This summer is a golden opportunity to visit Stonehenge without the crowds

28 04 2021

Stonehenge normally receives over one million visitors a year. During peak periods, there are over 10,000 visitors a day with queues stretching up to 100 meters from the ticket office to the car park. Due to current travel restrictions and very few overseas visitors, capacity has reduced to a fifth of what it is normally.

The English Heritage Stonehenge experience as an independent visitor:

I’m sure that if you’re planning a trip to Stonehenge you already have an idea of how special the monument is. Stonehenge is full of mystery; its construction and very existence are still open to interpretation even in our technologically advanced world. Stonehenge boasts an amazing and unique design. Many believe that the stones possess healing powers. All this is true and visiting Stonehenge is almost an ethereal experience, perhaps because of the mysteries surrounding it. I want you to get the most out of your visit so here are a few of my top tips – enjoy!

There are special buses from local towns such as Salisbury and Bath that offer direct pick up / drop off services to Stonehenge. Remember to check their timetables and give yourself plenty of time to get back to the bus stop. Once the last one has gone there is no service until the next day and although the security guards are very friendly and informative they will not let you stay overnight to sleep by the trilithons, under the stars!

When you arrive as an independent traveler the first thing you’ll notice is the visitor centre. It was moved away from the monument itself a few years ago giving a far better experience than previously.

Currently all tickets must be brought in advance and visitor numbers are limited. You must present your booking confirmation on arrival. [something about it being a good opportunity as there are usually large crowds]
Tickets cost £22.80 per adult

Although it’s very tempting to show your ticket confirmation and rush straight to the stones, take the time to go to the visitor centre and exhibition space first. Take in the atmosphere of the World Heritage Site, allow yourself to step into the landscape of when the Henge was constructed 4,500 years ago.

I’d highly recommend you use English Heritage’s complementary wifi to download the free multi-language audio guide. Covering the exhibition and the monument itself, it’s a fantastic way to learn about the local landscape and the most famous prehistoric monument in the world!

In the exhibition you’ll discover more than 250 significant archaeological artefacts showing how local Neolithic people lived, worked and played around the monument. You’ll see hand tools including antler picks, jewellery, Grooved Ware pottery, Arrowheads, Battle Axes, as well as ancient human remains. One of my favourite exhibits uses advanced technology to reconstruct a man’s face from a skull discovered locally. It really helped me connect with the people who erected the monument.

Once you leave the exhibition, you’ll find a large scale map of the UNESCO World Heritage Site local landscape including Durrington Walls, Woodhenge and Avebury as well as Stonehenge. It shows how Stonehenge is best considered in its ancient landscape and not in isolation as we often think of it today.

Half a dozen Neolithic houses have been lovingly recreated just outside the visitor and exhibition centre. They are very closely based on archaeological evidence from 100 plus houses in a huge ceremonial earthworks enclosure discovered in 2006/7 about a mile away at Durrington Walls. They dated from about the same time as the erection of the large Sarsen stones at Stonehenge. The houses are constructed with local hazel wood weaved around supporting stakes, with thatched straw roofs and walls of chalk daub. They give a fascinating clue to where the builders of Stonehenge lived during its construction.

There are two Touching Stones, one of the same material as the Blue Stones and the other of the Sarsens. Feel how they radiate heat from the sun differently, remembering you cannot touch the stones of the monument itself. Right by the touching stones is the ‘Pull A Sarsen’ experience, you can have a go at trying to move a real scale Sarsen that shows how many people it takes to move it if they all pulled as hard as you!

The most important thing to remember before you head up to the stones themselves is to use the public facilities as there is no toilet / washroom up at the monument!

The stones are just over a mile away from the visitor centre and there are two ways to get there. The quickest is the complimentary shuttle bus which runs every ten minutes and takes five minutes. The best way, if you are up for it, is to arrive at Stonehenge on foot, through the landscape. You get to experience the unchanged landscape just as our Neolithic ancestors did.

I can walk up to the stones in 15-20 minutes walking at my usual pace so give yourself a leisurely half hour. Fargo Wood marks a halfway point to the stones and is a great place to get close up to one of the many burial mounds. You can’t miss them – they look like big overturned dessert bowls covered in grass and are not giant mole hills! As you walk up to the stones, use the audio guide to for information about The Long Barrow, The Avenue and Cursus.

Once at the monument itself I recommend you walk in a clockwise direction, towards the Heel Stone (which marks the place on the horizon where the summer solstice sunrise appears when viewed from the centre of the stone circle) and The Avenue, connecting the River Avon with Stonehenge. Here you’ll get a great opportunity to take photos of the best views of the monument – the Heel Stone and section of outer ring of Sarsen stones that are still capped with their lintels. Once you have that Iconic shot remember to take it all in, enjoy your time by the stones! There is a rope barrier around the monument that takes you away from the site to get a good feel of the Henge (earth works) that the stones are set inside, before it allows you to the closest point of your visit for some great up close photos. If the stones are wet you may be able to see some of the carved graffiti – see if you can spot where Sir Christopher Wren (architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral) carved his name twice on the stones!

Now you can choose to walk back to the visitor centre through the landscape you will now be so aware of or get the shuttle bus if your feet are tired.

Once back at the visitor centre you can’t ignore the shop for a memento of your visit. My favourite items have ‘Stonehenge Rocks’ emblazoned on them! There’s everything from postcards and pop-up books to beautiful bespoke jewellery and even a limited edition Stonehenge Monopoly!

