Tips for Visiting Stonehenge

Nobody knows for sure why or when Stonehenge was built and perhaps that’s one of the reasons the UNESCO World Heritage site is such a draw for travelers. At only about 90 minutes from central London, it’s a manageable, inexpensive day trip outside the city if you’re into ancient ruins with a side order of mysterious origins.

A few tips for visiting Stonehenge

  1. Arrive early. If you want to take decent photos, you had better get there before the tour buses. Between high school field trips and pushy tripod-wielding tourists, you might just be miserable if you come after about 10:30 a.m.
  2. Don’t expect too much magic.  Stonehenge is rather starkly situated along a busy highway. You’ll be driving for an hour and then boom! It comes into view in the middle of the Salisbury plain. There’s no mystical lead-up to the ancient wonders… it’s just THERE. It’s easy and cheap enough to find a car hire in the UK for families, so that’s a good option if you’re coming from London.
  3. Get an audio guide. They’re free and semi-helpful. Much of what is known about Stonehenge is hypothetical, so I don’t think I knew any more when I left than when I arrived, but still, it’s nice to have a little tour in the palm of your hand.
  4. Do more. I think if you just visited Stonehenge, you might be a bit disappointed. I coupled my visit with a bus tour of the Cotswolds, including several Harry Potter and Jane Austen adaptation filming locations. That made the trip worthwhile… Stonehenge alone might not have been enough.
  5. Plan ahead for better access. If you want to get up close and personal to the stones, you’ll need to sort out a Special Access Visit. If you show up like I did with a tour, you’ll wander around the edge of the circle about 10-20 yards away from the slabs. That’s fine, and honestly, getting any closer won’t do you much good. But if something inside that ancient stone circle beckons you to come closer, there are ways to gain access outside normal visiting hours. Check out the official Stonehenge site by clicking here for info on visiting after hours, at sunset or during the Solstices.

Taken with Canon G12 Fish Eye setting

If ever a place has been photographed to death, it’s Stonehenge. Though not the only mysterious stone circle in England (there are hundreds of them in the British Isles), it’s the most recognizable, constructed sometime between 3000 and 2000 BC (maybe). Since everyone and their ma is familiar with the landmark, I thought I’d just use my visit as an excuse to fiddle with my Canon G12’s presets. Enjoy my little photo safari!

Taken with Canon G12 Vivid setting

Two varieties of stone are found at Stonehenge. The Bluestones weigh nearly four tons and came from 240 miles away. The Sarsen stones weigh nearly 25 tons and were up to eighteen feet tall.

Taken with Canon G12 Miniature setting

So who actually built the stone circle on the Salisbury Plain? Theories include Druids, the Greeks, aliens and Atlanteans.

During my visit to Stonehenge, I learned that we don’t know who built it, or when, or why… so this curious pile of rocks transported from far and wide may always just be one of those places that make you scratch your head and go HUH?!?!

Have you been to Stonehenge? What did you think?

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  • December 12, 2011

    My husband and I visited Stonehenge, and we liked it since it was a part of a tour. It was definitely on one of our must visit, even though it’s just a “pile of rocks.” We really like Avebury stone circles more than Stonehenge. It’s bigger and you can wander among the rocks.

    • December 14, 2011

      I may have to check out Avebury on my next visit!

  • December 12, 2011

    We visited Stonehenge the same day as Bath Abbey and Salisbury Cathedral. Stonehenge suffered in comparison to the other two, but I was glad I visited, anyway.

  • December 12, 2011

    I love my tourist sites with a side of mysterious origins. 😉

    I like that you tried to take some different photos of Stonehenge! The fish eye one is cool.

    What was the name of the tour you went on? Definitely sounds like something I’d be interested in.

    • December 14, 2011

      I was in Bath so I took a tour from there… can’t even recall the name of it, but there are several and I think they all offer just about the same thing. Mine included Stonehenge and LaCock in the Cotswolds, which was super cute!

  • December 15, 2011

    My expectations were set very low for Stonehenge and they were thankfully met, I had a great day! And the fact that my sister said it was “pretty cool” that I went there was an added bonus (she has no interest in ever going to the UK, but she would love to visit Stonehenge one day!).

    • December 19, 2011

      I think “pretty cool” is the perfect way to describe it!

  • December 26, 2011

    Cool shots! Never been there, unfortunately!

    • December 26, 2011

      I wouldn’t say you should put it at the top of your list, but if you make it there then you’ll certainly enjoy it! Happy holidays & thanks for reading!

  • March 01, 2012
    Behn

    I totally agree with you that it just appears – I got lucky enough to stop off there just as dusk started. However, I didn’t pay, the view from the fence is more than enough and I probably wouldn’t make an effort to take someone there unless I was passing it en-route…
    That said, I’m from Dartmoor, so I’m a little spoiled in the mysterious bits of rock sticking out of the ground (we can even touch ours!)

    • March 03, 2012

      You are spoiled! Thank you for reading =)

  • May 14, 2014
    Angie Dark

    Hi Angie…in august a group of us will be taking a mini van to our cruise ship from London and want to stop at Stonehenge on the way. But I can not find out how to visit as our mini van company will stop at Stonehenge but I need to know a few things hope you can help. Do we need to individually purchase entrance tickets, can our mini van drive us to the stone are or do we need to hop on another bus to view the stones and what is the earliest time we can arrive.

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