If you’re planning a trip to Stonehenge, there are some things you should know before you set off.
First of all, the site is in Wiltshire, on Salisbury Plain, so it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not somewhere that you can go and visit easily. In other words, you’ll need to plan your trip carefully if you want to be able to get to the site itself.
It’s also worth remembering that the stones at Stonehenge are not original. They were moved here from different locations, and replaced with new stones. Some of these newer stones have been removed, but many remain. These include three large stones called Trilithons, which were originally placed facing each other. The first two have now been taken away, leaving the third. This third stone is known as the Heelstone or Aubrey Hole Stone. A circle was dug nearby, in which a timber post was placed. It had a hole drilled into its top, and this would have held an upright wooden pole. The pole probably supported a roof, but for whatever reason it has never been found.
There are also two circles, one inside the other. These are known as Sarsen Circles. One is much bigger than the other, and is made up mainly of sarsen blocks. These are very hard rocks, formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. They’ve been used to build many prehistoric monuments. For example, they were used to make the famous Stonehenge Cursus (or Avenue), which is still visible today.
The smaller circle is made of bluestones, and these are not native to Britain. They came from Wales, where they were quarried. Their purpose remains unclear, but many people believe they were transported here deliberately by humans.
The most important thing about Stonehenge is that it stands in a landscape that’s unique, and it’s possible that it was built in response to something important happening in the landscape.
This could have been either a significant change in climate, or perhaps the arrival of a new group of people who needed a place to settle down. There’s no way of knowing what drove those people to create Stonehenge, but we can assume that whatever happened must have been significant enough to inspire them to build such a monument.
For more information on Stonehenge, check out our article about how archaeologists think it was built.
Arrival at Stonehenge
To get to Stonehenge, you’ll first need to drive along the A303 from London. When you reach Amesbury, turn left onto the B3066 towards Salisbury. Follow this road until you see signs pointing towards “Sarsen Circle”. You’re looking for a sign saying “Stonehenge Unlocked”. Turn right here, and then take another right just after the traffic lights. Then turn right again. You’ll soon come across the visitor centre.
The visitor centre offers information boards and audio guides, and gives access to a short film showing what life was like at Stonehenge during the Neolithic period. There are also displays that explain various theories about the monument, including the possibility that it was part of a solar calendar.
You can buy tickets here if you’d like to visit the site, but it’s usually cheaper to hire a car hire.
There are also plenty of parking spaces available here.
Getting to Stonehenge
From the visitor centre you can walk or cycle to the site. A path leads from here along the river valley to the stones themselves. Alternatively, you can follow a narrow lane to a point between the stones and the visitor centre. From there you can walk to the stones.
There is also a bus stop close to the centre, and it’s easy to find once you arrive here.
Once you’ve arrived at the Stones, you can park up in the small car parks near the entrance. If the area is busy, you might even be able to park close to the stones themselves.
When you’re ready to leave, head back to the visitor centre, and catch one of the regular buses to Amesbury.
What else can I do at Stonehenge?
There are lots of things to do at Stonehenge, but the main activity is simply to stand in front of the stones and admire them. Other things you can do include walking around the outer circle, taking pictures of yourself standing next to the stones, playing games or having picnics.
Some people like to visit the visitor centre, while others prefer to stay outside the walls, making their own way around the site. Whatever you do, remember that the best time to visit is during daylight hours. The sun shines brightly over the plain, and it will help to make your experience of Stonehenge more enjoyable.
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For more details on Stonehenge, check out our article about why it was built.
Where else can I visit?
There are lots of other places you can visit in the general vicinity of Stonehenge. You should bear in mind that you won’t be able to visit all of them, but in order to give you a better idea of what’s within striking distance, here are some of the highlights…
– Avebury Henge
– Durrington Walls
– Old Sarum
– Silbury Hill
– Stonehenge Cursus
– West Kennet Palisade
– Windmill Hill
– Winterbourne Bassett Roman Villa
These are just a few of the sites that you may want to add to your itinerary. If you want to find out more about any of them, you can check out our articles on Avebury Henge, Old Sarum, and Silbury Hill.
In summary, Stonehenge is a truly fascinating monument, and is well worth visiting. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not somewhere that you can casually drop into when you feel like it.