March 2021


Due to the popularity of our annual Stonehenge Summer and Winter Solstice tours, we are pleased to offer a new intimate small group tour experience that will depart from Salisbury and Southampton.

Imagine the day: picked up from a central location in Salisbury – with its magnificent cathedral sporting the tallest spire in England, one of the best preserved copies of the Magna Carta, and the oldest working clock in Europe – you are transported to the world-famous Stonehenge ancient monument, where you can greet the solstice or equinox dawn as pilgrims have done for millennia. Then you will be taken through picturesque villages and quintessentially English countryside to Stonehenge’s sister site, Avebury. Here, you’ll be able to walk freely among the largest stone circle in Europe, and explore the other mysterious monuments that comprise a vast temple landscape. To finish off, time to visit the charming National Trust tearooms, giftshop, or the only pub inside a stone circle! Finally, you’ll be taken ‘back to the future’ and to Salisbury with plenty of time to enjoy the Cathedral, shopping and fine-dining on offer. Five thousand years in a day. Imagine

The mighty, mysterious 5000 year old Neolithic monument of Stonehenge is one of the seven wonders of the world; and its sister site, Avebury, close by, is equally as significant, but off the radar for most visitors. On this exclusive access tour led by experienced, knowledgeable guides you will be taken into the heart of the stones, and into the heart of their mystery.

Our company is the only one that specializes in private access tours to Stonehenge and has built up, over twenty years and more, a vast body of knowledge informed by cutting-edge research into the secrets of the stones. Many of our satisfied clients come back again and again, and stay in touch – because once the solstice is experienced at Stonehenge you are part of an international fellowship of pilgrims. Friendships can be forged on our tours that last a lifetime. All are united by the unique experience – for you are no ordinary tourist, and this is no ordinary tour. We love taking our pilgrims to the stones, because we love going ourselves. We want to share the magic of these special places with you.

Highlights:

  • Pick up from Salisbury in a luxury mini coach – an ideal base and great for shopping and fine-dining.
  • Watch the solstice sunrise at Stonehenge – a truly breath-taking moment!
  • Take part in a druid ceremony, or just enjoy the festival vibes.
  • Scenic route to Avebury, UNESCO World Heritage Site, including photo opportunities of white horses (chalk hill figures) and thatched cottages.
  • Guided walks to the key sites in the Avebury landscape: West Kennet Neolithic long barrow (probably the best preserved and biggest), Silbury Hill (the largest man-made mound in Europe), the Ridgeway (the oldest trackway in Europe), the Avenue (sacred processional route of standing stones) & more – the choice is yours.
  • Optional visit to the Alexander Keiller Museum and learn about the fascinating history of Avebury’s rescue.
  • Enjoy the picturesque National Trust tea-rooms, village pond, and charming historic buildings.
  • Great souvenir & gift shopping at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, and the local shops in Avebury.
  • Visit the only pub inside a stone circle!

On our tours the emphasis is quality, not quantity – and we will as much as possible go at your pace, and offer you as much or as little as you want, in terms of guiding, itinerary, and content. This is your special day out – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these unique sites.

The adventure starts here………………………………..

We have several tour options to experience the Solstice or Equinox Stonehenge celebrations including departures from London, Bath, Southampton or Salisbury.

You can book direct with Stonehenge Guided Tours or via our online Stonehenge store

Stonehenge Guided Tours
WINNER: Best Stonehenge Tour Specialists 2020 / 2021
WINNER: Best ‘Historical Tour’ Operator 2020 / 2021
Operating Stonehenge Tours Since 1990
www.StonehengeTours.com

WILTSHIRE’S historic Neolithic site at Stonehenge appears to be top of most people’s bucket list of attractions to visit following the end of the Covid pandemic lockdown.

Our exclusive Stonehenge private access tours can sell out months in advance so we recommend booking earlier rather than later

Having been unable to travel as freely as possible for the past year, thousands of Brits and Europeans have begun to plan their post-pandemic holidays and create a bucket list of items they would like to tick off with any extra money they have saved during the Covid-19 crisis.

