Stonehenge Day Trip Guide
The UNESCO World Heritage Centre describes Stonehenge as the “most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world.” The Neolithic and Bronze Age engineering marvel sits in an area of rolling hills and traditional English villages just 2-hours west of London. The world-famous monument is a must-do London day trip. Our Stonehenge Guide includes all the information you will need for the best way to see Stonehenge.
The Stonehenge archeological site was built between 3700 and 1600 BC. The concentric rings of blue, sarsen, and lintel stones track the movement of the sun and were likely used for ceremonial purposes. Many companies offer Stonehenge tours. Located on the Salisbury plain, Stonehenge tours from London offer visitors a fascinating glimpse into the spiritual life of people who lived some 4500 years ago.
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ADDRESS: Wiltshire, England. (Salisbury SP4 7DE) (Coordinates 51°10′44″N 1°49′34″W)
HOW TO VISIT STONEHENGE
Train: Travel to Stonehenge from London by public train via Salisbury railway station. Nine miles away from the Stonehenge archeological site, Salisbury is the nearest hub. London’s Waterloo Station generally runs 1-2 trains per hour to the station. The trip is about 80-90 minutes.
At the time of this post, there are no public buses running between Salisbury and Stonehenge, so a means of private transport (bike, shuttle, private vehicle, hop-on hop-off bus) must be arranged to travel to the site.
Private Vehicle: A Stonehenge day trip from London is a relatively straight shot. Leaving London via Knightsbridge, follow A316, M3, and A303 to A360. The trip is about 82 miles and takes under 2 hours. Parking is available onsite. It is free to English Heritage members and with the purchase of a ticket to the site. There are spaces available for motorhomes.
Stonehenge Tours: One of the most convenient ways to arrange a London day trip to Stonehenge is to purchase a tour. There are Stonehenge day tours in large and small coaches, minivans, and other vehicles. Many direct tours are half-day morning or afternoon excursions. In addition, Stonehenge tours are often bundled with other popular day trips from London such as visits to Windsor Castle, Bath, the Cotswolds, Oxford, and Salisbury.
Recommendation Joe and I recommend a good small group tour of the Stonehenge English Heritage site. Look for a tour of under 16 people (a smaller vehicle is able to navigate the much prettier and interesting back roads), with knowledgeable guides, and either an early morning or late afternoon entry to the site (when crowds are thinner and the light is better for photographs). Combine the visit to Stonehenge with other areas of interest. Joe and I had a great experience with a Stonehenge/Bath/Cotswolds tour.
STONEHENGE TICKETS, ENTRY, HOURS, AND TIMING YOUR VISIT
Stonehenge tickets can be purchased on site, but it is recommended that visitors book in advance. Over 800,000 people visit Stonehenge every year. Booking in advance guarantees entrance (and comes with a discount).
Tickets are sold with a timed entry. Visitors must arrive within 30 minutes of their ticketed time slot (and can then stay as long as desired). The last entry is 2 hours before closing. The site is generally open during the day time; hours vary throughout the year. Check the website for current opening hours. There are discounts for age and some memberships.
The site tends to be the most crowded between 11am and 2pm. For a more relaxing experience, time your visit for outside of these hours.
FACILITIES & THINGS TO KNOW
Visitor Centre: The Visitor Center is described by the English Heritage site as a sustainable building. The structure has a water conservation system, recycles waste, is the hub of a green bus fleet, and was built to blend with the natural environment. The café, restrooms, gift shop, Exhibitions, and Neolithic Houses are clustered around the Visitor Centre.
Bus Service: A free bus service runs between the Visitor Centre and the Stone Circle. The ride takes about 10 minutes, and shuttles run frequently throughout the day. Visitors can ride the bus one or both ways, walk the paved road, or take trails through the pastureland to arrive at the Stone Circle.
Café: An onsite café serves hot and cold food and drinks.
Picnic Area: There are several picnic areas scattered around the Visitor Centre and grounds. One has a view of the Stone Circle.
Gift Shop: The gift shop offers books, art, jewelry, and other themed souvenirs.
Restrooms: There are restrooms in the Visitor Centre as well as accessible, infant, and adult changing facilities.
Pets: Guide dogs are allowed throughout the grounds. Leashed dogs are allowed around the Visitor Centre, but not around the site’s surrounding fields or the Stone Circle.
Audio Tours: Free audio tours can be downloaded from the Apple and Google Play store (in a variety of languages). At the time of this post, no audio guides are being rented from the Visitor Centre.
Accessibility: As an English Heritage site, Stonehenge has been designed to meet a wide variety of accessibility needs (mobility, hearing, vision, learning, and more). Visit the official Stonehenge site for a complete listing.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
Exhibitions: What was Stonehenge used for? Why did the Neolithic people put so much effort over several hundred years to build it? How did they construct the massive site with only hand tools and simple technologies? The cutting-edge audio-visual exhibits and ancient objects displayed in the Visitor Centre Exhibitions will help you to better understand the site and hypothesize around these questions. The Stonehenge Exhibition area is filled with educational materials and archeological objects found on the grounds including tools, bones, jewelry, and housewares.
Grounds: The UNESCO World Heritage site is surrounded by pastural farmland. On the grounds there are free walking trails (and picnic grounds) that are appropriate for a variety of ages and abilities.
Neolithic Houses: Behind the Visitor and Exhibition Centre complex there is a cluster of dwellings. The thatched roof houses are meant to help visitors discover how the Neolithic and Bronze age workers who built Stonehenge might have lived and worked 4,500 years ago.
Stone Circle: A visit to the Stone Circle is the highlight of any visit. The broken assortment of sarsen, blue, and lintel stones that visitors see today were actually a carefully laid series of horseshoes, circles, and alters.
Transported from Wales, the tongue and groove boulders were laid to align with the movements of the sun and likely formed the basis of a Neolithic calendar. The process took hundreds of years. Rounding out the landscape, in the area surrounding the Stone Circle there are barrows (stone age burial grounds) and ditches which align with the solstice and link to the River Avon.
There is a paved path that circles the Stonehenge archeological site. Visitors walk the path to view the Stone Circle from every angle.
Stone Circle Experience: To get closer to the Stone Circle, the Stone Circle Experience takes visitors up close. For a fee, the hosted visits last 45 minutes to an hour and are held in the early morning or late afternoon (outside of normal opening hours). No more than 30 people per session are booked.
It’s time for us to scoot off. See you in a bit, Laura and Randy
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