Thirteen kilometres north of Salisbury at the A303 roundabout, I motor west and 1.6 kilometres past the roundabout, there it is — looming in all its gargantuan glory for us to try to apprehend on a typically overcast afternoon in England.
The same country that produced the Rolling Stones provides us with stones of a much more stable nature, fixed in place for centuries; albeit these stones were actually moved some distance. Stonehenge, a 5,000-year-old stone circle puzzle, is the most famous prehistoric site in Europe. I park the car, amazed at how this mammoth entity suddenly manifests itself amidst the English plain.
And for what purpose?
Theories include an astronomical observatory, religious site, burial locale and a healing centre akin to that of Lourdes. Unfortunately, Stonehenge was created by those who left no written records; thus, many aspects remain subject to debate. Whatever its purpose, the precise design does include an observatory function. The two inner horseshoes are aligned along the rising and setting of the sun at the midsummer and midwinter solstices. Accordingly, the configuration allows for accurate predictions of eclipse, solstice, equinox and other celestial events.
These granite stones, some of which weigh as much as four tons, were reportedly dragged all the way from Marlborough Downs (North Wessex) and South Wales, 400 kilometres away! Erected in pairs, each is topped by an equally huge stone lintel. Within the inner circles stand two horseshoe-shaped arrangements, one within the other, and at the centre lies what is known as the Altar Stone. Further stones are to be found here and there within the site, which is surrounded by barrow mounds.
Years earlier, there was relatively easy access to the site, but that has changed. The stones can still be seen from the main car park, and can be viewed quite clearly from the roadside. Unlike the other monuments in the area, however, it’s necessary now to pay for an up close look. An entry fee of £7.50 for adults and £4.50 for children includes an audio guide and takes you through a tunnel under the road to the site. Generally, there is no direct access to the stone circle itself; visitors are guided around the monument by roped pathways and on-site attendants. The audio guide is available in several languages and lasts approximately 45 minutes. English Heritage and some tour operators from Salisbury can arrange early morning or evening visits that allow you to walk amidst the stones.
There are also daily tours of Stonehenge from London by coach.
Visit our website: http://www.StonehengeTours.com
From about 2500 B.C., Neolithic and Bronze Age man started to amass the Bluestones and Sarsen stones from Wales and the Marlborough Downs. It was not until 1600 BC that the complete structure of Stonehenge was finished. Most of the other monuments in the area, such as Durrington Walls and Woodhenge, date from the same period.
If you go
If you wish to play amateur Druid and check out Stonehenge during an actual solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day and shortest night of the year occur at the beginning of summer around June 20 or 21 when the sun is directly overhead at noon at the Tropic of Cancer. At winter solstice, about Dec. 22, the sun is overhead at noon at the Tropic of Capricorn and this marks the beginning of winter.
A nearby hill fort was built during the Iron Age, and there is evidence to suggest that the area was extensively settled by the Romans. The nearby town of Amesbury was later settled during the Saxon reign in 979 AD.
If you enjoy books the size and scope of War and Peace, to better understand Stonehenge try reading Sarum, historical fiction by Edward Rutherfurd which I have almost finished. Sarum, in the southwestern part of England, is the location of the ancient cathedral city, Salisbury, and a close neighbour of Stonehenge. Rutherfurd was born there, so he knows the place well, and in his first novel, he delves into Sarum’s pre-history to follow five families through the centuries in epic style reminiscent of James Michener.
Stonehenge is a World Heritage site. I’m not given to Druid superstitions and strange dreams about ritual sacrifice, but it gives me a weird sensation each time that I see it.
Mike Keenan is a Niagara-on- the-Lake based writer. Contact him at www.whattravelwriterssay.com
The Stonehenge Tour Company – Operating guided tours of Stonehenge since 1995
The Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehengeTours.com
Though the Druids undoubtedly existed, their place in our history is now
Druids at Stonehenge
more legendary than factual, as so few records or artefacts exist to throw light on who they were and what they did. The Romans , who regarded them as enemies of the Roman state and who were horrified by the human sacrifices supposedly made by the Druids, attempted to wipe them out. The Christians too attacked them for their obviously non-Christian beliefs – one of the few things we can be truly sure about the Druids is that they held certain oak and hazel groves sacred, as both Romans and Christians were at pains to chop them down and burn the wood.