A new study by Audley Villages reveals which destinations and attractions are on our bucket lists, and exactly how much they will cost to complete.

In order to do this, the company looked into Google search data, Instagram hashtags and press mentions of 141 bucket list items including destinations, landmarks, theme parks and activities.

Stonehenge consistently comes above Buckingham Palace and the London Eye as the most sought-after British landmark to visit.

The research suggested if everyone who searched for Stonehenge were to visit the location once in their lifetime the attraction could generate over £34 million in revenue. With over one million Google searches Stonehenge is set to be one of the most popular UK attractions post-Covid.

Many of the attractions which Europeans want to visit in the UK highlight our rich history – and they don’t come at a high price point.

Visiting Stonehenge costs £21.50 per adult, while the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace will cost an adult just £26.50, and Hadrian’s Wall being free to visit if you pick the right spot.

You should book your discount Stonehenge tickets in advance and our Stonehenge tours are limited to small groups so plan ahead

FULL STORY – WILTSHIRE TIMES

Please visit our website and book your Stonehenge tour now

COVID-19 PROTOCOL WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURSES IN PLACE: Stonehenge Tours has acquired the Industry Standard certificate ‘We’re Good to Go’ certificate which means our business has followed government and industry COVID-19 guidelines, a process to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. Responsible Tourism. We take extra care so you stay safe! MORE DETAILS

Stonehenge Guided Tours
WINNER: Best Stonehenge Tour Specialists 2020 / 2021
WINNER: Best ‘Historical Tour’ Operator 2020 / 2021
Operating Stonehenge Tours Since 1990
www.StonehengeTours.com

The 17th Century gentleman antiquarian, John Aubrey, is a fascinating, if elusive figure. Most famous for his proto-biography anthology, Brief Lives, in which he pithily captures in a few well-turned lines the key movers and shakers of his age, he is somewhat eclipsed by the greater lives he wrote about. Of Welsh descent (with family connections in Hereford and South Wales), Aubrey was born in Easton Piercy, Wiltshire 1626, and was to witness some of the most tumultuous events in English history.

Growing up within living memory of the rein of Elizabeth I, and amid the ruinous devastation caused by her murderous father, Henry VIII,  Aubrey was the witness firsthand the chaos of the English Civil War, the execution of Charles I, the merry England of Charles II, the brief rein of James II, and the Glorious Revolution, which saw in William and Mary. Living through such turbulent times, it is perhaps small wonder that Aubrey developed an obsession for the collection and preservation of the fragile, precious icons of the past. As his biographer, Ruth Scurr, pointed out, he was not alone in this predilection: ‘Rescuing or remembering the material remains of lost or shattered worlds became compelling for many who lived through the English Civil War.’ (2015: 4)  Yet Aubrey felt he was not only born in the right time, but the right place: ‘I was inclined by my genius from childhood to the love of antiquities: and my Fate dropt me in a countrey most suitable for such enquiries.’ One could also say ‘county’ as much as ‘countrey’, for in Aubrey’s birthplace and home, Wiltshire, he found an area worthy of a lifetime’s study.

With its hundreds of prehistoric monuments it is an antiquarian’s paradise. It seemed to have his name on it, literally. In 1649, when out hunting, he stumbled upon a remarkable arrangement of stones, half-hidden behind ivy and briar and apparently ignored as the mundane backdrop to the lives of simple farming folk, who grazed their livestock and grew their crops amongst them. This was the village of Avebury, and Aubrey couldn’t help but be tickled at the similarity between the names.

