Updated: Nov 14, 2020
I stumbled across Windmill Hill while visiting the not so hidden Wiltshire site of West Kennet Long Barrow. On the sign at the entrance, they had all the local ancient sites on a map and it included Avebury, Silbury Hill, Sanctuary...all places on the tourist trail that I had visited many times before. But then I saw reference to Windmill Hill and realised that it had never entered my consciousness before. What is it? Where is it?
Windmill Hill is a neolithic causewayed enclosure which dates back to 3,800 BC. Apparently it is the largest of its kind in Britain. The only reason I can surmise as to why it is not so well known is that you can only really reach it on foot, and it is almost two miles from Avebury - a good 40 minute walk. But it is also fair to say that the site is not that dramatic from ground level.
As you walk up the slope you can clearly see a barrow towards the middle, but from the air you can clearly see the classic signs of a neolithic settlement and some of the views into the surrounding countryside are spectacular. You can also look back across to Avebury and Silbury Hill and get a real sense of the scale of the settlements in this area. While much of this land is open countryside, something was going on in this place thousands of years ago that caused plenty of humans to settle here and build communities.
The walk up here on a warm summer evening was pleasant and afforded great views back to Silbury Hill and across to Cherhill Down. The bright yellow colour of the rapeseed was evident across the wider landscape which made the walk a photographers dream. It was also solitary, as not another soul was encountered on the way there. I wonder if this would have been the case if I had made the same walk 5,000 years ago or would this have been a bustling trade route?
If you want to get off the beaten track in this ancient part of Wiltshire and see something a little different from the famous sites, a walk up to Windmill Hill will reward you. It will take you off the tourist trail and deeper into the surrounding landscape while still being deeply connected to the neolithic history.
While you can drive close to Windmill Hill the roads are narrow and primarily for locals and farm vehicles. I would recommend parking in Avebury and walking. The site is about 2 miles north west of the village, with clear paths and sign posts along the way.