The Great Stones Way is a fairly new route across Wiltshire in the UK which takes in some of the county’s most spectacular ancient sites. It has been set up as a walking route but with three children in tow we decided that this 36 mile route was way out of our comfort zone to walk and we decided to get behind the wheel and follow the route which took us from an ancient hill fort to Stonehenge, visiting more stone circles and white chalk horses along the way.
Exploring The Great Stones Way
When Hyundai lent us their new IONIQ Hybrid to test out for the weekend it seemed like the perfect vehicle for our family road trip. This route (map for our itinerary is featured below), takes in some of the best ancient sites in Wiltshire, if not the whole of the UK.
The first stop on our journey was Barbury Castle, just south of Swindon and once an impressive Iron Age hill fort but today all that remains are the indentations of its foundations. Climbing the hill fort takes around ten minutes. My kids loved walking past the grazing sheep as we climbed. It is incredibly atmospheric and you are rewarded with the most incredible scenes from the top with beautiful views across the Marlborough Downs on clear days.
Built around 700BC, Barbury Castle was the site of a huge battle, where Cynric defeated the Britons in 556AD. There’s something still about this little hilltop shadow, where the ditches and ramparts tell of stories of lives come and gone. Archaeologists have discovered traces of 40 huts situated within the fort, speaking of a bustling, busy community.
Barbury Castle is situated on the ancient Ridgeway route with ramblers constantly puffing past. We were pleased to stride to the top, call out greetings to the resident sheep, walk the route of the foundations and get back in to the warmth of the car.
Cherhill White Horse
Since we were nearby we decided to call in and see the classic Cherhill white horse which stands proudly on the hill sides near to Cherhill village. This is the second oldest of Wiltshire’s eight white horses carved in to prominent hills and created in the 1780s. The kids loved stepping out and looking up at the horse and wondering about how it had been created.
Avebury Stone Circle
Our next stop was to Avebury Stone Circle, for me the most atmospheric of all the stone circles.
Avebury really is one of the greatest treats of prehistoric Britain. It is simply wonderful to look at and best of all, unlike Stonehenge, it’s somewhere you can really get up close to the stones.
Built in the Neolithic period, between 2850 BC and 2200 BC it is an incredible ceremonial site in a series of circles, banks and a henge. It is the largest stone circle in Britain, originally containing 100 stones, with smaller circles within. It really is spectacular.
Avebury is somewhere we love to come to as a family as it just feels special. Even the village itself is worth a wander for its old world charm.
The drive between Avebury and Old Sarum is so beautiful, past almost impossibly picturesque rivers with crystal clear water and families of ducks drifting past.
Another great stop off on route in Marlborough, in itself another gorgeous English market town and the perfect place to stop overnight if you’re doing the trip over two days, or just stopping in for some food.
Stonehenge is one of those places that you know you have to see but you are never prepared for how amazing it actually is until you get there. That first sight of the stones is just so evocative.
The whole site is wonderful, with recreated Neolithic houses showing how life would have been lived at the time of the creation of the stone circle.
You can also have an attempt at pulling a stone yourself. Which is no mean feat.
Then there’s the stone circle. Stonehenge is one of those places that really will make you miss a breath. The stones stand so proudly and firmly and absolutely beautifully. At every turn you can see them in a new angle which looks even more beautiful.
Old Sarum is another stop which is just so evocative, you can feel the history in every stone and ditch.
This is somewhere you can clamber up the ramparts and trace the great stone walls as you imagine 2000 years of history. You can see the foundations of the original Salisbury Cathedral and walk the steps up to the site of one of William the Conqueror’s castles.
This is the perfect place to let your imaginations run free, with great descriptions around the site so you are able to bring it alive. It is also wonderful to look out and see the spire of the modern day Salisbury Cathedral and the surrounding, bustling town that replaced Old Sarum.
Old Sarum is the final stop on The Great Stones Way and is the last site of the ancient and evocative landscape which tells its tales of amazing English history. Salisbury is very close by and a beautiful town in its own right and worth ending up in for some food at the end of your journey.
Travelling The Great Stones Way in the Hyundai IONIQ
We loved this car, our six-year-old kept declaring, “I love our new car” and we didn’t have the heart to keep telling him it was going back.
It was packed full of family friendly attributes including a really spacious boot that easily took all of our luggage.
The kids loved the heated seats in the back (as did I in the front) and as it was a particularly chilly April weekend we all made good use of them. I was impressed to see there was also a chilled seat function for balmy sunny days.
The car made for a very comfortable ride too, with the automatic offering an impressive turn of speed, with this twisting hilly route proving to be no problem for the IONIQ Hybrid.
We loved the big screen sat-nav which helped get us to all our destinations on our trip along The Great Stones Way and also the charging points throughout the car meaning I could easily plug in my phone to recharge it and use my playlist to give us some music to help the journey along.
I love the rear cameras which make parking a breeze, giving a visual picture of what is behind as well as an audible one, beeping clearly when you get close to an object such as another car or the curb.
I also really like the in built safety elements where there was a blind spot detector as well.
The Great Stones Way – Map
If you would like to travel The Great Stones Way we have put together an itinerary for our route below:
Ancient Route Road Trip series
This post is part of a series about exploring ancient routes by car. Check out the other posts in the series and follow the hashtag #HyundaiAdventures over the next few weeks for more great road trip routes.
Mums do Travel explored The Pilgrims Way by car.
The Family Adventure Project shares their Lake District road trip A Hard Knott Road Trip: Lake District Scenic Drive from Fell to Coast.
My Travel Monkey writes about A Four Day Trip Exploring Dorset and the Jurassic Coast.
MummyTravels followed an historic East Anglia road trip.
Disclosure: Hyundai lent me an IONIQ Hybrid for this trip and compensated me for writing this post. We received free entry to Avebury and Old Sarum for the purposes of this article. All words, images and opinions are my own, as ever.