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Mystery and the Magna Carta

Mystery and the Magna Carta

Today’s last Back Roads Touring ‘Heart of England’ adventure was one we were all excited about. We set off early from Bath and headed out across the Salisbury Plain towards mysterious Stonehenge. Dating back to 3100 BC and a time when there were only about 20,000 people in Britain, there are many theories and debates surrounding just how and why this stone circle was built. One of the few things known for sure is that we had begun to master agricultural skills at the time when Stonehenge was constructed. Evidence strongly suggests the stone circle functioned as a calendar of sorts, to help determine the best time to reap and sow the land. It is quite incredible to witness the precision of the stone cuttings, given that they would have been designed using only tools available in the stone age.

Interested in more? Here’s a short clip from the BBC on the building of Stonehenge:

 

The site is a spectacle to behold, and we were fortunate that the sun was shining on the famous scene for us this morning. Once we’d all wandered around the site – inspecting it as directed by our handy audio guides – we left the growing crowds behind, driving not too far down the road to the pretty city of Salisbury.

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This city is particularly famous for its cathedral – evidently the most painted of all the cathedrals by artists of the 19th century. Its iconic spire is the tallest in Britain, and the cathedral is home to one of only a few original copies of the Magna Carta. Just imagine, what must it have been like nearly 1000 years ago when some of these cathedrals were being built? Some towns would have even sprung up because of the work! Has anyone seen or read Pillars of the Earth?

It’s a particularly interesting and historical stop on the tour, and aside from the cathedral, Salisbury itself also boasts numerous other amazing museums, old churches and buildings to explore if time permits.

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Our final stop of the tour was Windsor Castle. This particular attraction actually ended up being one of the key highlights of the trip for me and several others in our group. Preferred residence of the Queen, and a place where the royal family has been residing for many many years, Windsor Castle is brimming with spectacular rooms, relics, art, photographs, weapons, memorials and history that has been a long time in the making.


Unfortunately the Queen wasn’t there to greet us this time around – evidently her car was stuck in mud on the way back from Wales (it has been raining a lot here this week)! Ideally take at least a day to navigate the whole property properly, especially if royal history interests you. I was particularly fascinated by St George’s Chapel, a beautiful gothic structure that still regularly hosts religious ceremonies but is the burial place for many of England’s past leaders including Henry VIII who lies beside his ‘favourite’ wife and mother of his only male heir, Jane Seymour. The other highlight was Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House – spectacular, vast and apparently the largest dolls’ house in the world; and I quite enjoyed seeing a special photographic exhibition presented to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year.

Overall this journey was fun, interesting and absolutely highly recommended. Thanks to Back Roads Touring UK, Escape Travel Australia, and our terrific guide for this particular trek, VJ, for a truly enjoyable four-day adventure through England’s historical heartland.

 

VIEW IMAGES HERE / and HERE.

WHERE: Stonehenge, Salisbury, Windsor Castle.

HOW: Back Roads Touring UK and Escape Travel Australia.

STAYED: Lancaster Gate Hotel, London.

 

Ticking off the ‘bucket list’ – Stonehenge

Ticking off the ‘bucket list’ – Stonehenge

I wasn’t sure how this year would pan out regarding New Year festivities. We didn’t have anything planned, and usually because of this disorganisation, New Year’s Eve ends up being a little uneventful. Also, this time last year we were on a holiday in the UK and went to a fantastic concert to celebrate. It was like being in my world in 1997, but better…

Back to the present though: we woke up on Friday morning and didn’t even realise it was New Year’s Eve. For some reason we had it in our minds that Saturday was ‘party day’, so in our wisdom booked a day trip outside of London for Friday. You would think the date ’31st’ would ring bells, but no… As we were getting ready for our early morning start though, we did notice all the NYE news stories on television and it hit us – THIS was it! The last day of the year. How time flies. This time ten years earlier I had been celebrating with my mate Lauren at Disneyland in California, my first overseas adventure.

Feeling somewhat silly about our lack of preparation, we headed off for our trip. I was particularly excited to finally be seeing Stonehenge, and as it turns out, ticking an item off your Bucket List is a pretty memorable way to see in a brand new year. Those less enthused refer to it as ‘a pile of rocks’, but I’m far more respectful. This is an ancient monument, brimming with legend and history dating back to mythical King Arthur times, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to see. In fact, we were walking around marvellous Stonehenge at the moment our family and friends in Australia were celebrating their midnight hugs and kisses, and it was somewhat surreal to be Tweeting, texting and Facebooking them all simultaneously.

We also explored Salisbury and beautiful Bath during this tour – our second on Golden Tours which offer a range of terrific travelling options in and around London. The reason we chose a tour was because it actually turned out to be more economical (and convenient) than jumping on a train to Bath, or hiring a car and driving. If you’re travelling within the region, check all your options first.

Tired on our return home, but still keen to do something for New Year, we ended up venturing out into the cold to catch up with some Aussie and Kiwi friends who were enjoying celebrations at Bumpkin Restaurant and Bar in Notting Hill. From there, the night turned into one of those impromptu fun parties that ran until the wee hours. Still recovering, but thank God for the Bank Holiday tomorrow!

Cheers to an awesome 2011! S x

Stonehenge Sarah Blinco