Visiting Stonehenge? Samar Hafeez tells you everything that you need to know.
Stonehenge is a renowned 5,000-year-old monument and UNESCO world heritage site in the south of England. This famous megalithic circular structure of prehistoric stones is one of the world’s greatest enigmas and is among Britain’s most visited tourist attractions. Stonehenge continues to inspire awe and stir countless debates about who built the structure and why.
It carries an endless array of myths and theories. Some perceive it as a holy site, while others believe it could have been a scientific observatory. Both views are based on the site’s celestial influence that aligns with the sun and the moon and takes into account the changing seasons and winter solstices. It is also one of Europe’s most important Neolithic and Bronze Age finds and rich archaeological structures.
Where is Stonehenge?
Stonehenge, the 2000-hectare archaeological site, is located on Salisbury Plain, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury, Wiltshire, in southern England. It is about 100 miles from London.
How to visit Stonehenge: Getting there
The simplest way to get to Stonehenge is to drive. It is about an hour’s drive from Bath, Swindon, and Reading. If you are going from London, it will take 2.5 hours to get to Stonehenge via the M3 and A303 to Amesbury. Stonehenge is well-signposted from Amesbury on the A345. The roads are typical of the English countryside, narrow and windy, with few stopping points.
If you are going by train, the nearest stations are Andover and Salisbury, which can be reached directly from London Waterloo. From here you can catch a bus or hire a taxi at the train station. It is easy to visit Stonehenge from London using public transport, and just requires a bit of extra planning.
One hour is enough time to see the central Stonehenge circle. You might want to stop for longer if you wish to see the other nearby sites. There are no luggage drop facilities at the Salisbury station. It is a good idea to arrange for a hotel beforehand to help you drop off heavy luggage if you have any.
Several bus tours will take you to Stonehenge. Many of these tours start from London and visit Stonehenge along with Salisbury or Bath. Please note that these tours usually allow 30 minutes at Stonehenge, which might not give you enough time to appreciate the monument and its surrounding area. For tours starting from London, the price starts from around £65 for adults, including the entry fee and pick-up service in your London hotel. Here are a few options:
- Half-Day Morning Tour to Stonehenge from London: £54 with admission, shuttle bus included, and an audio tour.
- A Stonehenge, Avebury, Cotswolds Tour from Bath: £75 with no Stonehenge admission but a small group tour experience (maximum 14 people) and shuttle bus.
- A Special Evening Tour to Stonehenge from London: £135 with shuttle bus included and a guided tour.
What is the best time to visit Stonehenge?
The best time to visit Stonehenge is summer (June to August) or spring (March to May). But don’t let this stop you from seeing Stonehenge in autumn or winter, as there are other advantages during the off-season, such as fewer crowds. The monument is located on a large plain, and there are no areas for cover other than inside the Visitor Center, which is a few kilometres away. Therefore it is advisable to avoid it on rainy days; always look up the weather for Stonehenge beforehand.
The best time of day to visit Stonehenge is before 9.30 am in the morning or in the afternoon after 4 pm during summer or spring, which is also when it is most crowded. In the winter months, 12-2 pm is ideal.
Since the weather conditions in the southwest of England turn quickly and rain is frequent, it is best to check the weather forecast beforehand, regardless of the time of your visit.
How to spend a day visiting Stonehenge?
Once at the site, you’ll go to the Stonehenge Visitors’ Centre first and take the bus or walk from there to Stonehenge. There is an entrance charge of £21.80 for adults and £13 for children (Oct 2022) if going through the main entrance. This includes an audio guide in several languages. You can buy Stonehenge tickets on that day. However, it is most convenient to buy tickets online and specify a time for your visit.
Stonehenge is the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. The stones here were raised nearly 4500 years ago as an ancient temple by prehistoric people. The Stonehenge Landscape has other fascinating ancient monuments scattered around it with very few visitors. Some of them were built hundreds of years before Stonehenge. Among them are:
- Stonehenge Cursus – a massive, mysterious monument with a 3 km long earthwork just north of Stonehenge.
- The Avenue – a ceremonial grand entrance to Stonehenge from the river Avon.
- Winterbourne Stoke Barrows – a collection of every type of burial mound found in the UK.
- King Barrows Ridge – with commanding views of Stonehenge and several impressive burial mounds known as barrows.
- Durrington Walls – the site of a great Neolithic village used for religious activities. The walls are the remains of the largest henge monument in the UK – some 500 m in diameter.
The Visitor’s Centre at Stonehenge consists of an exhibition where you can spend some time reading and learning more about Stonehenge and the surrounding area. It also has a café, a gift shop, and an outdoor gallery where the reconstructed Neolithic houses can be found. These houses give some insight into how people lived 4500 years ago. You’ll also find an example of the stones used to construct Stonehenge so you can get an idea of the sheer size.
Is Stonehenge wheelchair accessible?
Yes, Stonehenge is wheelchair accessible. All visitor areas are fully accessible to wheelchair or pushchair users and small mobility scooters. If you are visiting Stonehenge using larger wheelchairs or mobility scooters, speak to customer services for advice about Stonehenge access. All paths are level or have ramps and are hard-surfaced, except for approximately half of the path around the monument, which is mown grass or plastic path with grass growing through. Wheelchairs are also available to borrow from the main ticket booth, subject to availability at the time.
Places to visit near Stonehenge
When you are visiting Stonehenge, don’t forget to visit some of its fascinating nearby attractions. These are the three best places to visit near Stonehenge.
If Stonehenge has impressed you, you can drive down five miles to Woodhenge. What is Woodhenge? It is a wooden monument, similar to Stonehenge, built around the same time but discovered only about 100 years ago.
A trip around Stonehenge is best combined with a trip to Avebury to the north (which has an even bigger stone circle with fewer restrictions and far fewer tourists). The Avebury village is fascinating and in itself worth a day. A visit can include the Avebury Museum, Avebury Manor, St James Church, Avebury Stone Circle, Avebury Chapel, West Kennet Avenue, and Silbury Hill.
Stop over at Salisbury
Salisbury is the closest city to Stonehenge, situated around 8 miles from it. A medieval town in Wiltshire, it is also dotted with several renowned landmarks. The biggest of them is its cathedral, which was built in the 13th century. It took 38 years to complete this impressive cathedral rising 400 feet tall, making it the tallest spire in Britain.
There are tours from London that cover Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath, which might be worth your while.
Samar is a Marcoms specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. Samar is an avid traveller and likes to write about technology, travel, non-profits, wildlife and sustainability. She likes quizzes, poetry, coffee and minimalism.