Stonehenge is described by English Heritage as ‘the world’s most famous prehistoric monument, and while it begs the attention of many overseas tourists, it’s easy to forget something so famous and unique exists on our doorstep – especially if you live in Bristol as I do.
I was a little apprehensive about visiting Stonehenge after a polite warning from a fellow blogger over the sheer volume of tourists, but only living an hour or so away means it was time for a day trip to the famous prehistoric monument.
What is Stonehenge?
If you don’t know what Stonehenge is, then you’ve been living under a rock! (Get it?) But in short, Stonehenge is a ring of standing stones which provides a peek into the lives of our Neolithic ancestors – now go visit to find out the rest!
We chose to drive as we could reach the site in under two hours by car, but could expect three to four hour journey by train – no thanks! Although we took the scenic route via A-Roads to reach the suggested postcode (SP4 7DE), it was a beautiful drive and access to the prehistoric monument was clearly signposted.
Although you can expect a little traffic on approach to this popular attraction, the on-site car park is plentiful. If you’ve pre-booked tickets online then no money need change hands. However, if you’re planning to purchase tickets on arrival (not recommended), its £5 which is then refunded at the ticket office.
The requirement to purchase advance tickets for a 30 minute slot should’ve really been the giveaway for the site’s popularity, but in hindsight, the crowds didn’t prove much of a problem. At £16.50, I have to admit the ticket price seems a little steep, but, being the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe I thought – what the heck.
You can purchase tickets on arrival, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Online tickets are exchanged at the pre-booked ticket office window on arrival where the queue was less than a quarter of the size of the on the day tickets.
You’ll need your tickets to enter the exhibition, and again on boarding the shuttle bus or reaching the stone circle by foot.
Is there more than just stones?
Given that we only had a thirty minute time slot, I wasn’t entirely sure what else we were supposed to do once we’d looked at the stone circle. As if reading my mind, English Heritage has this well prepared Things to See and Do list.
We began at the visitor centre with the virtual stones experience and the exhibition, walking out to the Neolithic Houses accessible through the exhibition. This actually didn’t take as long as we assumed it would, it was about an hour before we were ready for the main attraction!
The weather was cloudy but still pretty humid, so the shuttle bus lost its appeal on the realisation that we’d be standing shoulder to shoulder with other sweaty humans. So, with our FitBits at the ready, we walked.
It’s pretty obvious the direction you need to head in, for which you’re supposed to walk along the road on the marked pedestrian walkway. Having watched a few people steer off the paved road and instead head through gate marked with the walking trail sign, we decided to follow suit.
It took us in total around 20 minutes to reach the stone circle having walked from the Visitor Centre, which for the majority was flat, and in doing so were rewarded with the Stonehenge landscape, seeing the stones draw closer as we put one foot in front of the other.
As to be expected there were hoards of people gathered at the entrance to the stone circle, but this thinned as you walked around the circle, do don’t be afraid to move a little further inwards. To our surprise, there was no one policing the time spent at the circle so you can spend as much time as you like – we chose to have a small picnic of our overpriced snacks.
Food & Drink
Having arrived at around 12:15, our rumbling stomachs stole us to the on-site cafe for some hot pot and rock cakes. The cafe prices are as expected – extortionate! – but, when in Rome… or just bring a picnic. If you’ve munched through the snacks whilst waiting in the slow moving traffic on approach to the site, you can pick up a 50p punnet of fruit in the laybys on passing.
There are toilets to the right of the ticket office, however there are also two mixed loos at the end of the cafe. So if you’re busting for the loo, maybe check out the cafe if the queues are too long for the site toilets.