That was one of the comments we overheard from a little girl as we visited Stonehenge and I have to say, I kind of have to agree with her. Gasp! What? That’s what some of you with more knowledge and interest in that period of history are probably thinking right now eh? Alas, despite being on my lifetime bucket list (that I made over 10 years ago) AND being a UNESCO World Heritage site, I just couldn’t get too excited about it. Although I still managed to take umpteen photos of said rocks from every possible angle. With birds on them, and without.
Called a “masterpiece of engineering”, a statement I can definitely agree with, Stonehenge was created by some of our most sophisticated prehistoric ancestors who clearly understood arithmetic and astronomy. Despite popular belief, Stonehenge was not created by the Druids, but was in fact built much earlier than they were around. The ruins we see today are a result of several periods of construction, with a large circular enclosure being built about 5000 years ago. About 500 years later the large sarsen stones were raised in a horseshoe and circle, with smaller bluestones placed between them. Construction ceased in the early Bronze Age and since then some of the stones were removed from the site, or have fallen over. During restoration from 1919-1964 some of the stones have been re-erected. If you look closely you will notice that some of these have been reinforced by concrete to keep them upright.
Although historians aren’t 100% sure of the rituals that took place at Stonehenge, there is little doubt that the stones have been precisely arranged to line up with the movements of the sun and are connected with the passing seasons.
The monumental scale of Stonehenge is even more impressive given that the only tools available during construction times were made of stone, wood, and bone. It must have taken a vast number of people to move these stones, especially given that some of them, like the Heel Stone, weighed 40 tons. They certainly had a much better understanding of levers and inclined planes than the 7th graders I taught ever did!
The fields around Stonehenge are owned by the National Trust and are ‘permissive access’ which means you are free to explore. A couple of neat things to see while exploring these fields are the Cursus barrows, which are Bronze Age burial mounds, and the adorable sheep!
Unless you are really interested in this part of history, I would not recommend visiting Stonehenge as a day trip from London if you only have limited time. It would take the better part of the day and there isn’t much more to see there than the stone circle, a little museum, and the fields. My recommendation would be to make a stop here as part of your drive to or from London on a visit to Bath instead. It is easy to get to en-route and really just a few more miles than not stopping.
In order to visit an advanced booking is required, which you can easily do online. This is also required for free visits by English Heritage and National Trust members. Also please note that the last admission is two hours before the published closing time. Opening hours and admission prices can be found here. I would recommend spending the extra £2 for the audio guide, especially if you know as little about it as I did when I visited.
When you visit you’ll be directed to parking and then it is a short walk to the main visitors center which includes a museum, café, some neolithic houses, and a gift shop. At the visitors center you’ll pick up your audio guide and will hop on a bus to be transported to the stones, just a few minutes ride away. You can walk to the stones (1.5 miles) but it is just a road running through the fields with nothing to see, although on a really busy day that might be the quicker option. Or you can go in February like we did and it won’t be very busy at all. :-)
I’d love your opinions on this site. Have you been, and what did you think? Am I missing something, or do you also agree with the little girl that thought it was ‘just rocks’ ?
This site is listed as Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.