|Photo by Freeimages.com/jenny w.|
Sophie Campbell, The Daily Telegraph, September 16, 2016
Our UK expert's guide to visiting Stonehenge, including information on parking, buses, tickets, prices, tours, the best time of year to go and nearby hotels and restaurants.
Cremation ground? Sun worship site? Alien landing pad? The sight of Stonehenge with its broken circle of stones and mighty central trilithons standing in apparent isolation on Salisbury Plain has been mesmerising travellers for centuries. Right now it’s enjoying a renaissance, partly because its 1960s concrete excrescences have been swept away and replaced with an airy visitor centre a mile down the road, returning the stones to their full glory and explaining what is known of their story, but also because new finds and interpretations are announced all the time. The latest discovery of huge buried stones underneath the henge at Durrington Walls, a couple of miles away, reinforces the idea that Stonehenge is one component of a planned Neolithic landscape on a vast scale.
How to get there
Public transport: Green Traveller has made a video on getting to Stonehenge without using a car, including by bike, see greentraveller.co.uk/blog/travel-avebury-and-stonehenge-without-car
Bus: The Stonehenge Tour (01202 338420; thestonehengetour.info ) leaves from Salisbury, 10 miles/15km to the south, which has a mainline railway station. Bus only costs £14 adults, £9 children 5-15 or £40 families (up to two adults and three children) and including entry to Stonehenge and the hilltop site of Old Sarum £27, £17 or £78. You can pay extra to add Salisbury Cathedral entry. The first bus leaves Salisbury at 10am and the last one leaves Stonehenge at 6pm in autumn and 4pm in winter (hours are longer in summer, so check nearer the time.)
Vehicle: The visitor centre and car park (free for ticketholders) sit to the north of the A303, where the A360 and B3086 meet at Airman’s Corner. In summer traffic can back up to the Countess Roundabout: it may be worth westbound drivers taking the back route via the B3086 and the Packway south to Airman’s Corner.
Tour or no tour?
Interpretation and signage at the visitor centre are excellent, but audio guides for adults (£2) and for families (£6) are available on site (pick them up before you get the shuttle to the stones) or you can download them free onto your device from the App Store or Play Store. For an in-depth guide to the stones and their broader context, Blue Badge Tourist Guides ( britainsbestguides.org ) can be booked from approximately £230 per day.
Highlights for adults
Getting off the shuttle halfway, at Fargo Plantation, and wandering through the trees to see the mysterious – and much older - oblong ditch known as The Cursus, before approaching the stones as they should be approached (if possible): on foot.
Highlights for children
Seeing the recreated face of a 5,000-year old Neolithic man in the visitor centre and then being able to play in his house (the Neolithic village outside, based on remains found at Durrington Walls, often with re-enactors and demonstrations.)
Best time to visit
Winter. At the end of the day, to catch the sun going down behind the stones to the southwest – even better if it’s frosty. And of course the winter and summer solstices, when entrance is free, but you have to contend with mighty crowds.
Where to eat
The café in the visitor centre is light and bright with long wooden tables and decent food: you have to try the rock cakes, obviously, and the kitchen produces soups, sandwiches and salads and uses lots of produce from local suppliers.
For a pub lunch, drive six miles for a roaring fire and Sunday roasts at the Swan at Enford ( theswanenford.co.uk ) or a bit further for homemade food at the excellent Red Lion Freehouse at East Chisenbury ( redlionfreehouse.com ).
Pass the entrance to the stones and follow the fence round to the north, veering down the faint parallel lines in the grass known as The Avenue. About 100 yards downhill, turn and look back to see the stones silhouetted against the sky.
Park at Woodhenge Car Park ( english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/woodhenge ) near Durrington Walls and walk to Stonehenge across National Trust land. It takes about an hour, at a leisurely pace. Irritatingly, you have to walk past the stones to validate your tickets at the visitor centre, then double back.
Stonehenge, Amesbury, Wiltshire SP4 7DE (0370 333 1181; english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/Stonehenge ) opens daily 9.30am to 7pm (March to October to March) and 9.30am to 5pm (October to March). Gift Aid tickets bought online cost £16 adults aged 16-59, £9.60 children aged 5-15 (infants free), £14.40 concessions (16-17 years or over 60s) and £41.60 families (up to two adults and three children). Tickets are timed entry. English Heritage and National Trust members and carers for disabled visitor must book their free tickets in advance.
This article was written by Sophie Campbell from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.