Stone Circle (“Special”) Access

20 08 2017

Before 1978 you were free to walk around inside the stone circle at Stonehenge once you’d paid your admission fee. The lack of any guards overnight meant people also hopped the fence once the site had closed.

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Stonehenge at dawn.  A special access ‘inner circle’ visit at sunrise.

Finally, in response to the over 800,000 annual visitors, access was restricted. An article entitled “Heritage Under Siege” in New Scientist (Sept 27th, 1979) reports the Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings as saying:

“The whole problem of Stonehenge is numbers … all through the year. What menaces Stonehenge are the millions of feet (and hands) of the ordinary visitors.”

… and continues:

“An archaeologist calculated that if each visitor walked around the central area just twice during his or her visit, the effect would be the same as having one man standing on each square foot inside the ring and jumping up and down on that spot 62 times every day throughout the year.”

After March 1978, everyone was banned from inside the circle – including archaeologists and other researchers, much to their annoyance. Department of the Environment officials said that the plans to allow out-of-hours access to “those with a special interest” had to be abandoned because the custodians were unwilling to work overtime. And so it remained for a long time.

Eventually things changed and these days it’s possible to book to go inside the stone circle on what is called a “Stone Circle Access” or “Special Access” visit. These are one-hour long slots before and after the monument is open to the public during the day, and a maximum of 30 people are allowed inside at a time.

You can book as an individual, or via a tour company who may (or may not) provide a well-informed guide to show you some of the hidden features that you might otherwise miss.

Once inside, if the light’s right you can pick out some of the hundreds of examples of wrencarved initials and names on the stones. One of them might even be that of Christopher Wren – a local lad who made good and went on to design the new St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

One thing that a lot of people fail to notice is the sound of the place – there’s a definite sense of entering into an enclosed, peaceful space a soon as you come in through the primary entrance beneath the central lintel of the three on the northeast side of the circle.

It’s only when you’re up really close to the monument that the epic scale of the stones really strikes you – the tallest one is over 7m from grass to top, and there’s a further 2.5m in the ground. Weighing in at over 40 tons it’s a beautifully shaped monolith that was part of the tallest trilithon on the site. Sadly its partner upright fell and broke long ago, leaving the lintel they both supported lying on its side in the southwest part of the central area.

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The bluestones, though much smaller than the sarsens, are still impressive rocks – the tallest one stands leaning in front of the highest sarsen stone and has a wide groove worked all the way down one edge. No-one knows why.

There are a few rules – no standing on the stones, no touching them, no smoking – but apart from that you’re free to wander around and properly appreciate both the enormity of the large sarsen blocks, the elegance of the bluestone pillars and the ingenuity of the builders who created the monument over 4,500 years ago.

If you have the chance, by far the best way to see Stonehenge is through a Stone Circle Access visit.  

Stonehenge Guided Tours pioneered these Stonehenge access tours and offer frequent scheduled coach tours at sunrise and sunset. They can often arrange private custom inner circle tours with expert guides.  The Stonehenge Travel Company are based in nearby Salisbury and are considered the local Stonehenge experts.
Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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Stonehenge opens to Druids for Vernal Equinox

26 03 2010
 

English Heritage site welcomes worshippers to mark the start of spring

Druids celebrate the sping equinox at Stonehenge(Panasonic)

A handful of lucky Druids took advantage of a rare opportunity to walk amongst Stonehenge this Saturday, 20 March in celebration of the Spring Equinox. Less than a hundred visitors, including Druids and pagan worshippers met at around 5.30am to watch the sunrise and welcome in the spring.

Despite the wet, windy weather, traditional customs such as blessings, chants and drum choruses went ahead in the middle of the ordinarily protected English Heritage site.

With characters dressed in outfits of white robes, floral headdresses, witches brooms and even stag’s antlers, attendees worshipped as the sun rose directly above the equator.

Despite heavy cloud cover, the gathered crowd enjoyed a brief glimpse of the sun before taking advantage of their rare chance to touch and interact with the stones.

Formal proceedings were overseen by renowned Arch Druid of Stonehenge Rollo MaughFling, leading both traditional chants and calling for more contemporary solutions, too. When talking about the upcoming General Election, the Arch Druid strayed away from a political bias and instead asked that, “Whoever is best fitted to lead us out of recession and back into prosperity be the party that wins as many people are suffering.”

One fellow Druid not afraid of showing his political stance was notorious eco-campaigner, Arthur Uther Pendragon, announcing his decision to run as an independent candidate in the forthcoming election.

“I have stood three times previously,” he told MSN UK, “The first time, I embarrassed the British National Party into last place, the second time, the new leader of the Monster Raving Looney Party into last place, and the third time I embarrassed myself into last place, but still polling 1% of the Vote.”

The day was also saw a posthumous appearance by Wally Hope, the founder of the Stonehenge festival. Since his death in 1975, the ashes of Wally Hope have been carried to the stones by their official keepers.





Guided Tours of Stonehenge

18 01 2010


I am a professional tour guide who can provide ‘private’ guided sightseeing tours of Stonehenge for small groups.
I specialise in Stonehenge and ancient Britain and can often get permission from the English Heritage to take you beyond the fences and touch the Stones after the site is closed to the public. (special access or inner circle tours)

Private tours can depart from London, Salisbury, Bath or Bristol

Some of my popular ‘favourite’ day tour itineraries include:
King Arthur Day Tour
Stonehenge
Glastonbury and King Arthurs Avalon
Challice Well Gardens (reputed buriel site of the Holy Grail
Avebury Stone Circle
Silbury Hill

Great Heritage Trail Day Tour
Stonehenge
Roman City of Bath
Lacock Village
Castle Coombe

Wessex Explorer Day Tour
Salisbury Cathedral
Old Sarum Hillfort
Stonehenge
Avebury Stone Circle
Chalk Hill figures
Buriel Mounds
Crop Circles (April to Septemeber)

However, private bespoke tours can be tailored to suit your requirements and can offer the ultimate flexibility throughout your day (s) visiting almost any location you wish to visit.

I promise a well balanced day with continuous information about not only the places we visit but England in general. My style of touring guarantees an informative, entertaining day, certainly never boring.
I frequently see so called ‘professional’ guides giving an uninspired hasty tour of tourist attractions and then demand huge tips for their ‘sloppy’ services at the end of the day.
MY MISSION STATEMENT: In the unlikely event of you not being entirely satisfied with my services I will NOT charge you!

I truly appreciate that many of you will only visit Stonehenge or England once and deserve a great experience.
I can supply 100’s of testimonials from satisfied customers (individuals/ families/groups) and have a 1st class reputation with many of the UK tour operators. (my heads getting bigger and bigger the more I write) Seriously folks, give me the opportunity to quote for your private group tour (1 – 16 passangers) and I wont disappoint.
By contacting me direct you can also ‘cut out the middle man’ i.e travel agents who add a big fat commission for doing little
Direct Email: tour.guide@rocketmail.com








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