I wanted to make my 80th National Trust property somewhere a bit special (for some reason) and I liked the idea of going to Avebury on the winter solstace so that’s what we did today. With a 1hr 45 minutes drive it is a fair distance from Aylesbury, but it’s absolutely worth the drive. I was starting to wonder where all the stones where when we practically drove into a huge one!! The main road runs through the stone circle itself so on the way to the car park you get to drive right through the middle of it which is AWESOME.
There is a NT car park which is £4 all day, but free for members. It’s about 5 minutes walk from the main visitor centre and the circle.
Once we’d unloaded all of the kids from the car and all of their stuff, we decided to get a quick coffee and cake (aka cream tea) before having a look around. Well it wouldn’t be a family day out without a bit of cake! I can happily report back that the scones were very good. The cakes were around £2.50 – £3 each. They are currently in a temporary location whilst the original building is being repaired (the beast from the East destroyed it). There is plenty of seating outside though. One thing I particularly liked is that they have a space in the barn where you can eat your own picnics, or eat food from the cafe with your four legged friends. This was a nice touch.
We decided to go into the manor first. On the way they have a “cosy” dovecote which is full of hay bales and blankets so you can snuggle up and have a rest. It’s just one of the many things about Avebury that was pleasantly unexpected. There is also a small museum in the stables with lots of archaeological exhibits. Just to warn you, one of these is the skeleton of a 2/3 year old child which my middle child didn’t like the idea of. There were also a couple of other bones that the kids were allowed to hold which was just the start of the hands-on exhibits the day was to hold.
I knew that pushchairs weren’t allowed in the manor itself so I had brought the carrier with me, but I didn’t realise that there is nowhere indoors that you can leave them so it had to stay outside. They are prepared for this and have covers you can borrow which was very handy. You can leave large bags in a secure area though.
The house itself was restored in conjunction with the BBC and so, unlike most NT properties, you can touch pretty much everything! Having spent years reminding the kids that they have to be careful what they touch, it was such a novelty for them to be able to explore fully. There are no chairs you cannot sit in, you can open drawers, sit on the beds and touch the equipment and exhibits. The staff within the house were fantastic – they were all very friendly, informative and keen to show the kids all of the things in each room. We had a game of snooker, ground some coffee, had a read in the 20’s lounge and a nap in Queen Anne’s Bedroom.
Each room has been set up to represent what it would look like it would have done during the times of the various occupants. There’s a Tudor dining room and bedroom, Georgian dining room etc. It’s fascinating to see all of the different rooms and their contents. Being Christmas, each room also celebrates Christmas in a different way and throughout the house there is the story of St Nicholas. We’ve done a few NT Christmas decorations this year and I think this has to be my favourite. It was all very festive yet understated.
There is a playroom which has been re-branded as the Elves’ workshop which is full of classic toys the kids can play with and big cushions they can sit on a read one of the many books . There is also Santa’s den where he sits and checks all the letters from children and you can add your name to the nice list (just in case there was any doubt it was already on there). They also had this lovely sign that I need to find my own version of.
The house was a real treat but our original reason for going was to explore the standing stones themselves. There are huge earthworks and within those are various stone circles. The upright stones were bigger than I was expecting but it’s really cool that you can walk right up to them and touch them. The land around the stones has lots of sheep grazing to maintain the grass so there is a LOT of poo everywhere. Something to bear in mind if you have very small kids – make sure you take wellies even in summer. It’s also worth noting that the terrain isn’t remotely pushchair friendly. If you want to explore the stones and earth works properly there are lots of steps, bumps and slopes – I wouldn’t have been able to take the smallest child if I hadn’t had the carrier. It was incredibly windy when we went but it’s such an open space I imagine it’s quite often breezy up there. You can climb up to the top of the earth works and walk around the perimeter which gives awesome views across the landscape. Because of the ever present sheep poo you can’t really have a picnic within the stones, but there are plenty of benches near the old farmhouse and cafe you can use.
It’s a lovely space to let the kids run around and explore and there are various sections to the circle throughout the village. Certain areas are closed intermittently to help stop erosion but you can still walk the entire route.
Dogs are allowed to walk within the circle but they must be on leads due to the livestock. There are a couple of little shops in the village and a pub as well. There is also the on-site museum which is quite small but, unfortunately, it was closed when we visited due to the high winds.
We had a really good, surprising day which turned out to be a lot more than I thought it would be!
Entry to the stone is FREE.
Manor – FREE for NT members. £22 for a family ticket (winter prices)
Museum – FREE for NT and EH members. £12.10 for a family ticket (winter prices)
On-site FREE for NT members, £4 per car otherwise.
Address – near Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN8 1RF
Cafe on-site. Their scones were good. Picnics allowed – and there is an indoor space you can have them in as well. I’m not sure I’d want to have a picnic in the stone circle though, there are quite a lot of sheep (and therefore quite a lot of sheep poo) around.
A couple within the village and more near the cafe. Decent baby change.
Rating – 5 / 5
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