4 Stone Circles More Hipster Than Stonehenge

Stonehenge is great and all, but it definitely has its drawbacks. As one of the wonders of the ancient world, it comes with a lot of prestige—and a lot of tourists. Though new facilities at the site are doing a better job breaking up the crowds, you still have to get up pretty early if you want the place to yourself. And no matter what time of day you’re there, you won’t get access to the stones themselves unless you’re one of the first 20,000 people to arrive on one of the solstices.

But what many Americans don’t realize is that there are around 1300 stone circles in the British Isles and Brittany. Which mean you have a lot of options! So if you’d like to put your hands against a stone, or stand in a ring with only the howling wind and maybe a few lambs, check out one of these sweet alternative stone circles.

1. Avebury (Somerset)

Avebury is only a stone’s throw away from Stonehenge. This stone circle is massive—so massive, in fact, it encompasses the better part of Avebury village. You can actually have lunch at a thatched pub (The Red Lion) inside the stone circle (the mac and cheese is particularly delicious). The stones rest like jagged teeth, large enough to be thrones, around the perimeter of the settlement.

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

If this isn’t Neolithic enough for you, Avebury has a small museum dedicated to its mysterious past. You can see the skeleton of a boy found in the old city walls. Perhaps he was a sacrifice to keep the settlement safe? No one really knows. It’s creepy cool.

Head outside town down a lane marked by ancient pillars made of boulders. Turn right to climb a steep hill. You’ll pass a fairy tree on your way up, its branches decked with ribbons and beads by pilgrims looking for good luck. When you crest the hill, you can see Silbury Hill. Again, no one really knows why it’s there or what it is (I believe the museum speculates it might be a trash heap from the villagers), but it is an impressive sight against the gentle Somerset hills.

Want more cool stuff, do you? Well, just take a left and head for the crest of the hill across the road. That’s where you’ll find the West Kennet Long Barrow, an eerie tomb abandoned to the wind and the rain. You can explore inside (there are a few small rooms to poke your head into). Be sure to take a breather and admire the spectacular view—you earned it, after all those hills.

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

It’s about a mile and a half back to Avebury, but this hike is well worth the effort. Aside from the museum, everything is free. And aside from Silbury Hill, everything is open for you to touch and explore. (Though, of course, do so with respect. You don’t want to invoke an ancient curse on your holiday.)

2. Castlerigg Stone Circle

(Lake District)

Castlerigg Stone Circle is a pleasant hike from Keswick, situated in the Lake District. After a steep ascent through a beautiful wood, you’ll cross pastures as you follow the footpath up. In late spring, the fields are covered in dandelion, and it feels rather like walking through a poem.

A note for the Americans: The first times you encounter footpaths in England, it often feels quite a bit like trespassing. My mom and I were newbies at England when we did this, and several times almost turned back for fear we were in the wrong place. But unless it is clearly marked “no trespassing,” it is more than likely fine for you to walk around. Property laws in the UK are very different from in the US!

At the end of the hike, you emerge on the top of the hill, surrounded by mountains on every side. It is breathtaking. Somehow you feel as if you’re at the bottom of a valley, even though you’re on a hill.

In lambing season, there are tiny lambs hopping on and off the stones, and chasing each other around them. Touch the stones to feel the warmth from the sun hot on one side, and the cool shade on the other. It is a lovely, mystical place.

3. Duddo Five Stones (Northumberland)

Further north, in Northumberland, are the Duddo Five Stones. These stones sit atop a hill in a farmer’s field, though the owner has marked a path for visitors to follow. In their relatively flat surroundings, you can see the stones on the crest from quite a distance, like small fisted hands coming from the ground. These stones have been here for around 4000 years, and you can mark their age in the weathered wrinkles carved across their surfaces.

From within the stone circle, you’ll have a beautiful view of Cheviot Hills to the South and the Lammermuir Hills to the north. You can even see the Eildons in the far distance—three peaks together, surrounded by flat lands—where some legends say King Arthur sleeps.

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

Alyssa Hollingsworth / Own Work

As you might imagine, the Duddo Stones form just one piece of an extensive prehistoric landscape in the area. Poke around online (or grab a local) to find out more about nearby cliff carvings, symbols in stone, and legendary sites.

PAGE 1 OF 2
SHARE ON

Advertisement

A Guide to Glamping

If you’re one of those people who like the idea of being outdoorsy but can’t bear the thought of leaving behind your comfy mattress, tastefully decorated surroundings, and indoor plumbing, then “glamping” might be for you. Glamping is all about combining the fun of camping with the conveniences of home and the hip ambiance of your favorite Instagram celebrity's feed. If you’re eager to try glamping, here’s everything you need to know before you start planning your own relaxing, fun and oh so stylish night under the stars.

8 Essential TSA Tips for Summer Travel

Summer is the perfect time of year to get out there and travel — whether it's within this great country of ours or to an exotic foreign locale and everybody seems to be doing it — unfortunately this means packed airports and long security lines. In fact this year, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) estimates that they will be even busier than usual and expect to see more than 243 million passengers and crew pass through security between Memorial Day and Labour Day.

The World in Chips

Even if you’re an adventurous eater, chances are you tend to stick to your old favorites when it comes to snack food. Everyone loves curling up on the couch with a brew, or a can of soda, and a huge bag of potato chips. Proven favorites like sour cream and onion, salt and vinegar, and barbecue are some of the most popular in the United States, but have you ever thought about what kind of chips people on the other side of the world are tucking into?