, I would rather do this on my own!

I researched the net, booked tickets on the net from Slough to Reading, then onto Bath Spa (which was also on my agenda) and then on to Salisbury. I had booked the tickets a week in advance and got it at a steal for £22!

So off I went on a bright, warm and sunny Sunday morning after I had a hearty breakfast! Went to the station, got into the train to Reading and then changed there for a train to Bath Spa where I changed again for one to Salisbury! The train journey is scenic and while going from Bath Spa to Salisbury, one can also see the famous White Horse carved into the chalk hillside above the village of Uffington.

Anyways, I reached Salisbury in Wiltshire, which is a small quaint village. Salisbury is on the banks of the River Avon, where the main attraction is the cathedral. The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest specimens of medieval architecture. This is also one of the few cathedrals that was built in one go, with the only subsequent addition being the tall spire, which is the tallest in England.

I walked my way to the town square, a very nice 10 minute walk where you can see a variety of shops selling knick-knacks. Specialist shops mingling with the best in high street brands set in beautiful medieval timber framed buildings are the norm. I then got some grub at Subway and then walked my way back to the station, where I took the Bus tour of Salisbury and Stonehenge.

The tour conductor was very knowledgeable with a dry sense of humor; unfortunately, he had an audience of only 10 people – some Chinese folks from Seattle who moved to England, some American kids and yours truly!

We drove through the city, with the conductor giving us an overview of the city of Salisbury, The bus drives us through the city, via the Old Sarum. Old Sarum is where the original city of Salisbury was formed. The Celts built a hill fort called Sorviadum which translates to “Fortress by the Gentle River”, during the Iron Age. It was then taken over by the Romans and then the Saxons. The Norman William the Conquerer was a frequent visitor to the site after the Norman conquest. During medieval times, the Bishop built the cathedral and the town then moved to the New Sarum or the Salisbury, we now know.

We reached Stonehenge and what a visual sight it was on a glorious Sunday afternoon – Words will fail to describe it and here I am giving it a shot anyway! It is the most important prehistoric monument in Britain.

Stonehenge that exists today is the final stage that was completed 3500 years ago! The first Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising of a ditch and the Aubrey holes. Excavations have shown that the holes contain remains of human bones – though it was for some religious ceremony and this is conjecture as we do not have any proof around the same.

The stones themselves were brought from the Preseli Mountains in Wales, some of them weighing as much as 4 tons and are thought to have been moved using rollers. It is amazing to know that the stones traveled around 200 miles to reach its final destination! They were arranged in an incomplete double circles. The next stage was the arrival of the Sarsen stones, most likely from Avebury some of them weighing around 50 tons! How these stones were moved is simply too difficult to imagine considering the people of the time did not have too many instruments! These were then arranged in outer circle.

The last stage was when the blue stones were arranged in the horseshoe shape, the remains of which we can see today.

The place evokes a sense of magic, and I wonder why it was built, what was it used for, why had people across almost 1000 years expended so much energy, money to build it? The magic for me is the fact that it was built, though we don’t know why and I guess it is this mystery that keeps the magic alive!

Went back to Salisbury and then on to Bath Spa – Will be the next blog!

One place that I can check off my must-see-in-my-life list!


Anonymous said...

There is no town in England called Bath Spa, it's just simply Bath (though it is of course named after the spa there).

I'm glad you enjoyed the henge, it is a very special place, it evokes strong feelings in all who travel there, as a Briton, it holds a very special place in my heart.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, knowledgeable and well written article. Please write about the places you continue to visit.