From the Roman and Greek sources, however, we can be fairly sure of a few basic facts about the Druids and their place in Celtic life (across Gaul and beyond as well as in Britain).
First and foremost they were a class, although not a hereditary class but one open to those of ability willing to undergo a long training period – perhaps as long as 20 years. They formed a learned class within the Celtic people, a mixture of judge, scholar, counsellor, doctor, diplomat and priest in one. Part of their demise has been put down by some writers as due to the antipathy of tribal chiefs and regional kings whose power would be lessened by the influence of Druids, said to have the right to speak before them in tribal gatherings, and able to intervene in and stop conflicts of which they did not approve.
It seems that as well as oak and hazel, mistletoe played a part in their worship practises, as did reverence for sacred sites such as hills and rivers, and fire. Theirs was a polytheistic religion. From the Romans we can be fairly sure they used sacrifice in their worship, and possibly in divination, these sacrifices being both animal and human – tales of blood gushing from hearts stabbed with sacred daggers if not strictly true still make interesting reading.
The training of a Druid was lengthy, and in all likelihood carried out away from prying eyes, or more significantly eavesdropping ears – much of it was concerned with learning sacred verses by heart.
Although some aspects of Druidism may have survived into medieval times and even beyond – the bardic culture of Wales is surely linked in some ways – as a power they were to a great extent finished by the Roman attack on Anglesey in AD61 (an attack that Boudicca took advantage of, rebelling in the East while the Romans were engaged in Wales).
Modern Druidism is a mixture of surmise, romantic imagination, and the gathered misconceptions of writers from recent centuries, a creative version of something about which few facts remain, or more kindly a sincere religious faith to which the perhaps ill-fitting label Druidism has been attached. This ‘creativity’ is perhaps seen most clearly in the use of Stonehenge , which long predates Druidism, as a sacred site for some Neo-Druids.
Stonehenge Tour Guide
The Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehengeTours.com
(Operating tours of Stonehenge since 1995 – The original and still the best! )
Are you searching for a truly unique sightseeing experience?
Stonehenge coach tours from London may be the answer to your every wish. An overwhelming divine aura permeates this incomparable monument. A world heritage site, Stonehenge is debatably the most vital archaic structure in the UK. Take a Stonehenge coach tour and uncover why it has acquired such renowned status, and just why it is that Stonehenge tours are so highly favoured over other tours from London.
Stonehenge Guided Tours
Decide between a Stonehenge morning tour or a Stonehenge evening tour with Golden Tours. For the genuinely astounding, indescribable experience, however, you may want to make the most of our elite Stonehenge special access tour. This imparts you with entry to the circle, so that you can get up close to the stones, for a Stonehenge tour with true distinction.
Without a doubt, Stonehenge holds the ability to beguile any visitor. It is an antiquarian structure, yet the details as to its construction remain unclear. 40 tons of rocks have stood on Salisbury Hill for just about 5,000 years. Was Stonehenge used as a religious temple or possibly even as a Bronze Age burial ground?
Theories thrive as to why it was built as well. Discover why it has provoked such debate: go on one of many Stonehenge tours from London.
Or for a comprehensive day out, go on a Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor tour, and discover all three of these charming places. Let Bath’s charming highlights reveal themselves to you: in any case, Bath abounds with captivating sites of culture and holds a rich history. Marvel at the grandiose Royal Crescent and the magnificent Pulteney Bridge. An especial highlight of fascinating Windsor is captivating Windsor Castle.
Bus tours from London to Stonehenge are incredibly prolific. Golden Tours offers a comprehensive range of packages that can fit the wishes of anyone wanting to experience the remarkable wonder that is Stonehenge for themselves. Golden Tours’ large number of tours range from the remarkable value ‘Simply Stonehenge’ tour to Stonehenge special access tours and Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor tours.
The Stonehenge Tour Company
Operating Stonehenge Tours since 1995