A visit to Stonehenge proves there is still a sense of mystic for the road-weary traveller.
Welcome to Stonehenge, the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe and one of the most mysterious wonders of the world. Find here our suggested itinerary for a day trip to see the magical Stone Circle.
Open daily from 9:30am to 7pm, the Stonehenge is located near Amesbury in Wiltshire and is not difficult to get to. The easiest way is to take the train from London Waterloo Station to Salisbury train station and join the Stonehenge Tour. You can purchase an all-in-one ticket that includes a bus tour, Stonehenge admission and entry into the Salisbury Cathedral. The hop-on hop-off bus picks up in Salisbury city centre and goes past the beautiful Wiltshire countryside to Old Sarum. The 2.5 hour ride from London is one of many wonderful day trip possibilities from the city. Another option is the 1-hour ride to Bath and its Roman ruins , making for a slightly rushed but comprehensively archaeological themed trip.
For those that opt to drive, leave plenty of time to get there. During peak summer weekends roads into the West Country can become very busy. For Stonehenge ticket holders, parking is available on site for free, just remember to book your tickets in advance and bring your ticket with you. Entrance to Stonehenge is managed through timed tickets and advanced booking is the only way to guarantee entry on the day and time of your choice. You have a 30-minute slot to arrive and last admission time is two hours before the advertised closing time.
Start at the award-winning visitor centre to familiarise yourself with the area. Located at Airman’s Corner, the centre is 2.1 km (1.5 miles) away from the Stone Circle. Here you can pick up an orientation leaflet which is a handy guide to the whole site. Designed as an environmentally-sensitive space, here you will find a spacious café and shop with beautiful countryside views. Learn more about the Stones in the Stonehenge Collection exhibition where hundreds of prehistoric objects from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site are on display and there is a special exhibition you can also check out.
At the Visitor Centre you can also try the unique virtual stones experience and imagine what it feels like to stand in the middle of Stonehenge during winter and summer solstice. Watch the seasons pass and take a trip through time with an audio-visual 360-degree view from inside the Stones.
Located outside the visitor centre are five Neolithic houses where visitors can get a real sense of how people lived over 4,500 years ago and what everyday life might have been like when Stonehenge was built. The houses were built using authentic materials and techniques that were based on the evidence of dwellings found nearby. Feel free to have a chat with the volunteers to learn more and watch them demonstrate ancient domestic skills such as flint knapping, making rope out of rushes, and grinding grain with a quern and a rider.
The houses are surprisingly bright and airy and consist of a single room measuring five-metres on each side with white chalk walls and floors designed to reflect sunlight and capture the heat from the fire. When fires are lit, the smoke from the hearth filters up through a thatched roof, and inside there are wooden or woven furniture such as beds, seating, storage and shelving. These recreated houses – built by a team of 60 English Heritage volunteers under the guidance of the Ancient Technology Centre – are closely based on the remains of Neolithic houses discovered during excavations in 2006 and 2007 at Durrington Walls, a large ceremonial earthwork enclosure, just over a mile to the north-east of Stonehenge. Radiocarbon dating showed that these buildings were built at around the same time as the large sarsen stones were being put up at Stonehenge, in approximately 2,500 BC.
Choose to walk to the Stone Circle (or take the shuttle bus all the way or get off and walk halfway) to fully experience the ancient landscape and surrounding countryside. Stonehenge is an iconic symbol of Britain and a unique prehistoric monument found in the middle of a rich archaeological landscape. It holds a pivotal place in the development of archaeology and different theories have been put forward to who built it, when, and why.
With a history spanning 4,500 years, Stonehenge means different things to different people, being a source of inspiration and a spiritual place. Stonehenge is also known as the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world and the only surviving lintelled stone circle. At the earliest stage of the monument is one of the largest cremation cemeteries known in Neolithic Britain. The stones were brought over from very long distances – bluestones from over 150 miles away at the Preseli Hills, and the sarsens 19 miles to the north probably from the Marlborough Downs.
The stones were dressed using sophisticated techniques and erected with precisely interlocking joints not found at any other prehistoric monument. They help us understand Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and mortuary practices, and the most generally accepted interpretation of Stonehenge today is that of a prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun. Finally, Stonehenge is an icon of the past and a powerful image of ancient achievement, not to mention also representing our collective heritage.
Enjoy and bring a picnic lunch with you to spend more time at the Stone Circle. You can buy regionally-sourced food at the café. All the food comes in picnic-ready sustainable takeaway packaging and items such as soup, vegetarian and traditional pasties, sausage rolls, sandwiches and salads are available.
In the afternoon after Stonehenge you can visit the medieval town of Salisbury. Located a few miles away from town is Old Sarum, the original site of Salisbury. The town is an attractive place with a number of intriguing older buildings in additional to the Cathedral, which is said to be the origin of the Magna Carta. Another attraction to see is the Salisbury Museum located in the King’s House at Cathedral Close. A Grade I listed building, it was built in the 13th Century and was formerly a teacher training college. The museum is known for its archaeological collections including prehistoric material from South Wiltshire, including Stonehenge; the Pitt Rivers’ Wessex collection; a medieval collection including finds from Old Sarum, Clarendon Palace and the town itself. There are also costume and ceramics displays, and regular temporary exhibitions.
Our recommendation for dinner is the award-winning restaurant Red Lion Freehouse at East Chisenbury, Pewsey, Wiltshire. Awarded 1 Michelin Star, this restaurant, off-the-beaten-track, is run by chefs Guy and Brittany who practice traditional and modern culinary techniques on a range of carefully sourced British produce. Dishes to sample include the homemade hot ‘Scotch Egg’, the hand-pulled belly pork, the famous Wiltshire rib of beef steak for two and the ‘Baked Alaska’. For reservations call 01980 671124
If you still crave more day trip ideas, check out our list here !