I had a longstanding ambition, even as a schoolboy, decades ago, to see the Stonehenge. So when I made my first trip to London with my wife Ruku and son Dillon, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the ancient Druid site in Salisbury Plains. We made our way there in our rented car down the A303, on the Great West Road from London to Devon. I felt an odd lurch in the pit of my stomach when the car crested Countess Hill on the A303 and the Stonehenge first came into view. It was a feeling of anticipation at seeing a wonder of the world. After all, Stonehenge is Britain's most important ancient monument, unique in the world. We made a turn off into the A344 road and parked in a well-concealed car park near the stones. You could see the Stonehenge from a distance without paying. Or you could fork out £5, like we did, to go closer. But there was no way you you could go inside the stone circles, it is forbidden. The stones are fenced to protect against souvenir-hunters, some of whom come with hammers and chisels. Still we were close enough to realise that Stonehenge is not as big as I imagined. It is one of those tourist sites which owes everything to photography. On thousands of postcards and brochures it is always photographed from a low angle. The truth is the camera sometimes lies. In particular it lies about scale. From most angles it merges into the low landscape. For most of the day, the sound of vehicles down the A303 envelopes the stones. Three-quarters of a million people visit Stonehenge every year. Even more drive past.
Stonehenge is a mysterious prehistoric monument built about 4,000 years ago. It stands on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire in southwestern England. The main part of the monument is a group of giant stones. The people who built Stonehenge left no written records, so no one knows for certain how or why it was built.
Unique Suggestions: WHERE TO STAY
If you're planning to stay the night in Salisbury, try the
Church Cottage offers traditional style cottage accommodation of an excellent standard. Built around 1810, it retains much of its original charm; there are Gothic arched windows, beams, an inglenook fireplace in the sitting room and a secluded rear garden. For more information, check out the Visit Britain web site: www.visitbritain.com
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There is not that much to see
Stonehenge is a very popular tourist destination and as such it is pretty outrageous that there entry fee is set at £6.60 for adults in 2010 (£5,60 if you're student or over 60 and £3.30 for children between 5 and 15), considering that there is really not that much to see apart from the stones. In addittion, there is no access to visitors to actually touch the stone circle itself and visitors are guided around the monument by roped pathways and on-site attendants.
In addition, you can see the stones from the road passing by anyway if you are about in the region. Mind you, Stonehenge is so far away from any large cities anyway that you are probably there because you want to see the stones.
The price does include an audio guide which is available in several languages and if you listened to all available material would take an estimated 30-60 minutes. The audio tour is probably very useful though although I've never taken that. It was raining and very windy on the second time I was there so I didn't feel like taking an audio tour in a middle of field whilst getting wet and beate by the wind. So if you can go there on a nice, sunny day.
Unique Suggestions: Take the audio tour or try to make it down there in the morning of the Summer Solstice (21 June) when lots of neo-pagans and druids dressed in fantastic garb gather to Stonehenge. It usually gets very crowded though, so be sure to arrive early!
Fun Alternatives: Some tour operators do offer the possibility of going inside the circle so that you can actually touch it. This can only be done after the park is closed. For the tours starting from London, the price starts from around £65 for adult, mostly include the entry fee and pick-up service from a London hotel.
Stonehenge is not the only ancient site in the area, since there is another stone formation about 25 miles north of Stonehenge. This is the Avebury complex, which has been argued to be the most impressive of all remaining prehistoric earthworks in Europe.
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All of it
Yes, Stonehenge is by definition a tourist trap, but don't let that stop you! Just try to visit it in the morning rather than after lunch if you can, and preferrably out of season when it is also more atmospheric.
Unique Suggestions: The full walk around it - no doubt that you will still be fascinated.
Fun Alternatives: Avebury outside Marlborough (see page).
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- Historical Travel
You have to be prepered for really strong wind there. Stonehenge is located on empty area, there are only fields.