Grand Tour of Great Britain-Stonehenge and Salisbury

Last morning in Bath. It's Thursday October 19, 2017 and we're up early for our drive to Stonehenge. Bags in the lobby at 7:30 a.m. and we depart at 8:30 a.m.. We want to beat the crowds at the stones.

Any This is Spinal Tap fans out there? I watched this video before we left the hotel in Bath.

I guess I would have to say this is one of the most debated places on Earth. Who put the stones here? what is their purpose?  et cetera, et cetera.

What is known is that Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 ft (4.1 metres) high, 6 ft 11 in (2.1 metres) wide and weighing around 25 tons. The stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.
"Heel Stone", "Friar’s Heel", or "Sun-Stone" lies north east of the sarsen circle, beside the end portion of Stonehenge Avenue. It is a rough stone, 16 feet (4.9 m) above ground, leaning inwards towards the stone circle. Known by many names in the past, including "Friar's Heel" and "Sun-stone",  at summer solstice an observer standing within the stone circle, looking north-east through the entrance, would see the Sun rise in the approximate direction of the heel stone, and the sun has often been photographed over it.

A folk tale relates the origin of the Friar's Heel reference. The Devil bought the stones from a woman in Ireland, wrapped them up, and brought them to Salisbury plain. One of the stones fell into the Avon, the rest were carried to the plain. The Devil then cried out, "No-one will ever find out how these stones came here!"

A friar replied, "That’s what you think!", whereupon the Devil threw one of the stones at him and struck him on the heel. The stone stuck in the ground and is still there. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable attributes this tale to Geoffrey of Monmouth.

In the visitor center, they have many displays of artifacts and depictions of what the circle may have looked like over time.

They even have a display to see if you can move one of the stones.

In addition to the stones, the area is surrounded by ancient burial mounds.

Some have been discovered as recently as July of this year. Neolithic Burial Mound Uncovered Near Stonehenge

So while Rob Reiner and crew may have poked fun, there is still some serious research being done on this very strange location that captures humans imagination.

We're back on the coach with many question floating around in our heads. We're making our way toward Salisbury

Our main stop is Salisbury Cathedral.

If I wasn't already a fan, I'm becoming a serious one of gargoyles. In architecture, a gargoyle  is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to move water from the roof and away from the side of a building preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between.

Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm. A trough is cut in the back of the gargoyle and rainwater typically exits through the open mouth. Gargoyles are usually an elongated fantastical animal because the length of the gargoyle determines how far water is directed from the wall.

I prefer to think of them as a way to ward-off evil spirits.

Once inside the Cathedral, we meet our guide, Gordon, who will show us around for about an hour. We are introduced to the Medieval Clock. Built in 1386, it's the world's oldest working mechanical clock. It has ticked over 4.4 billion times since it was built.

We're all impressed by the William Pye Font that was installed for the 750th Anniversary of the cathedral.

The Father Willis Organ is pretty spectacular too.

Salisbury Cathedral also houses on of the four original Magna Carta manuscripts (photography is not allowed in the tent that houses this document dating back to 1215.)

From the Cathedral's website:
Magna Carta (Latin for "Great Charter") is one of the most celebrated documents in English history.

At the time it was the solution to a political crisis in Medieval England but its importance has endured as it has become recognised as a cornerstone of liberty influencing much of the civilized world.

Only four copies of Magna Carta dating from 1215 have survived the ravages of time and Salisbury Cathedral is proud to be home to the best preserved original manuscript. Elias of Dereham, priest and steward of the archbishop of Canterbury is thought to have brought Salisbury's copy of to Old Sarum in the days following the events at Runnymede and it has remained in the Cathedral’s care ever since.

Housed in our exquisite Chapter House, seeing Magna Carta presented in our family friendly interactive exhibition is a highlight for many visitors.

The responsibility of owning and interpreting Magna Carta is important in shaping Salisbury Cathedral's future objectives to this day.

(Walking past this very old manuscript gave me chills.)

After a quick bite to eat at The Refractory Restaurant, (I had the bacon and cheese pannini-it was delicious) we're back on the coach and racing towards London, hoping to beat the afternoon traffic.

We pass Twickenham Stadium where the Arizona Cardinals will be playing the LA Rams on Sunday Oct. 22 (but the game is SOLD OUT!)

We arrive at the Hilton Kensington and check into room 3089

We look up local pubs and hit The Central Bar (another JD Wetherspoon) about 5 minutes walk from our hotel. For under seven pounds I get a Curry Club chicken korma dinner and a pint of Dark Side of the Moon.

Loads more photos from Stonehenge and Salisbury: CLICK HERE

Tomorrow we'll be visiting Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, we might catch a glimpse of the Queen.

Grand Tour of Great Britain with Go Ahead Tours

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