Visiting Stonehenge, the most famous prehistoric monument

What is it?

Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument, located in Wiltshire, England. It consists of a ring of standing stones, each around 13 feet (4.0 m) high, seven feet (2.1 m) wide, and weighing around 25 tons.

It remains a mystery how, why and who constructed it, which is part of its charm. Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.

Visit the English Heritage website for details about its history, construction, virtual tour and more.

How to get there?

Car

As you can see in the pictures above, the monument is not really that close to any town or city, it is actually in the countryside. So the best way to get there is by car. We did that and headed west afterwards, to visit Bath and some of the beautiful villages in the Cotswolds. There is also parking space next to the ticket office.

It takes about an hour and 40 minutes from central London and only 15 minutes from Salisbury, the closed town,

Train

Salisbury is the nearest train station at about 9.5 miles away.
From London, the trains depart from Waterloo Station, and there is a service per hour under normal circumstances. The journey takes about an hour and a half. Local buses or a cab can take you to the monument from the station.

Bus

Buses depart from either Heathrow Airport or Victoria Coach Station, and the journey takes about 2 hours. Besides Salisbury, you can get off at Amesbury which is only 2 miles away, and then walk or get a taxi.

It is the cheapest way to travel to Stonehenge. If you are coming from another airport (e.g. Gatwick) you will need to first get to Heathrow Airport or to Victoria coach station.

Solstices and Equinoxes

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

There is little or no direct evidence revealing the construction techniques used by the Stonehenge builders, nor the motives behind.

The site, specifically the great trilithon, the encompassing horseshoe arrangement of the five central trilithons, the heel stone, and the embanked avenue, are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice.

Whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to Stonehenge, its design includes a celestial observatory function, which might have allowed prediction of eclipse, solstice, equinox and other celestial events important to a contemporary religion.

In the past visitors were not allowed to go into the stones at times of religious significance, the winter and summer solstices, and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Nowadays is the opposite and usually the summer solstice – or midsummer, the longest day of the year – attracts crowds in their thousands to the ancient standing stones on Salisbury Plain. On the summer solstice, druids and pagans gather to see the sunrise behind the Heel Stone, before rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the circle (30,000 people attended in 2003).

This year -2020- in which Covid-19 paralysed travel almost completely, was not the exception for this great monument. So this year’s northern hemisphere’s summer solstice at Stonehenge will be live-streamed online.

Tours

If you prefer to hire a tour, these are some recommendations:

More pictures

Books

The English Heritage website offers plenty of unique and valuable content, including virtual tours. However; if you prefer books, these are our recommendations:

Recent discoveries

The latest news has been announced by the BBC this morning:

“Archaeologists have discovered a ring of prehistoric shafts, dug thousands of years ago near Stonehenge.

Fieldwork has revealed evidence of a 1.2 mile (2km) wide circle of large shafts measuring more than 10m in diameter and 5m in depth.

They surround the ancient settlement of Durrington Walls, two miles (3km) from Stonehenge.”

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