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The best of British rock – pitching up at Stonehenge

October 16, 2012
by Laura Canning | destinations

Stonehenge on stage. Not to scale. There have been many dubious claims over the centuries about just what Stonehenge is meant to be. Built sometime between 3500 and 1500 BC by three different prehistoric cultures, the purpose of the stones has long been debated by those of us with too much time on our hands.

It was probably originally built as a solar temple, but no-one seems to know what else it was used for in later years. A calendar? An ancient place of healing? A burial place? Somewhere for hippies to dance around under a full moon or during a summer solstice? Or maybe – our favourite – built to be the centuries-later source of mighty humiliation to the mighty Spinal Tap on stage ? We shall never know.

Except…it seems that Stonehenge might have been an art gallery . Yup, you read that right. According to a new study, one of the greatest and most mysterious manmade structures on the planet may have been a place where ancient types could muse over etchings and say they don’t know much about art, but they know what they like.

Recent 3D laser scanning of billions of points on the monument has uncovered 72 previously undiscovered Bronze Age carvings on five of the stones, from when it was used as a solar temple aligned on the summer and winter solstices. The stones used were positioned to reflect sunlight during the solstice, so the carvings are likely to have been added deliberately to double the site up as a gallery. Take that, Tate Modern.

The discovery means that Stonehenge is now the site of the biggest collection of prehistoric rock carvings in Britain, something that we think merits a visit even if hippy-like dancing around the stones is frowned upon on these modern times. You can visit Avebury too. And several other Wiltshire wonders including Old Wardour Castle, Salisbury Cathedral, Lacock Abbey, several Iron Age forts and climbing to the top of St Alfred’s Tower at the Stourhead estate. Here’s where to stay for a rocking Wiltshire break:

Glamping pod, Stonehenge Caravan Park Stonehenge Caravan Park : This is the nearest motorhome and touring site to the stones, with tent pitches also available. It’s open all year round, welcomes dogs and student groups, and has wifi. Pitches are available with or without electric hook-up, and, there’s a glamping pod available here too from £25 a night. Other pitches start from £10 a night.

Mill Farm Glamping : Collect your own eggs for breakfast? Yes please. Mill Farm near Devizes has luxury three-bedroom lodges with living and dining area, kitchen with wood-burning stove and a covered veranda with table and chairs, as well as a separate toilet and shower cabin on the rear deck of each lodge. There’s wifi available on site and free farm tours. Lodges sleep up to six, with unlimited car parking included, and start from £401.50 for four nights.

Alpaca Yurt Holidays: Stay in a luxury yurt at this Cricklade site on the edge of the Cotswolds – complete with a herd of forty alpacas. The Peruvian yurts sleep up to four and come with bedding and towels provided as well as a goodie basket, kindling and logs for the wood burner. Yurts have private decking and there’s a fully-equipped private kitchen area for use – although you can also have a full English breakfast delivered to your door. There’s 25% off until October, with four nights’ stay available for £197.50 for up to four.

You could also nip across the border to explore Dorset and Hampshire along with Wiltshire with pitches at the family-oriented Ringwood-based Shamba Holidays from £22 a night, or tuck yourself away in the forest at Hillside Campsite in Wimbourne, from £12 a night. But Stonehenge is definitely a must. Let there be rock.