Stand in awe at Stonehenge
Stonehenge was something I had always wanted to see. And I can say I saw it a few times during my working holiday in London. But I remember the very first time, sitting in the bus, nervous. It appeared in the distance and got bigger and bigger and as we drew near all I could say was “Wow”. It was so mesmerising as it stood there, in the middle of a field. Stonehenge really is as impressive as it looks in pictures. As it is one of the most-photographed attractions in England, it’s no wonder why so many people want to visit Stonehenge. In this post, you will find all the information you need to plan your visit to Stonehenge. I hope you will be as mesmerised as I was!
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What is Stonehenge – A brief History of Stonehenge
Stonehenge has always intrigued me. I mean, how did they do it? And why? How did they move such heavy stones? What’s it’s significance? Well …. Stonehenge has been estimated to have been built around 3100BC, some 4,500 years ago. It is so hard to imagine how people from that time were able to put the mammoth blocks of stone, most pieces being around 13 feet high, 7 feet wide and weighing around 25 tons in to such an inspiring circular form. But I guess that is part of the mystery of the place. History points to its use as a burial ground which was backed up by human bones that were excavated from the site in the 1900s. However, it is also believed to have been a Druid Temple and it is seen as a place of worship and rituals by present day Druids who celebrate the summer and winter solstice. Due to its historical value, Stonehenge was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. You can find out more about Stonehenge when you visit.
Where is Stonehenge
About an hour and half’s drive west of London is Stonehenge
Stonehenge is in Amesbury near the town of Salisbury in Wiltshire. That is about 80 miles west of London. It takes about an hour and hour to get there if you are driving from London and about the same if you are catching the train. Being relatively close to London makes Stonehenge an easy day trip from London. Or, you can turn it into a weekend trip and visit other towns that are close by such as Salisbury and Bath. I think it is one of those places you shouldn’t miss out on while visiting while the UK on a holiday, on a UK working holiday or visiting the UK as part of your work and travel abroad adventures. I think you got the picture – it’s a must visit when in England.
How to Visit Stonehenge
There are a number of ways to visit Stonehenge easily on a day trip. I recommend booking a bus tour as I think it is an easy option. Your ticket will include you being driven to Stonehenge, your entrance fee and then be driven home. This is the way I first went there. But you can also rent a car and drive there yourself by taking the M3 and then A303 roads. The second time I went to Stonehenge, a group of friends and I rented a car and drove. It was our first time driving in the UK and was a little scary until we were use to the road signs and the traffic! And you can also catch the train to Salisbury train station and from there take the Stonehenge Tour Bus which drops you off at the Visitor Centre. Check out some of these bus tours.
What to do at Stonehenge and how long to spend there
There are really only two things to do at Stonehenge. The first is to walk to the stones making up Stonehenge and admire them and take photos for as long as you like. Yes, the walk is interesting. As Stonehenge is such a popular place to visit a carpark and visitor centre was built. They are built on the other side of the freeway from Stonehenge to cope with the large amount of visitors. So Stonehenge is accessed by walking about a mile (1.6km) through a tunnel under the highway. There is a shuttle bus leaving every 5 minutes if you are feeling lazy. But you won’t be disappointed as you exit the tunnel.
Unfortunately due to erosion from the weather and the large number of visitors, Stonehenge it is roped off from everybody. If you wanted to run and dance around the stones and touch them, well you can’t, security guards ensure that. Though during summer and winter solstice and with special organised permission you can get closer. Even so, just being in the presence of Stonehenge is something to experience. It is easy to spend a couple of hours just looking at and wondering about this magnificent monument.
The other thing to do is visit the Stonehenge Visitor Centre. Here, you can learn all about the history and other facts of Stonehenge through interactive visual presentations. There are also ancient artefacts to check out before recharging in the café and maybe buying a souvenir in the gift shop. But it is actually when you stand in its presence that makes the visit well worth your while. All in all, you will probably spend a couple of hours at Stonehenge.
A visit to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre is well worth your while!
Get your Ticket for Stonehenge beforehand
Tickets to Stonehenge are now managed on a time-entry system. That means, in order to get in, you must request a time. It is open between 9.30am to 5pm. Most people suggest to visit just after the site opens around 10am and then later in the afternoon around 3-4pm to avoid the crowds during the middle of the day. This is particularly advised during the summer months when then are more visitors.
An entrance ticket currently costs £23.30 for adults and £11.40 for children. During peak times, there’s also a £5 parking fee. If you walk up without a reservation, expect to pay a few pounds more as well. Check out the website English Heritage to book a time and book a ticket in advance to jump the queues.
See Stonehenge for Free – SShh don’t tell anyone!
For those of you thrifty people and who are driving a car you can see Stonehenge for free. Go to Willoughby Road, Larkhill, Salisbury and drive to the bottom of the road where you will find a Stonehenge sign. Walk down the pathway which will probably say it is closed / no access but they are referring to cars. Walk on and get a free view of Stonehenge. The road may be hard to find parking as many budget travellers choose this option. But sshhh, don’t tell anyone about this because it is meant to be a secret!
Where to Stay near Stonehenge
As I mentioned the first time I went to see Stonehenge I went on a bus tour. The second time I visited, some friends and I rented a car and made a weekend of it by including a visit to Bath. If you want to make a weekend out of your visit to Stonehenge you can. As Stonehenge is out in a field there is no accommodation available in walking distance. Your best bet is in the town of Salisbury which is about 9km away. This is where I stayed for the night before heading to Bath. A couple of places I can recommend include St Annes Guest House which is only only 900m from the centre of Salisbury and includes a great breakfast. The second place is Victoria Lodge also close to the centre of Salisbury. The nearest youth hostel is 62km away from Stonehenge and unless you are driving it will take quite a while to get there. But surprise, surprise, it is called Stonehenge Youth Hostel. You can find accommodation as you travel around however, I appreciated having somewhere to go to after a long day of sightseeing. To find other accommodation options check out Booking.com.
No matter how you intend to get to Stonehenge I am sure you will stand in awe of it just like I did. It truly is a spectacular British icon that you must not miss during your time in the UK whether there on a holiday or working and travelling. If you have been to Stonehenge or are planning a visit I would love to hear in the comments following.