Before you leave there is also the cafe to grab a coffee and reflect on your experience at one of the most iconic monuments in the world.

At present the indoor exhibition and cafe are closed. There is an outside concession stall for takeaway refreshments. The shop is open with face coverings required and safety measures in place. Indoor spaces at the site are due to open 17th May. Please check the website for current restrictions before your visit. Stonehenge’s audio guide handsets aren’t available. Instead, download the free app, which has similar (good) information, and take headphones.

Stonehenge Relevant Links:

Ticking Stonehenge off your bucket list. Stonehenge News Blog

Stonehenge Special Access Experience. Stonehenge News Blog

Stonehenge Walking Tours. Enhance your Stonehenge visit and book a local expert tour guide.

Salisbury Reds have frequent tour buses departing from Salisbury city centre and can also include Old Sarum Hill Fort.

The Stonehenge Travel Company can meet you in Salisbury or the railway station and conduct small group private guided tours at very reasonable prices. They also include Durrington Walls and Woodhenge.

Visit Wiltshire. Tourist Information and events guide.

Stonehenge Guided Tours offer small group and private guided tours, including the Stonehenge VIP access experience with departures from London, Bath, Salisbury and Southampton.

English Heritage Membership. Join today and visit Stonehenge and 400 U.K sites for free.

The Stonehenge News Blog
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The Legendary Stonehenge Summer Solstice Celebration. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

6 04 2021

The summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that happens every year. Unless you are lucky enough to live close by for many of the thousands of sun-worshipping pilgrims who flock to the unique UNESCO World Heritage monument, it really is a bona fide top grade ‘bucket list’ experience, up there with visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza, Uluru (Ayers Rock), the Taj Mahal, or Machu Piccu – for Stonehenge is indubitably one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

Once seen up-close-and-personal, which is only possible at the solstices and equinoxes (excluding pandemics and other acts of god), unless a private access tour is booked, the stones are never forgotten. Visitors who make a special effort to visit Stonehenge specifically at the time of the summer or winter solstices will experience something perhaps indistinguishable to the Neolithic affect intended by its architects and priesthood over the 1500 years of its construction (3100-1600 BCE) and primary usage – for the 75 interlocking sarsen stones, and (approximately) 80 blue stones are, among other things, a gigantic solstice engine: designed to be a place to not only precisely observe the summer solstice sunrise and winter solstice sunset, but a place activated by this vast celestial drama.

If there could said to be a single ‘Stonehenge code’ that unlocks its mysteries it is the giant solar key that turns in its Neolithic lock twice a year. And it is this grand spectacle, aligning self-reflective carbon-based bipeds with the near miraculous nuclear fusion of the life-sustaining sun, which draws the hordes from across the globe. When witnessed, it is a moment of primal power – a universal leveller that connects all who gather in an instant international fellowship of life-affirming light.

The energy released by the summer solstice sunrise is a visceral whoop of joy: a universal ‘Yes!’ that makes those holding vigil erupt spontaneously into cheering, chanting, hugging, and dancing. It is a beautiful moment that cuts through all barriers, and the party that often builds throughout the preceding night really erupts at this point – but it is one without alcohol or drugs. For even if such things were not firmly forbidden by English Heritage (and bags are scrupulously checked before entry), they are really not needed in the natural euphoria of the moment.

The family-friendly atmosphere is warm-hearted and infectious – one can simply wander amid the stones and revellers enjoying the vibes; join in a druidic ceremony; witness a handfasting (a pagan wedding), knighting (performed by no less than King Arthur Pendragon), or a barding in the gorsedd bardic circle that traditionally follows the dawn druid ceremony. One can dance with wild abandon to a drumming circle, or join in yourself if you bring along a percussive instrument – but be warned, for suddenly you can find yourself shaking your feathers next to a unicorn, dragon, green man, or fairy! If you prefer you can meditate by a stone, imbibing the energy lines that have been tangibly dowsed around the temple – a nexus for many mysterious forces, both visible and invisible.

Open your eyes for a moment and don’t be alarmed to see a Great Bustard waddle by (the magnificent Gertrude, who returns annually); the cast of Hair the Musical; or a concertina-playing Christmas tree. The atmosphere is unique and can perhaps be epitomized as Woodstock remixed through the British Counter Culture: the pixie-punks of the anarcho-traveller Peace Convoy meet the refugees of the Summers of Love (’67; ’88-89), blended with a mash-up of every fashion wave and belief bubble before and since. Whether you want you to sing your heart out with the Sing Shakti Choir, hug a hippy, connect with ancient earth energies or cosmic cross-currents, take iconic selfies and panorama shots to make your friends green with envy back home, or simply just be, Stonehenge is big enough for all persuasions.

It is the broadest church with the biggest heart, and it waits to enfold you in its timeless embrace. Come and join the celebration – a five thousand year long party that everyone is invited to.

Stonehenge Solstice Relevant Links:
Solstice at Stonehenge. From Past to Present. – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
What has Stonehenge got to do with the winter solstice? – METRO NEWS
The Stonehenge Sostice Pilgrims – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Stonehenge Solstice Tours – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
Stones that align with the sun – ENGLISH HERITAGE
Stonehenge, the Winter Solstice, and the Druids – INTERESTRING ENGINEERING
Respecting the Stones.  Managed Open Access – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG
Solstice and Equinox Experience Tours – SOLSTICE EVENTS UK
A Pilgrim’s Guide to Stonehenge – STONEHENGE NEWS BLOG

The Stonehenge News Blog
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest Stonehenge Solstice News
http://www.Stonehenge.News








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