Stonehenge Close up. Join one of our exclusive special access inner circle tours and learn more about John Aubrey and the Aubrey Holes

By the time Aubrey was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1663 news of his discovery of a monument, which ‘…doth exceed Stonehenge as a Cathedral does a Parish Church,’ reached the ears of Charles II, who asked Aubrey to show it to him on a hunting trip in Wiltshire. The monarch asked Aubrey to dig for treasure, but Aubrey discretely deferred this royal command, and instead undertook something for more useful.  He conducted a proto-survey of it, alongside one of Stonehenge in 1666, where he discovered the holes of timbered uprights, which bore cremated Neolithic remains – thousands of individual bone fragments from 56 individuals. These became known as the Aubrey Holes. Aubrey was educated in Dorset, then Trinity College, Oxford, before taking the bar at the Middle Temple, London. Although he moved in exalted circles as a member of the Royal Society, Aubrey often struggled with money. Fortunately, as an erudite and entertaining conversationalist (and, perhaps, more importantly a great listener) he was a favoured guest and enjoyed the rolling hospitality of his wealthy circle. Yet, living amid other lives had its deficits – although it was ideal ‘access’ for a future biographer, it meant his own projects were always deferred and piecemeal (tellingly, Miscellanies was the only monograph published in his lifetime, although he authored several, notably on his beloved Wiltshire, and he laboured upon his magnum opus, Monumenta Britannica, for thirty years).

Aubrey himself, an agnostic with more of a belief in astrology, thought such professional procrastination was written in the stars, as he reflected in later years, writing about himself like a subject of one of his own brief biographies: ‘His life is more remarqueable in an astrologicall respect then for any advancement of learning, having from his birth (till of late years) been labouring under a crowd of ill directions’. But it is precisely that restless interest in all things that resulted in the preservation of so much priceless history, for his precious collection of books, manuscripts, artefacts, art, and antiquities, was eventually bequeathed to Elias Ashmole, who went on to found the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.  

Aubrey died in Oxford in 1697, at the end of a relatively brief (the Biblical ‘three score years and ten’) but certainly ‘remarqueable’ life. Through his tireless efforts he saved for posterity many treasures from the deluge of time, and his own legacy should be celebrated as Wiltshire’s most remarkable son.

SOURCE: Our sponsors at Stonehenge News

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WINNER: Best Stonehenge Tour Specialists 2020 / 2021
WINNER: Best ‘Historical Tour’ Operator 2020 / 2021
Operating Stonehenge Tours Since 1990
www.StonehengeTours.com


Was the unique Neolithic monument designed for sound? Our Bardic Tour Guide Academic investigates…

For anyone who has ever been to Stonehenge for one of the four solar festivals – Summer or Winter solstice; Spring or Autumn equinox – it is impossible to think of it without thinking of some kind of music: the drumming circle that sometimes last all night, building up to a crescendo at dawn (and then continuing as the perpetual soundtrack of the sunrise celebration); the melodies of a wandering minstrel, strangely-attired saxophonist, opportunist young band with full kit, community choir, or scratch protest band; the chanting of Hare Krishnas, Pagans, Druids, and enthusiastic crowds; or even just the countless pilgrimage mixtapes listened to on the way there and again. It seems the unique Neolithic monument was designed for sound, as all who have stood within the inner circle when a great chant or cheer has been raised would agree – the stones act as tuning forks, and the circle seems to come alive with song.

