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Off the beaten track - The ladies of stone

Dicembre 2015
Il più noto è Stonehenge, ma in Inghilterra esistono più di un migliaio di siti simili: Avebury, the Merry Maidens, the Ring of Brodgar, solo per citarne alcuni. Inutile dire che vale la pena visitarli tutti, magari durante i solstizi...

di Luke Philips © British Council

File audio:

Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Speaker: Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)

Everyone knows Stonehenge. Another stone circle, Avebury, is less famous, but what is interesting about it is that a village has grown up around the stones, unlike Stonehenge, which stands alone. Avebury and Stonehenge are just two of about 1,300 stone circles all over the UK.
Many of them are in fantastic locations, like Castlerigg in Cumbria, from which you can see England’s highest mountain; and the Ring of Brodgar in the beautiful Orkney Islands, off Scotland’s northern coast.


Some of them are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and several have local stories connected to them. For example, the Merry Maidens in West Cornwall is a group of 19 stones. According to the story, they were young women – maidenswho were turned into stone as punishment for dancing on a Sunday. This story shows some of the effects of Christianity on the UK’s earlier religions in the fourth and fifth centuries AD.


Early historians thought that the stone circles were temples for the Druids, the priests of people who arrived in the UK in about 500 BC. Later research has shown that they are far older than that. Stonehenge could have been built 5,000 years ago, but it’s still not as old as the wooden circle built nearby about 10,000 years ago. Experts believe they acted like calendars and have shown that some stones line up with sunrise or sunset on the longest and shortest days of the year. Others believe they were burial sites for the local rich and powerful.


We may never know their original purpose, but each one leaves the visitor with a strong sense of the shortness of our existence in the sea of history. There are groups of stone circles and other prehistoric monuments throughout the British Isles, so wherever you are staying, you should definitely include at least one in your tour.

Find out more at: www.stone-circles.org.uk

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1,300. 1.300. Al contrario che in Italia, nei paesi anglofoni si usa la virgola come separatore delle migliaia e il punto come separatore decimale (es.: 1,234,567.89).

AD. Dopo Cristo. AD sta per Anno Domini. Avanti Cristo si dice BC (Before Christ).