DAYTRIP FROM SALISBURY: STONEHENGE AND AVEBURY
A sunken colossus amid swaying grass and indifferent sheep, Stonehenge stands unperturbed by winds whipping at 80km per hour and legions of people who have visited for over 5000 years. The monument has retained its present shape since about 1500 BC; before that it was a complete circle of 7m-tall stones weighing up to 45 tons. Though fantastical attributions of Stonehenge’s erection, ranging from Merlin to extraterrestrials, have helped build an attractive mythology around the site, the more plausible explanation Neolithic builders using still unknown methods is perhaps the most astonishing of all. You may admire Stonehenge for free from nearby Amesbury Hill, 22km up A303, or pay admission at the site. (01980 624 715. Open daily June-Aug. 9am-7pm; mid-Mar. to May and Sept. to mid-Oct. 9:30am-6pm; mid-Oct. to mid-Mar. 9:30am-4pm. 54.40, students £3.30.) For those looking for less touristy stone circles, the neighboring megaliths at Avebury are a good alternative. With stones that date from 2500 BC, Avebury’s titans are older and larger than their favored cousins at Stonehenge. Wilts & Dorset buses (336 855) connect from Salisbury’s center and train station, and run to both sites (#3, 5, and 6; round-trip £4-6). An Explorer ticket (£6) allows travel all day on any bus.
A place of pilgrimage and an architectural masterwork, Bath (pop. 83,000) has been a must-see for travelers since AD 43. In 1701, Queen Anne’s trip to the springs re-established the city as a prominent meeting place for artists, politicians, and intellectuals, and the city quickly became a social capital second only to London. No longer an upper-crust resort, today Bath now plays host to crowds of tourists eager to appreciate its historic sites and still-preserved elegant charm.