STONEHENGE AND A BATH

Since it has become apparent we are going nowhere this year, we decided to at least reminisce about one of our fun adventures of the recent past. If you have a chance next year, you may wish to stop at these famous places outside of London.

THE Great Charter, by Rich Paschall

There are many tour operators in London.  Besides the trips they offer around town, you can go out on a day trip that will take you to one or more famous places.  On a previous visit to London, I took the day trip to Oxford, then on to Warwick Castle, and finally to Stratford on Avon.  Shakespeare was not home when we arrived at Stratford, but we saw his boyhood home anyway.  These trips last all day so you need to be ready for an adventure of up to 12 hours.

While you can reserve a tour at many locations in central London, we chose to book in advance before we left on our journey.  A visit to visitlondon.com and other tourist sites will link you to the leading tour companies.  We picked the Stonehenge and Bath tour and saved a little by buying in the USA and taking our vouchers with us.  Once in London, we received an email saying our trip was canceled but they would upgrade us to the Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Bath tour for the same price and on the same day.  There was an additional entrance fee at Salisbury we did not have to pay, so we gained good savings.

The modern charter buses pick up at various hotels around town and take tourists to a central location, where you board your particular tour bus and head out of town.  We got a slow start due to traffic but made our way on the road to Salisbury Cathedral.  We knew little about it but learned a lot from our guide who explained everything to the group in both English and Spanish.

Salisbury Catherdral

Salisbury Cathedral

The first thing we noticed was the size of the structure.  The spire is the tallest one in Great Britain at 404 feet.  While the church was finish in 1258, the massive spire was added later and finished in 1320.  It would have long since toppled without additional supports over the centuries, including tie beams designed by Christopher Wren in 1668

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The tall nave is impressive in length, with tombs filling the spaces between many of the columns.  The Diocese of Salisbury has been in existence since the beginning of construction in 1220.  The building houses one of four remaining copies of the Magna Carta, agreed to by King John and rebellious Barons in 1215, basically a peace treaty.  Unfortunately, the agreement was not honored by either side initially, but it did lay the basis for English laws in years to follow.  No pictures are allowed of the ancient document and it is protected in a small enclosure you can enter for viewing.  A full translation of the Latin document is nearby for the true historians.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Just 8 miles north of Salisbury is the iconic Stonehenge.  While it is thought to date back to 2000 BC, it could in fact be somewhat older.  There is a mound containing burial sites around it which dates back hundreds of years before the structure.  In front of that is a ditch that is clearly visible above.  No, they do not let you cross the mounds or go into the center, except for four times a year.  At the summer and winter solstice and Vernal and Autumnal Equinox.  If you are a Neo-Druid or Pagan that may be your time to go.  You can get rather close on one side at any time.

The locals are unimpressed with our visit

The locals are unimpressed with our visit

Yes, there are sheep in the valley alongside Stonehenge.  It just seemed to fit appropriately in the countryside.  A parking lot that was formerly close by the stones has been moved in order to restore the view. A visitor center opened in 2013 which is near the highway and well away from the structure.  You can walk up the road to Stonehenge, but take the visitor’s shuttle.  It is a long walk.

Bath, England

Bath, England

From there it was back on the bus to travel another 38 miles out to the town of Bath, Somerset.  Much of the architecture of the town is distinctive in its golden-colored stone.  From the spot above (on the extreme right) we entered into the ancient Roman baths.

Ancient Roman bath

Ancient Roman bath

Dating back to 60 AD it is a popular tourist spot now.  Fed by hot springs to this day, the waters are quite warm. While they advise tourists not to stick their hands in the calcium and sulfate ion rich, and possibly disease-laden (dangerous amoeba) waters, people do it anyway to see just how hot it is. The site itself is a treasure trove of artifacts from Roman times. A slow tour of the facility is worth your time.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Nearby the Roman baths is the Abbey dating from the early 16th century.  While we got to see the building from several angles, there was no time to stop inside.  We were approximately 97 miles from London at this point and ready for our long trip back.

Our original intent had been the two stop trip in order to allow enough time at each place.  The three stops this far out of our origin meant there was little time to explore, especially in Bath where we truly just ran out of time.  Nonetheless, we were glad to see Salisbury for its architectural and historic significance.

The tour provided lunch on the bus in order to save time, but some heavy traffic, even in the off-season, slowed us down considerably. An alternative plan would have been to take the train from Paddington station in central London to Bath and catch a tour bus to Stonehenge from there.  Since our visit to the three stops was relatively brief, it is safe to say we would not mind a longer visit to each one.  Perhaps we will return someday in the future when worldwide travel returns without the restrictions now in place.

Related: Heathrow Express
Take The London Underground
A Tourist View Of England
London Calling



Categories: Architecture, History, Rich Paschall, Vacation

Tags: , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. My six weeks in England, we went to all the same places except the Roman palace. Also, this was 1979 and there had been graffiti on the stones, they they were fenced off AND Westminster Cathedral (London) was closed for repairs. We spent a lot of time in the White Tower, reading the walls. Lots of writing on the walls! We drove all over the island, up into the heights of Wales and down to Land’s End. Quite a trip. I really loved those Gothic cathedrals. Such incredible stonework!

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  2. When I visited Stonehenge in 1972, walked right up to it and embraced one of the stones. I felt I had come home. There was nothing to stop one from touching them in those days. I understand they are now fenced off? It’s a magical place.

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    • It’s not a fence actually. They have a low chain that goes around the outside to show how far back you should be. You will see it is very hard to notice in the pictures because it is so low. You could easily step over it but I think there was a tour guid advising you not to do it. It is visible in one of my London Calling pics.

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    • In 1979, it was REALLY fenced off. The graffiti had a lot of people very upset. They didn’t keep the fence up very long, but it made it out of bounds for me. We did get to spend time on the Tor at St. Michael’s, the gate to Avalon. That swamp has long since been drained and sheep graze there, but up on the Tor, a strong wind is forever blowing. It’s very strange and Glastonbury Cathedral is particularly special.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I did not see the inside of as many churches as we did on the France and Germany trips. There were so many things to see, my friend prefered to move on rather than go inside. Salisbury was one of the exception because we were on a guided tour.

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  3. An interesting day out, but, as you have discovered, you really need more time to explore these wonderful places!

    Liked by 1 person

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