Beyond Stonehenge: 5 Other Amazing Henges

Stonehenge may get all the attention, but there are some other incredible prehistoric earthworks around the UK. Let’s take a tour.

Henge Stones at Avebury Stone Circle

The biggest stone circle in the world at Avebury.

WOODHENGE

Just a couple of miles from its more famous, stone-made sibling lies Woodhenge, which dates back to the "Beaker culture" - a stretch of the Neolithic era named after the pottery cups that its people drank from. If you visit Woodhenge expecting to see massive ancient wooden structures you'll be disappointed: the wood has long since gone, and Woodhenge was only discovered as late as 1925, when aerial photographs revealed circles of holes which had once held wooden posts. These holes are now filled by concrete markers.

Rather eerily, the body of a child was found buried in the heart of Woodhenge, its skull split into two. It raises the possibility that Woodhenge was the site of a child sacrifice. The child's remains were taken to London were they were later destroyed in the Blitz.

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AVEBURY

Going by size alone, Avebury is even more impressive than Stonehenge for the simple reason that it boasts the biggest stone circle in the world. Not only that, but this immense circle encloses two smaller circles, and there's also a long "avenue" of paired stones leading out from the henge to another Neolithic site called The Sanctuary.

Unthinkable as it sounds now, much of Avebury was uprooted and destroyed by local people over the centuries. In the Middle Ages, Christians began to associate it with Devil worship and pulled some of the stones down. Things got even worse as late as the 18th Century, when local villagers decided to smash up the ancient stones to use as building materials. One aghast observer famously described Avebury as having "fallen a sacrifice to the wretched ignorance and avarice of a little village unluckily plac'd within it."

KNOWLTON CIRCLES

The Knowlton Circles feature more than one henge, and the best preserved is known by the distinctive name of Church Henge. It is a standard earthwork consisting of a ditch enclosed by a bank ditch (which is the kind of formation that technically defines a henge), but what makes it unusual is the church that sits right in the centre, like something from a fairy tale.

The henge at Knowlton Church.

The henge at Knowlton Church.

The earliest parts of the church date right back to the 12th Century, and its curious position in the heart of the henge makes Church Henge symbolic of the evolution in Britain from pagan culture to Christian worship. The church was altered over the centuries and remained in use until a few centuries ago, when the roof finally fell in and it was abandoned. It's since gained a reputation as one of the most haunted sites in Britain.

KING ARTHUR'S ROUND TABLE

The most colourfully named henge of all has to be King Arthur's Round Table in Cumbria. Evocative, yes, but tourists shouldn't expect any dramatic or picturesque remains of Camelot here. In fact, despite its evocative name, King Arthur's Round Table is one of the more subtle henges, with not a standing stone or ruined church in sight.

Instead, it's a simple ditch-and-bank formation, part of which has suffered the indignity of being intruded upon by the A6 road. Evidence suggests there were a few standing stones in the henge until the 17th Century, but they've long since gone. All we have now is an oval imprint of a perished culture, and it certainly has nothing to do with King Arthur, predating the legend of Camelot by thousands of years.

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands.

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands.

RING OF BRODGAR

It sounds like something out of Tolkien, and the Ring of Brodgar lives up to its name. An icon of the Orkneys, this monument features a large circle of narrow, jagged standing stones that look rather dramatic to the eye. Adding to its intrigue is the fact that excavations haven't taken place within the circle, so there may still be secrets lurking in the earth.

Pedants may point out that since the Ring of Brodgar doesn't have an outer bank surrounding its ditch, it's not a "true" henge. It's generally referred to as one, though. Incidentally, Stonehenge itself is also not a true henge, despite the fact that the word "henge" - as the category name of certain earthworks - was inspired by the name of Stonehenge...