It’s hard not to feel a certain level of excitement when you know you’re about to see Stonehenge. You want to go for the mysticism, the stories, the urban legends around it, the conspiracy theories. Striking off another UNESCO World Heritage Site from the list really came in last for me. I wanted to experience the magic of the stones that I had heard about in countless documentaries and to finally visit one of the sites in the world I was most curious to see.
We left early, knowing that our drive to Amesbury would take approximately one hour and a half. We had a clear intention to dodge the tourist crowds and hoped for a calm Sunday morning, which we had. Early mornings, especially in the Summer, are the best time to visit Stonehenge – the queues are small, the tourists there at that time are the jolly kind that is willing to wake up early for sightseeing, and, although it can be quite windy up there, the weather is mostly just perfect (I do suspect the site looks like magic in the rain as it did in the sun).
Unsurprisingly, the facilities are well kept and profit-oriented with the cafe area and the souvenir shop. One would hope that with single adult tickets costing £14.50, the rest of the prices could be a lot gentler. Then again I have to constantly remind myself that tourism is a business and that the maintenance fees of a prehistoric monument as such are probably not low.
Holding our £2.00 audio guides (that I thoroughly recommend you buying), and after a brief detour to the nearby replicas of Neolithic Houses and the Stonehenge virtual stones experience, we decided to walk the one and a half mile stretch from the visitor center to the Stone Circle. I needed to calm the anticipation to see it, and the landscape reminded me of Alentejo in Portugal; seemed like the perfect scenario to keep my mind at peace. Had the weather been any different, we would have taken the 10-minute ride on the free shuttle to the stones (which we decided to take on the way back).
As we were reaching the Stone Circle, the view of large groups of tourists and a fair amount of selfie sticks immediately set off a couple of alarm bells in my mind. I hoped for the worst and walked towards the stones without remembering I was holding the audio guide. Although at times, self-portrait enthusiasts (or solo travelers) and a larger group of visitors would block part of the sight, I can’t say I had a negative experience. From photos I saw later, on Instagram, crowds can get far worse than this. In fact, at that time of day on a Sunday, that was hardly a crowd.
It was when I looked to my right and saw someone coming from the “back” of the circle holding the audio guide next to his left ear that I felt like an idiot. Here I was at Stonehenge doing it wrong. And yes there is a right way to do it. For sure you could step up to the rope and stare at the monument for a while, but you’d leave without knowing anything – and if you expect to feel some spiritual energy over you, that’s not what happens, at least not in that broad sense.
I pressed one on my audio guide and proceeded left, as instructed. To properly see and understand the circle, you must go around it clockwise. As I circled the monument, the English narrator busted one myth at a time. Strangely, despite the fact you’re surrounded by people, the experience with Stonehenge is peaceful and intimate, allowing you to get as close to the stones as it is possible these days and to understand how each piece fits together. Judging by the long queues (one for the ticket office and one for the ladies bathroom) we saw when we returned to the visitor center, peace and quiet are more prone to happen before lunchtime.
June to August from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
September to October from 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
October to March from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(Although the website mentions advance booking required, we purchased our tickets on site. Make sure to confirm this information before you go.)
Child (5 – 15) £8.70
Contacts and Information
Near Amesbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE
+44 (0)370 333 1181
How to reach
The easiest way to reach is by car. For more information on how to reach by bus on the Stonehenge Tour Bus click here.
- With good weather, definitely walk to the Stone Circle instead of taking the free shuttle
- If you have the time, explore Cursus barrows and Stonehenge cursus (they are clearly marked on the map they provide with your tickets)
- Although it is included in your ticket, you can skip the permanent exhibition (probably the best part is the simulation where you can stand in the middle of the circle, and that lasts for a couple of minutes)
- Feel free to skip the gift shop but if sending someone a souvenir bought at Stonehenge would make them happy why not go and do it?
- If you’re an Instagram fan, tag your photos taken at the site with #StonehengeWishYouWereHere