              Archaeacoustic theories about Stonehenge, and other prehistoric monuments, have been around for a long time, but a 2020 study by the Salford Innovation Research Centre, based at the University of Salford, confirms the design intentionality of this. The researchers rebuilt a precise 3-D printed scale model of a complete Stonehenge in their sound lab, and used this to recreate the acoustics of the third phase, when all the trilithons were locked into place, and the inner ring of bluestones from West Wales stood sentinel like a ready-made (or reconfigured) stone audience. As an aside to the latest discovery of what appears to be the proto-Stonehenge at Waun Mawn, it is interesting to note that to this day the National Eisteddfod of Wales conducts its bardic inaugurations in specially constructed stone circles, as a symbolic recreation of the ‘pocketful of stones’ its spiritual founder, Iolo Morganwg, used to create a sacred circle on Primrose Hill, in 1792.  The Cornish scholar, Alan M. Kent, has noted how the Kernow Mystery Play tradition had their own equivalent Gorseth circle, the Plen an Gwari, or ‘playing place’ (with two surviving, the Plain in St Just, Penwith; and St Pirran’s Round in Perranporth). And across the Greco-Roman world the amphitheatre took this basic concept to its zenith, such as in the theatre of Epidaurus, which could seat 14,000 people, who were able to hear a stage whisper from a performer standing on its proscenium stage. And yet, according to the scientific modelling of the Salford researchers, it seems Stonehenge was not designed to enhance this acoustic effect for a large gathering, but only those standing within the inner circle. Susan Greaney, senior properties historian for English Heritage, concludes that:  ‘the results show that music, voices or percussion sounds made at the monument could only really be heard by those standing within the stone circle, suggesting that any rituals that took place there were intimate events.’

              Writer Paul Deveraux has made an in-depth study of archeoacoustics, which he summarises in his 2001 book, Stone Age Soundtracks. It is hard to disavow the heightened acoustics of sites like the underground Neolithic temple, Metageum, in Malta, or of Newgrange (where, it has been noted, drumming creates observable patterns in the dust-mote laden shards of sunlight that seem to be encoded in the chevrons and spirals of the petroglyphs adorning its passage and entrance stones). The ‘vibes’ of such places have led to artistes like Julian Cope actually recording within chambered barrows (‘Paranormal in the West Country’, from his 1994 album Autogeddon, was recorded in West Kennet long barrow). The Beatles visited Stony Littleton long barrow, while the guests of Sergeant Peppers’ cover artist, Peter Blake, in Wellow. Whether they made any music there is unknown, but Ringo apocryphally said, ‘It’s a great place to get stoned.’

              Yet, even with a plethora of educated guesses there is a telling absence of instruction tablets from the archeoarchitects, So, pending the discovery of a ‘Rosetta Stone’, the jury is still out on whether prehistoric monuments were sonic temples, or if the phenomenon is just an interesting side-effect.

              Nevertheless, the Counter Culture has not shirked in providing its own Stone Age soundtrack for Stonehenge. Most people associate Stonehenge with one song, the satirical rock anthem, ‘Stonehenge’ from This is Spinal Tap (1984). It is hard not to think of it without images of diminutive descending megaliths and pratfalling little people being conjured from the dry ice of movie memory. 

And yet in the same year as Rob Reiner’s comedy classic, the prog-rock band who is entwined with Stonehenge more than any other, Hawkwind, was playing an epic summer solstice set at what was to be the last Stonehenge Free Festival. With their lysergically-enhanced sci-fi flavoured psychedelia, legendary light shows,  epic lyrics by New Wave author Michael Moorcock, body-painted dancers, and Warp Factor 10 wildness, Hawkwind were the unofficial laureates of Stonehenge.

When the Stonehenge Free Festival was smashed in the Battle of the Beanfield of 1985 it seemed like the silver machine of the Counter Culture had been shot down in flames, but its spirit re-emerged in the road protest movement that was to be a rallying point throughout the late 80s and 90s. During a 15 year exclusion zone around Stonehenge during the times of the solstices, raggle-taggle bands like the Spacegoats and the Poison Girls kept the spirit of the Free Festival going, their pixie-punk offerings conveying messages of ecological awareness and anarchy. 

