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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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.
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?