Visited on June 28, 2011.
On our own accord, we took a single-day tour organized by Premium Tours to see the following sites: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath with a traditional English lunch in Lacock Village. Our guide took us to the sites, briefed us on the history of the place, and gave us suggestions on the points of interests we should not miss. For the rest of the time, we were on our own.
The weather during our visit was quite cloudy, so the pictures were not as nice. We were lucky that there was only a light drizzle at Windsor Castle.
- Windsor Castle (Windsor, UK)
- Stonehenge (Amesbury, Wiltshire, UK)
- Lacock Village (Wiltshire, UK)
- Bath, UK and the Roman Baths
Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK
Our first stop was at one of the British royal family’s residences. Tickets cost £16.50 each for adults. Windsor Castle is regarded as “the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world” (via official website). Here you can explore the State Apartments to see the royal collection of armor, weaponry, jewels, and riches; Queen Mary’s Doll House, St. George’s Chapel where 10 monarchs are buried, including Henry VIII; and the Drawings Gallery. We were able to go to the three of the major sites, except for the Drawings Gallery.
I was quite impressed by the Chapel; its long history is very clear by the memorials from different time periods.
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK
Considered one of the seven ancient wonders of the world,Stonehenge was established since 3000 B.C.E. and evolved in appearance until 1600 B.C.E. The structure is constructed of bluestones imported from Wales and designed to be aligned with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset—when the stones light up, it is said to be an awe-inspiring sight. The purpose, however, remains unknown albeit the many theories ranging from a sacrificial altar to the burial of the elite in a clan. Clearly, there are multiple purposes for Stonehenge. See this article for a summary of the theories.
While listening simultaneously to the audio guide and taking pictures, we observed the grandeur of the prehistoric monument. There are two layers of the circle of stones: the inner layer of bluestones that surround the altar stone created prior to the outer layer of tall, standing stones (called Sarsen stones) that make up the present appearance. It is hard to imagine that these stones were borne overland from 150 miles away and were worked on for several thousands of hours. We were unable to view the stones up close—it would have been nice to see how the size of man compares to the height of one of those stones. Perhaps Stonehenge is a reminder of just how frail the living world is compared to stone’s longevity. Due to this longevity, many poets, such as Layamon from the 13th century claims the stones have healing powers:
The stones are great
And magic power they have
Men that are sick
Fare to that stone
And they wash that stone
And with that water bathe away their sickness
— Sacred Sites on Stonehenge
Stonehenge is located in Amesbury, Wiltshire. Tickets cost £7.50 each for adults. During midwinter or summer solstice, it is said to be one of the best times to visit– to see the awe-inspiring sight of the stones bathed in the cool light of the sun and their outlines sharply defined against the sky.
Lacock Village, Wiltshire, UK
Enjoying the English countryside in Wiltshire should not be missed on one’s visit to England,UK. Lacock Village is noted for the Lacock Abbey (est. 1232 by Ela, the countess of Salisbury) and the home of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), the inventor of the photographic calotype process.
We stopped at the village for a hearty English lunch at the St. George Inn. We had many options, such as fish and chips; vegetarian rice, and the Wellington beef. I chose the latter and was impressed by the combination of the flaky pastry that came with the beef.
After lunch, our guide commented that Lacock was the filming site for many productions, including Pride and Prejudice (BBC 1995) and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2008). Without a doubt, the peaceful atmosphere of the medieval village buildings invoked memories of the English literature novels read for school and pleasure. It would have been nice if we had more time to explore the village’s curiosities.
Located southwest of London in the county of Somerset, Bath is named for the baths established by the Romans who resided there. Driving through the city, one can see famous landmarks, such as one of the residences of Jane Austen and the Pulteney Bridge. The architecture is heavily influenced by the classical Roman style—arches, fountains, and pillars. The most famous attraction is the Roman Baths (Aquae Sulis). The baths were built in second century A.D. around a Sacred Spring that also contained a place of worship—the Temple of Sulis Minerva. However, in the sixth or seventh century, the temple collapsed leaving only the foundation of the baths intact. The baths still remained in use by the British, as shown by the building of the King’s Bath in the 12th century. It was clear the British followed the Roman tradition of bathing for well-being and health.
The famous landmark is at the entrance: the Great Bath, which you can see from the terrace lined with 19th century statues of Roman governors of Britain, Roman emperors, and military leaders. Below, one could explore the sprawling ruins of the Great Bath and the Temple of Sulis Minerva as well as other rooms for changing and saunas.
As a place of worship, many objects were found at the bottom of the Sacred Spring and were identified as offerings to the goddess. Most of the objects found were Roman coins, curses (rolled messages inscribed on lead or pewter), and metal pans (paterae) containing holy water. A great find was the bronzed gilded head of the goddess. The museum found on the lower level houses many artifacts discovered during the evacuation. Visual projections of the daily lives of the Romans of Aqua Sulis further illustrate how bathing and religion were central to life.
We were unable to explore the rest of the city due to time constraints. We celebrated the remaining time we had with ice cream at the local shop.
After returning to London with our guide close to 8PM, we realized that we could have simply taken a bus or train to these places. The tour was about £77.00 per adult. Quite expensive but it included the lunch at Lacock Village, which was quite commercial now considering the “must see” Harry Potter filming site. Our guide did not go with us to all the attractions and did not give much commentary at the Stonehenge site or Roman Baths. It would be nice to return to Bath for a second time to fully explore the city and get a closer look at Jane Austen’s residence.
Bath and North East Somerset Council. (2011). Roman Baths. Retrieved from http://www.romanbaths.co.uk/
English Heritage. (2011). Stonehenge. Retrieved from http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/
National Geographic News. (2008, May 29). Stongehenge Was Cemetery First and Foremost, Study Says. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/05/080529-stonehenge-cemetery.html
National Trust. (2011). Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum & Village. Retrieved from http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-lacockabbeyvillage.htm
The Royal Borough of Windsor. (2011). Windsor England—Windsor & Maidenhead Tourist Information UK. Retrieved from http://www.windsor.gov.uk/
Sacred Sites. (2011). Places of Peace and Power – Stonehenge. Retrieved from http://sacredsites.com/europe/united_kingdom/stonehenge.html
Wikipedia. (2011, August 11). Lacock. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lacock&oldid=444288134