UNESCO World Heritage Site #189: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Site #189: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
UNESCO World Heritage Site #189: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage property is internationally important for its complexes of outstanding prehistoric monuments.

It comprises two areas of chalkland in Southern Britain within which complexes of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments and associated sites were built. Each area contains a focal stone circle and henge and many other major monuments. At Stonehenge these include the Avenue, the Cursuses, Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, and the densest concentration of burial mounds in Britain. At Avebury, they include Windmill Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues, the West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures, and important barrows.

Stonehenge is unquestionably one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. There are few people who can’t immediately recognize it from a photo. It is often placed on lists of world wonders and was even commemorated in song by Spinal Tap.

The actual site of Stonehenge wasn’t quite what I expected. There is a road which passes surprisingly close to it, but you never actually see it in photos. Also, the impression of large megalithic blocks is somewhat toned down by the fact that you can’t actually get close to the stones anymore. You can only walk around the structure at a distance.

As I write this in December 2012 they are in the process of replacing the current visitor center and removing the road which passes by. By 2014 the entire area should be green pasture with the visitor center about a mile away, out of sight.

Stonehenge can easily be visited by day trip from London. You can often find trips that will take you there for £30, not including admission.

Overview

The Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites is one of the most recognizable tourist attractions in England. It is also a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its prehistoric and archaeological value. It was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1986.

The Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites is a group of prehistoric megalith monuments. It is considered as the most important monument of its kind in the world. According to archaeological experts, these megaliths have been dated back to c. 3700 and 1600 BC. The megaliths are associated with the funerary and ceremonial practices that were done in Britain during the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

About Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites

The Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites comprised of two major land areas that are located within 30 miles from each other. The first site is the famous Stonehenge, while the second location comprised within this World Heritage Site is the Avebury and associated sites.

It is therefore important to look closer into each location to have a better understanding of these cultural monuments and their heritage value:

Stonehenge and Associated Monuments

The Stonehenge monuments are one of the most significant megaliths in the world, but also for the culture and heritage of England. It is located in South Wiltshire and spans up to 26 square kilometers in land area. The prehistoric monument of the Stonehenge is the main feature on this WHS. The ownership of this monument is divided between various organizations including the National Trust, Wiltshire Council, and the English Heritage.

There are various monuments included within this component of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites. These monuments include the following: Stonehenge, Stonehenge Cursus, Woodhenge, Cuckoo Stone, Coneybury Henge, King Barrow Ridge, The Lesser Cursus, Vespasian’s Camp, Stonehenge Landscape, Robin Hood’s Ball, Bluestonehenge, and more.

The associated monuments in Stonehenge represent the most architecturally sophisticated stone circle from the prehistoric times. This also represents the highest concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments found in England. There are several burial mounds and a processional route within the axis of this complex of monuments. In fact, some experts claim there is an astronomical character to how these structures were built.

Avebury and Associated Monuments

The Avebury associated monuments were dated back to the 2600 BC. It also holds the same level of importance as the monuments found within Stonehenge. In particular, this component of the World Heritage Site features 3 prehistoric stone circles (one of them is the largest of its kind in the world). The main stone circle is measured at 331.6 meters in diameter.

The monuments that belong to this part of the World Heritage Site are as follows: Avebury Henge, Windmill Hill, Beckhampton Avenue, West Kennet Avenue, The Sanctuary, West Kennet Long Barrow, and the Silbury Hill.

Tips for Visitors

Want to visit the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites in England? Here are some tips to help you prepare for what is to expect:

  • The site is located in a far-out part of England. The closest town is Salisbury and the site itself is about 30 minutes away. Be prepared for a long drive.
  • For conservation purposes, tourists are not allowed to get too close to the monuments. A rope encloses the perimeter of the monuments in order to deter curious tourists. The closest you can get to the monuments is 15 feet. The restriction followed after studies reveal that the soil beneath the stones is of fragile nature. Hence, UNESCO and the conservationists at the site wanted to reduce activity around the surface.
  • There is a car park available for the ticket holders who visit the Stonehenge. There is also a visitor center near the area.
  • Winter is considered as the best time to visit. Also, as a bonus, the entrance is free during the winter and summer solstices.
  • The site is open daily from 9:30 AM to 7PM from March to October. Meanwhile, from October to March the opening times are shorter from 9:30 AM to 5PM.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.