I booked the Stonehenge Direct Afternoon Tour from Premium Tours, which cost £44 (~$68.09 USD) and included entrance to Stonehenge, an audio guide, and the bus ride there and back. You could just go to Stonehenge by bus on your own, though I don’t think the total price would have been that much cheaper and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of having to figure out bus schedules. I just went for the convenience of an organized trip.
The coach bus picked us up from Victoria Coach Station and we were off on a two-hour ride to see some rocks. Yes, the ride was pretty long but you did get to see more of the countryside. That was interesting until everything just started to look the same. I think most people took a nap.
Eventually, we pulled into a parking lot, got our tickets and audio guides, and were set loose to explore on our own.
After moving through the entrance, you can see a recreation of houses that Stonehenge’s builders may have lived in, based on archaeological remains of excavated buildings that were found about a mile away from the site.
There are two options to get to Stonehenge. You could take a trail and walk the whole distance or you could wait for a shuttle to drop you off. It was really cold and I just wanted to get to the stones as quickly as possible, so I opted for the shuttle. From the drop-off point, you could already see a glimpse of the formation in the distance.
Stonehenge was estimated to have been built over 4,500 years ago and was acknowledged as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986. Not much is known for sure about its history, but it isn’t the first monument created in the area. Cremated remains found within the site suggest that it was a burial ground, but there could have been several other uses as well. The stones line up with the midsummer sunrise and and the midwinter sunset, so there were ceremonies that probably occurred during the solstices. I’m also pretty sure the audioguide was adamant that druids had nothing to do with the construction of Stonehenge. Oh yeah, aliens probably are not responsible either.
There is a path around Stonehenge with different markers for your audioguide that point out certain things about the structure’s history and its surrounding landscape. People are not actually allowed to go inside the circle, in order to protect the space, but it is still pretty breathtaking to admire from a distance. Stonehenge was built using two different kinds of stones — sarsen (sandstone blocks which were used mostly for the outer circle) and bluestone (smaller stones set up between the sarsen).
Other points of interest include the heel stone, a giant sarsen stone that one signboard notes could have been the reason why this site was selected for Stonehenge. There are also a few markers pointing out Aubrey Holes, a ring of 56 chalk pits that were found at Stonehenge, though it still seems like their purpose is unknown and up for debate.
I took the shuttle back to the visitor center and decided to check out the exhibition, which gave a little more information about Stonehenge’s history. My favorite part was the “Wish You Were Here” section focusing on Stonehenge’s role as an icon through photos, souvenirs, and pop culture memorabilia.
We only had about two hours to visit since the total trip was supposed to be six hours and four of those were spent traveling there and back. Still, I think that was enough time to soak everything in. Some people might not be impressed by Stonehenge and really think it is just a pile of rocks, but I thought it was great. I don’t know how to adequately describe how I felt, but it was a mix of peacefulness and also slight…intimidation (?) because there was a sense of grandeur that may be what I would feel like if I was in the presence of some high-profile figure like the Queen.
I slept for much of the bus ride back, satisfied that I got to cross another thing off the bucket list.