Avebury Ridgeway walk
Ranger's highlight: "This walk is great for birdwatching. If you walk down the West Kennet Avenue at dusk you stand a good chance of seeing a barn owl - look up in the day and you will be likely to see red kites riding the thermals."
Along the way
It is hard not to be impressed by the Neolithic Avebury henge when you remember it is over 4,500 years old and the chalk would have been dug out using only deer antler picks and that it was once much deeper (30ft/9m) and with steeper banks (13ft/4m). The double line of stones at West Kennet Avenue was once a ceremonial route joining the henge with a timber circle at Overton Hill. The stones at Avebury are huge, the largest weighing at least 100 tonnes, the heaviest in Britain. They are formed of a hard, grey sandstone known as sarsen, often used in building.
Avebury National Trust car park
From the National Trust car park follow the signs to the henge and stone circle. Turn right into the High Street, enter the stone circle via the first gate on your right and follow the curve of the huge sarsen stones and the ditch. Cross the road and head right along the fence line past the bank and trees. Go through the gate and cross the road into the West Kennet Avenue.
This part of the Avenue was excavated by Alexander Keiller in the 1930s. He re-erected the stones, putting markers where he found holes that once held stones that had been broken up and taken away for building.
At the end of the re-erected part of the Avenue, cross the road and follow the footpath straight ahead. Look out for the sole remaining stone of Falkners Circle in the hedgerow on your left. Continue on this footpath until you reach a crossroads.
Turn right and walk uphill along the track. As you gain height, looking across the valley, you'll be able to see the top of Silbury Hill. Stay on this track until it meets the well defined track that is the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway was set out in the 18th century when the downland was split up into fields. The use of this route along the high ground extends much further into the past.
Turn right for a short detour to explore Overton Hill barrow cemetery (Seven Barrows). The chalk burial mounds date from around 4,200 years ago and are called barrows. Some of the best preserved are on Overton Hill. Nineteenth-century landowners planted trees on top of some of them - you can see why they are known locally as hedgehogs. See if you can spot the grassy remains of a Roman road running across the field. Retrace your footsteps along the Ridgeway.
Continue along the Ridgeway until you meet the junction with Green Street. Turn left along here, heading downhill. Green Street was once the main road from Marlborough to Bath. It's also known as the Herepath, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning army road.
Passing through the banks of the henge, go through the gate on your right into the north-east sector of the henge. Cross the road at the gateway behind the giant Cove stones to explore the north-west part of the henge.
The steps down from the henge bring you into the Old Farmyard. Turn left for the footpath back to the car park, or turn right to explore the Museum, café, shop and Avebury Manor. The displays in the Alexander Keiller Museum will explain more about the archaeology you have just visited.
The Old Farmyard, Avebury
You made it
Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.