Travelogue: Day 10 - Sunrise at Avebury, Beacon Hill, Watership Down, and Sunset at Stonehenge

Tuesday, July 26

We had set our alarm for 4:30 am to catch the sunrise and mist on the Avebury Stones, but George went to turn on our camera, and nothing! We had snapped away the night before, went in to shortly recharge before sunset, and went back out and shot a ton more pictures, but there was nothing this morning. We hoped it was just the battery. We had already been leaning toward NOT going to Bath as it was an hour backtrack and not on our "must see" list.  (Jane Austen lived there for nine weeks and hated it there.) Also, we did not feel like going back to a busy town with lots of tourists after being in the country and loving it!  So, that would give us some time to go to a camera shop in Swindon to troubleshoot the problem. 

But first, it was Avebury Stones with the iPhone! It made me wish I had purchased the iPhone lenses from Photo JoJo! Anywho, the iPhone did pretty well. Here is a video of the midst as the sun rose on the stones:

We came back to a great vegetarian English Breakfast (only difference was no bacon and veggie sausage instead of meat sausage). It was a lovely room with antique furniture throughout:

After a luxurious shower for George and bath for me with HEATED towels (not having to head off to Bath to beat the tourists had its advantages), it was off to Swindon. We would love to say that the Swindon camera shop could help us, but it was a short in the camera and NOT the battery. Oh well, first world problem. We walked away disappointed, but we had the iPhone 6 camera. Then we looked at each other and said, "Let's buy a little bit higher end point and shoot" so we bought a Nikon Cool Pix. It was great. Nothing can compare to a mirrorless Fuji, but it is a First World problem and no use crying over a shorted camera! (We only got two drops of rain on it before we put it back in its holder the night before. Plus, it is a water-resistant camera.)

Since we had skipped Bath, we made it early to Newberry and did the hiking we had hoped to do before our Highclere Castle entry on this day. The view of Highclere Castle from Beacon Hill (856 feet) was great and worth the straight up hike. The grave of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered King Tut's Tomb, was on top. He died of a mosquito bite shortly after the tomb was discovered. Beacon Hill is also the site of an ancient hillfort built around 1000 B.C. that was inhabited by 2-3000 people. There are only marks left now. 

After this we hiked up to the site of the Watership Down Warren! There is a tree up there dedicated to the author who is still alive and lives in the area! We went to the side that caused you to go on a one lane road which is scary. I had originally planned to go to a parking lot on the other side and hike from that direction, but this involved a much shorter hike so it was nice. The area to the south contained all the farms and creeks described in the book. How fun!

The three miles down the hill on the one lane road was NOT FUN, and George put up with my stress and gasps when cars would come from other directions! 

After this, we went into our room at the Carnarvon Arms. We missed the lunch by five minutes (even though their literature says they serve food there all day). This hotel used to be the stables for Highclere Castle. We were in the new wing they built a year ago. The room was adequate but overpriced with no breakfast and the worst bed we slept on our whole trip. The toilet in the bathroom also ran into the sink. For something new, it was pretty poorly designed, but it was close to Highclere, and the place I wanted to stay at The Yew Tree Inn was full when I booked in February. 

Since we couldn't eat there, we decided to go to Stonehenge and eat there. That was the easiest driving we did. The "A" roads were great. We got to Stonehenge at 5 pm. We were joining the "Inner Circle Access" at 7:20, but that allowed us to go during general admission time where no one can go inside the circle so we could get pictures sans people walking through it. By the time we finished the exhibition piece and ate some food, most of the tourists were coming back from Stonehenge, and there was only four people on our bus! (The other two were also going on the Inner Circle Access, and we found out at the end that they were from Oregon, and he had gone to Oregon State!) Great time to go! By the time we finished looking at Stonehenge, there was hardly anyone there. Score!

Stonehenge is worth seeing. I wouldn't skip it if you are close. If you don't want to pay, there is a public access road that you can park on and then walk to the fence. You cannot see it from the other side however. We saw a couple climb the fence, but the attendant quickly apprehended then, and the girl LIED about having a ticket! 

The Inner Access tour was totally worth it! There were 30 of us, with about ten being a "handfasting" wedding ceremony. It is a pagan tradition, and the woman wore a wedding dress. I talked to the person doing the ceremony on the bus. I guess there is something very special about doing it at Stonehenge. Traditionally, the couple's hands really were tied together (where we get the phrase "tying the knot") for a whole year. Then, they decided at the end of the year if they really wanted to stay together. 

We are so glad we did this. What an inside look, and the security guy, who brought us out and made sure we didn't touch the stones, was a wealth of knowledge! We loved it, and it is totally worth the extra money. I booked it before they even advertised it, and there were only nine spots left!

The easy trip back was marred by the fact that the main highway leading right up to our hotel was CLOSED for the night, and we had to take a detour for an HOUR over much smaller roads to get to it. Our Google maps brought us back to the road closure so we asked one of the road crew that we were lost because we were not from here. He said to turn off our "Sat Nav" (what they call Google maps and GPS devices) and "Just follow the yellow diamonds." It was an adventure, but we made it and had a drink at the bar to celebrate getting home safely!

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