The other day, I was thinking about my travels over the years and realised that, while I’ve travelled 6000-odd miles from London to Hong Kong, I haven’t yet explored some of the UK’s greatest sites! It’s absolute madness, I know, so over the next few months I’m making it my mission to get to the root of some of the UK’s best homegrown travel talent. My first stop was the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stonehenge on a day trip to Bath with Premium Tours.
Embarrassingly, before I visited Stonehenge I didn’t know a whole lot about it. I knew it was a prehistoric site, was made of rocks and had links with the Summer and Winter Solstice. But there, I’m very ashamed to say, is where my knowledge ended.
Over the course of the morning, our tour guide gave us a comprehensive run-down of the site – and not only do I feel more acquainted with the area, but I feel a LOT more excited about reading up on it in the future.
Eight Things You Need to Know
1. Stonehenge was built over a long period of time – it’s estimated that from start to finish it took around 1500 years.
2. The oldest part of the site is around 5000 years old.
3. Stonehenge is made up of two different types of rock – sarsen stones from around Salisbury, which can weigh up to 50 tonnes and are almost as hard as diamonds. The second is blue stone from South Wales, some 160 miles away, probably transported to the site by boat.
4. No-one really knows for sure why Stonehenge was built. Early theorists suggested it was built by the wizard Merlin, while others have suggested it’s a landing pad for UFOs. More plausible explanations are that it was built by farmers to help them plan their year, or the current favourite – that it was built as a giant temple to the sun. Twice a year (on Winter and Summer Solstice in June and December) the sun lines up with the heel and altar stones. However, academics from Sheffield university have suggested that you can’t really understand Stonehenge properly unless you understand all the other historic sites in the area. And then there’s the theory that it’s just one big ol’ burial ground. *breathes* So, basically, your guess is as good as mine.
|A depiction of how the sun lines up on summer and winter solstice (image: BBC)|
5. Stonehenge was bought for the princely sum of £6,600 in 1915 by a local eccentric who wanted to give his wife a special present. She hated it, and so a few years down the line he handed it over to the state for safe keeping. Today, it’s estimated to be worth around £60 million (bet his wife would be kicking herself now).
6. In order to preserve the historic site, English Heritage have made a few changes to the site and have implemented a few rules. Namely, you can’t touch the stones, and visitors are transported to the site (via coach or land train) from a nearby car park to ensure the area remains as peaceful as possible. There’s only two days a year that visitors can touch the stones: Winter and Summer Solstice.
|Land trains: dead slow, but boy do they look cool.|
7. There’s a new visitor centre on-site, as well as a cafe which sells a range of snacks – just don’t expect it to be cheap. I paid £4.50 for a cup of tea and a slither of carrot cake…
8. I regret leaving it this long to go and visit Stonehenge. If you live in England, or are planning a future trip, I would definitely recommend popping along, even for just a few hours.
How do you get there?
We visited Stonehenge on a day trip with Premium Tours which left Victoria coach station at 8:30am. It took about an hour and a half to drive there, followed by a shorter journey on to the city of Bath where we spent the afternoon. The company does, however, offer separate trips to Stonehenge for those looking for a morning or afternoon trip.
Trains to Salisbury leave from London Waterloo station. Stonehenge tour buses leave on the hour from Salisbury station between 10am and 4pm (but it’s also best to check timetables before you leave…)
Does it cost?
Walk-up prices to the site are £14.90 for adults, £13.40 for concessions, £8.90 for kids and £38.70 for a family.
Who else has been to Stonehenge, and how did you find it?
If you have any suggestions for where else in the UK I should head to next, give me a shout!