Stonehenge is perhaps the most iconic and mysterious of Britain’s many wonders. A large earthen levee surrounding two rings of massive stones located on a vast plain in Wiltshire County, Stonehenge is generally considered a sacred site, but experts differ in their opinions of the site’s original purpose. Although commonly linked to the Druids, Stonehenge was completed long before the first known Druid population arrived in the area. Perhaps it was a burial site for ancient kings or a centre of prehistoric astronomy. Whatever its origin, the mystical Stonehenge draws visitors of all ages and backgrounds
History of Stonehenge
Modern methods date Stonehenge’s earthen levee to approximately 3000 BC, although there is evidence that clearing and preparation of the site might have begun earlier. The inner circle was completed around 2200 BC and the outer circle finished sometime between 1500 and 1200 BC. The stones are arranged on mystical lines known as ley lines, which are said to harness magical energy and are aligned toward the summer solstice. UFO sightings and paranormal activity have been reported around Stonehenge throughout modern history. Until 1978, visitors were permitted to freely wander through the stone circles, leading to vandalism and theft. The popularity of Stonehenge led to a proliferation of highways, parking lots and street vendors. Today, the British government is committed to preserving the site and has undertaken extensive projects to protect the monument and limit the carnival atmosphere.
Numerous tour companies offer day trips to Stonehenge from London. These tours generally combine a visit to Stonehenge with a tour of nearby Bath and other local attractions. Daytime tours are an excellent choice for those with limited time. Private, customized tours are available at a higher rate. Ask for tour recommendations at your hotel or at any visitor center in London.
Inside the Circle Tours
Some tour companies, including The Stonehenge Tour Company and Salisbury Guided Tours, have negotiated access to Stonehenge’s inner circle. These tours are pricier than traditional tours and availability is quite limited. Contact the company of your choice as soon as possible to book your tour. Some Inside the Circle tours take place at sunset or sunrise, offering a different view of the monument than that available during the day.
If you will be in the area during June, plan to take a solstice tour of Stonehenge. Most Stonehenge tour companies offer a special overnight solstice tour. Visiting on the solstice allows you to view the monument as the ancients intended, with the sun positioned directly over the Heel stone, Slaughter stone and Altar stone. Not all solstice tours provide access inside the circles, so make sure you understand exactly what you are getting.
Touring on Your Own
If you prefer to travel independently, you may visit Stonehenge on your own. English Heritage manages the site and admission is free to members of the National Trust. All others pay a nominal charge. Note that you will not be allowed to enter the circles, but a visitors’ walkway around the site allows you to view it from all angles. Audio guides in 10 languages are included in your admission fee. The walkway is wheelchair accessible.
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The Stonehenge Tour Company
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