London — By Andy Hayes on February 27, 2011 at 8:00 am
Filed under: attraction, day trips, history, top-feature

What’s Stonehenge Like in Person?

During your visit to London, hopefully you will have an opportunity to visit one of the great wonders off the world, Stonehenge (map).  Located on a flat plain near Salisbury, the site is an easy day trip from London and in fact can be combined with a trip to other quaint villages in the area.

People often ask me what Stonehenge is like in person.  Well, without trying to ramble, here are a few things you might find of interest:

  • A major motorway was built within earshot/eye shot of Stonehenge.  Incredibly poor foresight, yes.  They tried to bury the roadway in a tunnel, which proved to be took expensive.  So much for your quiet, mystical experience.
  • You can’t normally get anywhere close to the stones.  See the above photo – touching is not possible, nor encouraged.  BUT you can get one of the tour operators who have access to sunrise or sunset tours – and this allows you to get into the inside circle.
  • Yes, it will likely rain on your trip – it seems to be a very wet place anyway.  But I didn’t mind – in fact, I felt the dreary, overcast nature really added to the ambiance.
  • There is a small gift shop/info center which I didn’t find to be all that impressive.  However, it does have a large painted mural which shows how the site would have looked in pristine condition, which is super-interesting.
  • No, there are no sparks or magic explosions when you touch the stones (if you’re on an inner-circle tour).  However, the site is on a convergence of ley lines, which means you may feel a sensation of a magnetic pull.

Your experience may vary.  However, I don’t mean to be a downer.  The stones themselves are just as dramatic as you can imagine. Well worth the trip.

Facts & Figures

I’d like to explore a few facts and figures about the site; on our early tour, which included a tour guide and coach transport to/from our accommodation, we learned a LOT about Stonehenge.  Many of the facts I found to be different than what I’d always heard or assumed.

First and foremost, the reason stone circles were built is inconclusive. Many say there are likely several purposes, which given the effort needed to construct them, that would make sense.   There is strong evidence to suggest they were related to religious practices such as burials, and during this era a way to keep time would have been essential for the agriculture -based economy.  There are 900 surviving stone circles in the British Isles, but experts says at least twice that many existed at one point.

The circles are very, very old – dates are inconclusive but they were built sometime around 4000-2000BC – that is four to six thousand years ago. That’s generations and generations of people.  What’s more, some of the stone circles on the Scottish islands are considerably older.    People are arguing still about the dates so they might have changed their minds already – but I think it is clear enough that something interesting was going on way back then.

Stonehenge wasn’t built by Druids – the site was over two thousand years old when the Druids found it.  Nobody knows who built them, or how, though it is suspected the stone slabs were floated here from where the rocks are from, a site a considerable distance away.

The site is in pretty bad shape – some work has been done to seal up cracks and deteriorated portions of the rocks that are standing so we can continue to get those pretty views.  But with the harsh English weather, no doubt further deterioration will continue – though given their age, these rocks have held up pretty well, to say the least.

Getting To Stonehenge

As I mentioned earlier, an “inner circle” tour is your best bet for your tour, because you get access to the stones, easy in-out transport, and perhaps a chance to see Bath or Laycock or other towns in the area.  (This also means a 5AM start time, for the sunrise tour.)  Our tour operator appears to no longer be running, and I’ve heard some rumblings about disreputable operators, so I’d suggest you speak to your local travel agent about choosing a trusted operator.

If you want to just go on your own, you can rent a car, which in London can prove an expensive and unsatisfying process. Instead, I suggest you take public transport, which requires a couple of transfers (hence why an organized tour is better/faster).

The nearest train station is Salisbury, which is almost 10 miles away.  Trains to Salisbury depart regularly from Waterloo Station and takes 90 minutes.  From Sailsbury station the local bus is well marked, or you can just catch a taxi – be sure to ask for his phone number to come fetch you when you’ve finished.
You can take a bus from Heathrow Airport or the Coach Station at Victoria.   The bus takes about 20 hours, and you’ll want to get off the bus at Amesbury.  From there, you’ll need to catch a second bus or get a taxi.  Most of the bus drivers/train operators are familiar with the Stonehenge layout, so any of them will be able to help point you in the right direction if you get lost.

Photo Credits: Eric Pesik and Deanna Pesik, Jose and Roxanne

Related places:
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    West Amesbury, United Kingdom
Tags: attraction, day trips, history, top-feature

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