With the opening up of access for the summer solstice in 2000 many old veterans were reunited and new bloods were initiated into the Stonehenge family, a Hakim Bey ‘temporary autonomous zone’ or Brigadoon that continues to manifest (excluding periods of pandemic lockdown) at the solar festivals once more, albeit in a more civilised, co-ordinated way – with infrastructure such as parking, toilets, lighting, and walkways, provided by English Heritage, to manage the often large crowds. And new stars have emerged in this Neolithic platform for a new millennium – made internationally famous by the news crews and, increasingly so, by the smartphone footage shared on social media – including the striking crimson ensemble known as the Shakti Sing Choir, who introduce some quality harmonies to an often ragged, and discordant, free-for-all. Yet Stonehenge is nothing if not a broad church, and all are welcomed – whatever their ability. This is part of its popularity, resilience, and unique ambience – it offers a chance for everyone to shine, to have their moment in the sun, ‘under the eye of light’ as the druids say.  It offers a world-famous platform for exhibitionists, the ultimate busking spot, but also for everyone to dress up, strut their stuff, and have a good time. Some have used Stonehenge as a backdrop for their own pop videos or comedy routines – the Norwegian comedy duo, Ylvis, combined the two in their own mock-anthem of 2013, ‘Stonehenge’; Germanic rapper Kellegah throws Stonehenge into the mix in his song of 2019 without any apparent significance; while Soundgarden’s grungy  ‘Exit Stonehenge’ of 1994 starts with the memorable line, ‘Jesus I can’t feel my penis.’ And yet, in contrast, gentle, heartfelt songs such as Kellianna’s ‘Stonehenge’ evoke the spiritual feelings of many a pilgrim to the stones.  Without a doubt, music and spirituality go hand-in-hand at Stonehenge – it provides an expression of belief system, ideology, and lifestyle.

Let us end our brief foray into the music of Stonehenge with a song which, although it doesn’t mention the iconic stone circle and was composed amid the concrete sarsens of the capitol, seems to evoke the spirit of the very best of the gatherings to have graced such places over the years – David Bowie’s ‘Memory of a Free Festival’ from his second self-titled album of 1969. This was actually inspired by a free festival he had helped organise at the bandstand of Croydon Road Recreational Ground in Beckenham on 16th August, 1969, to raise funds for the Beckenham Arts Lab, which was formative to his artistic development. Both a paean and a eulogy for a golden day, it ends with a chorus that could sum up the hopes of many a pilgrim-reveller, making their way to the stones for the solstice, ‘The song machine is coming down and we’re gonna have a party…’

If this has whetted your appetite and you want to experience Stonehenge for yourself then why not book a Stonehenge inner circle experience tour or join the celebrations at the Summer Solstice

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The Music:
Spinal Tap – ‘Stonehenge’ (1984)
Hawkwind – ‘Hawkwind Solstice At Stonehenge’ (1984)
Shatki Sings Choir – ‘May We Live in Peace’ (2015)
Ylvis – ‘Stonehenge’ (2013)
Spacegoats – ‘Thirteen Moons in Motion’ (1994)
Soundgarden – ‘Exit Stonehenge’ (1994)
Poison Girls – ‘Stonehenge’ (2004)
Kellianna – ‘Stonehenge’ (2004):
Paul Oakenfield – ‘b2b CARL COX at Stonehenge

Relevant Stonehenge Links:
Heavy rock music: Stonehenge was a ‘neolithic rave venue’ – Daily Mail
The first-ever scale model of Stonehenge that lets researchers explore how the monument would have sounded in its heyday has been created by UK researchers. – Stonehenge News Blog
Salford scientists reveal the ‘sound of Stonehenge’ – The Guardian
Stonehenge Private Access Inner Circle Tours – Stonehenge Guided Tours
Stonehenge enhanced sounds like voices or music for people inside the monument – Science News
Scientists recreate prehistoric acoustics of Stonehenge – The Independent
Stonehenge enhanced voices and music within the stone ring – Science for Students
Stonehenge Solstice and Equinox Tours – The Stonehenge Tour Company
The lost sounds of Stonehenge – BBC

Stonehenge Guided Tours
WINNER: Best Stonehenge Tour Specialists 2020 / 2021
WINNER: Best ‘Historical Tour’ Operator 2020 / 2021
Operating Stonehenge Tours Since 1990
www.StonehengeTours.com

Join the throng of summer celebrations and soak up the unique atmosphere of Stonehenge with our special access tour to the inner circle of the stones. Celebrate the magic of the 2021 summer solstice at the heart of Stonehenge, just as our ancestors have over thousands of years

