For tourists, the most iconic vision of England is probably split between Big Ben, the Tower Bridge and Stonehenge. Locals often refer to the 5,000 year old pre-historic monument as simply “a pile of rocks”, but for visitors, historians, and entomologists, it’s so much more.
History of Stonehenge
Although the actual monument of Stonehenge is thought to have been completed around 1600 BC, there is archeological evidence that suggests that the plains surrounding the site were occupied since as far back as 8000 BC.
It wasn’t until 1965 when a British-born astronomer by the name of Gerald Hawkins discovered the astrological significance of Stonehenge. He found (and wrote in his book Stonehenge Decoded) that the principal alignments of the site pointed towards the extreme positions of the rising and setting of the sun and moon on the horizon.
He concluded that Stonehenge was a megalithic astronomical observatory with an accurate calendar based on the movement of the sun and moon in the sky. Since then, the site has been considered a place of great historical and spiritual significance for many people.
There’s no denying that Stonehenge is a moving sight to behold. The enormous rocks strategically placed and stacked, bring many questions to mind.
How did they lift such heavy stones without the use of modern machinery?
How were they able to place them so strategically to match the solar and lunar movements throughout the seasons?
Why was man so enthralled with the sun and stars and how were they able to make such accurate calculations of the seasons through the placement of such stones?
Once at the site, you will be given an audio guide to bring the “pile of rocks” to life. You’ll soon feel the majesty of the place and perhaps understand why so many spiritual people flock here for spring and fall equinoxes.
How To Get There
As this article is “A Road Trip To Stonehenge”, you probably guessed how we got there. Getting to the site by public transport isn’t easy and ends up costing more than splitting a rental car between a few people.
By renting a car you’ll get there much quicker, you won’t have to pay for a taxi to wait for you at the gates and you’ll be able to combine your visit to Stonehenge with a trip to another town or two.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of driving (especially on the left hand side of the road), then Tourist England run daily tours to Stonehengefrom Central London and you can check them out at TouristEngland.com. Their basic shuttle bus goes directly to and from the site and prices start from around £41 per person. They also offer a fully guided day tour to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath.
If you don’t want to do a road trip, you can try to get there by train or bus. Usually those who want to go by rail will take the train to Salisbury Station, from where it’s a 9.5 mile taxi ride or walk to Stonehenge.
There used to be direct buses to Stonehenge but for some reason they have stopped running. You would now need to join an organized tour to get directly to the site by bus. If you do take public transport, you’ll have to combine it with a taxi ride to and from the site.
It is wise to purchase your tickets from the English Heritage Website before arriving at Stonehenge as there are only a limited number of passes available for walk-up visitors.
The last entry permitted into the site is 2 hours before closing time. Members of the National Trust & English Heritage can enter the site for free. The site is closed from December 24 – 26 every year.
|Stonehenge Admission & Opening From April 2015 – March 2016|
1 Jan – 15 Mar
09.30 – 17:00
16 Mar – 31 May
09.30 – 19:00
1 Jun – 31 Aug
09.00 – 20:00
|Family Ticket †||
1 Sep – 31 Dec
09.30 – 17:00
Your entrance ticket will get you through the gates and onto a shuttle which will take you to and from the site from the visitor’s center. You’ll also receive a complimentary audio guide available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, Dutch and Swedish.
The visitor’s center itself is worth a few minutes just to read up on the history of Stonehenge and the surrounding settlements before hopping in the shuttle and heading to the monument.
Most visits take between 90 minutes to 2 hours.
A trip to Stonehenge and the surrounding landscapes is best combined with a visit to Salisbury to the south and Avebury to the north.
This stunning 5,000 year old cathedral town and world heritage site is well worth a visit. Set just 15 km south of Stonehenge, it makes for the perfect stop on the way to the site when coming from London or Brighton.
You can walk (or drive) around town and check out the Salisbury Cathedral. Also don’t miss Old Sarum – located on a hill over the city, this incredible site has evidence of occupation in Salisbury dating back to 5000 BC.
Just 31 km north of Stonehenge, Avebury makes for another great stop on a Stonehenge road trip. It’s worth noting however that it would be difficult to see Avebury, Stonehenge and Salisbury in one day.
If you do make your way to this famous Wiltshire village, check out the prehistoric processional avenue of West Kennett – a row of stones lead for two kilometers from the south-east quadrant towards the Sanctuary on Overton Hill (also worth a visit).
A road trip to Stonehenge is a quintessential England vacation experience and a visit to the United Kingdom just wouldn’t be complete without exploring this neolithic pile of rocks and the surrounding plains and villages.
Rent a car and make a day of it. It will likely be the highlight of your trip to the UK.
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