The solstice itself is an astronomical event that occurs twice each year as the Sun reaches its highest or lowest excursion relative to the celestial equator, with the sun appearing to have reached its highest or lowest annual altitude in the sky above the horizon

The Summer Solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year and Stonehenge is a perfect marker of the sunrise and sunset on this date, aligned to exactly pinpoint this turning point in the sun’s journey. It is believed to have been used as an astronomical calculator, as certain stones align with key dates in the seasons. Revellers typically gather at Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle, to see the sun rise. The Heel Stone and Slaughter Stone, set outside the main circle, align with the rising sun

Apart from its architectural significance, Stonehenge holds a place of sacred importance to many. Much of its history is still shrouded in mystery, though one thing that’s sure is that it was built upon a landscape that had long been used for religious purposes.

When celebrating midsummer, Pagans draw on diverse traditions. In England thousands of Pagans and non-Pagans go to places of ancient religious sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury to see the sun rising on the first morning of summer.

The famous Stonehenge circle is normally roped off to the public, but special access is granted four times a year that allows our groups to get so close to the stones. This is only on the mornings of the summer solstice, winter solstice, spring equinox and autumn equinox.

There is always an array of flamboyant head pieces, outfits and face paints on show. If you stand in the right place inside the monument you can see the sun rise above the Heel stone and its rays will beam directly into the centre of Stonehenge. Many visitors who gather to do just that invariably experience powerful emotion at the moment when the sun rises over the mystical circle on solstice morning, and find themselves amidst all sorts of alternative believers like neo-pagans and druids in fantastic garb who are conducting esoteric ceremonies. It’s a magical ‘life changing’ moment and well worth crossing off your bucket list.

STONEHENGE SUMMER SOLSTIC TOUR OPTIONS:
We offer 3 exclusive Stonehenge Summer Solstice tours to choose from that depart from London, Bath or Southampton. Return travel by luxury midi coach with an expert Stonehenge specialist tour guide on board, VIP parking and entry.  This year we are also offering a free souvenir guide book and optional audio guiding app in most languages:
Summer Solstice Sunset Tour on 20th June 2021
(8 hours): London Departure £99. Bath Departure £79
Summer Solstice Sunrise Tour on 21st June
(8 hours) 2021 London Departure £99. Bath Departure £79
Sunset and Sunrise Solstice Combo Tour 2021
(16 hours): London Departure £149. Bath Departure £119

WHAT IS STONEHENGE AND WHY DO PEOPLE GO THERE FOR THE SUMMER SOLSTICE?
Solstice, or Litha means a stopping or standing still of the sun. It is the longest day of the year and the time when the sun is at its maximum elevation.  The tradition of going to Stonehenge dates back thousands of years when Neolithic people, it’s believed, created it to be a temple aligned to the sun.
This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires that would add to the sun’s energy, Christians placed the feast of St John the Baptist towards the end of June and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light.
Like other religious groups, Pagans are in awe of the incredible strength of the sun and the divine powers that create life. For Pagans this spoke in the Wheel of the Year is a significant point. The Goddess took over the earth from the horned God at the beginning of spring and she is now at the height of her power and fertility. For some Pagans the Summer Solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and see their union as the force that creates the harvest’s fruits.
This is a time to celebrate growth and life but for Pagans, who see balance in the world and are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL:
Please note that as a responsible tour operator we have a duty of care towards the places we visit and in this case we ask you to be take great care when visiting the historic site. It is important that Stonehenge and its surrounding Monuments are preserved for future generations and we ask you not to touch the stones, and not to leave any litter at the site.

Stonehenge Guided Tours
WINNER: Best Stonehenge Tour Specialists 2020 / 2021
WINNER: Best ‘Historical Tour’ Operator 2020 / 2021
Operating Stonehenge Tours Since 1990
www.StonehengeTours.com