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Stonehenge

nr Salisbury, Wiltshire

Featured Location Guide

"A World Heritage Site"

5,000 years old the same age as the pyramids. The sun would appear to play a part in its function and some suggest it is a huge astrological calendar. Some of the huge stones came from hundreds of miles away.

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Twice as long ago, 8,000BC there are signs of activity on this site with postholes discovered under the tourists car park. This is the end of the ice age, and the same as the earliest civilisations found around the world, when the world population is thought to have been around 5 million.  This is before the building of Howick House, near the village of Howick, in Northumberland said by many to be Britain's oldest house built in 7,600BC.


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The meaning and origins of this great monument is unknown

It sits in a field in the middle of the Salisbury Plain and from whichever direction you approach it from, it can be seen on the horizon. Many people visit it all year round, and although today you cannot climb on or get too near to the individual stones themselves it is still an impressive site, and every visitor must be in awe of it's size, purpose and the people who built it.

It is of course an ancient stone circle and it is believed that what is left standing today is the remnants of the last sequence of monuments erected between 3000BC and 1600BC. The first 'stonehenge' was a circular bank and ditch with 56 wooden posts (Aubrey Holes) in a ring. Over the years later monuments used and reused these stones, which were brought from some great distance. 

This final phase comprised of an outer circle of huge hard sarsen stones, believed to be bought from the Marlborough Downs and they were topped by lintels to make a continuous ring. Inside this was a horseshoe of  large stones, 5 pairs with a lintel across each pair (trilithons). Smaller bluestones from the Preseli Mountains, South Wales have been used to make another circle and horseshoe within the larger structure. All of this held together with tongue and groove joints and using mortice and tenon.

Its purpose has been of great debate for many centuries, and over time it has been the focal point in a landscape of prehistoric ceremonial structures. It's positioning on the setting and rising of the sun is one of its features but whether this was because some sort of sun-worshipping culture built it, or it was part of an astronomical calendar we can only surmise. It is a mystery and one that probably no one will ever unfold.

The people of this era were amazing using, it is believed, just antlers and bones to dig pits, banks and ditches. There are artefacts  which show how the people of Stonehenge lived and worked and even contents of graves have been found, some of these are at museums in Salisbury and Devizes in Wiltshire. Stonehenge and its surroundings are what remains of the civilisations of the Stone and Bronze Ages between 5,000 and 3,000 years ago.

There are several stories of stones being dragged off for other uses in the past and one recovered stone we hear is in Salisbury museum. It might be interesting to see if others could be found.

Its not the size of Stonehenge that is unique, there are many other stone circles that are larger, it's the way it is constructed, nowhere else in the world is the singular lintel structure of Stonehenge to be found.  There are no other surviving examples of the tongue and groove interlocking construction which has enabled this drystone building to stand against the passage of time.

There would appear to have been development in stages over a very long period, and this would have been unlikely if this was the remains of a passage grave, or the whole structure permanently buried in some way. The actual area inside is small compared to the work involved in constructing it, so theories about it being some grand building also don't seem a logical answer. Although there are astronomic factors such as alignments of sunrises and turning around the opposite way, sunsets, and being on the line where the sun and moon are at right angles at times, some of these factors are common with many historic monuments.

 

Click on any picture to see the picture stationery.

There are many burial mounds, long barrows, earthworks and other monuments still visible in the surrounding countryside, including the Cursus (SU125425) a long oval earthwork to the North which is believed to have once been a chariot racecourse. About a third of the world heritage site of Stonehenge is owned by the National Trust, and this contains over 400 ancient monuments, we don't have a total for the whole of the heritage site.

Nearby and apart of the heritage site  is Woodhenge  , a site marked with circles of coloured concrete markers showing where post holes were and Durrington Walls   (SU150437),  a large earthworks, and thought to be where the builders of Stonehenge lived. The National Trust also have a 4 mile walk around the countryside starting from Durrington Walls and visiting some of the other features, you can download a PDF off their website.  It takes around 2 and half hours and includes Woodhenge   and Durrington Walls.   These two sites are a short drive away.

A while back a TV programme reconstructed Stonehenge in polystyrene in an attempt to show what it might have looked like, referred to as Foamhenge. You can see photos of this at http://www.flickr.com/photos/alun/sets/482095/.

A description of the local homes of builders is discussed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2vkLepZlO0&NR=1.

An interesting and some may think crazy theory is very well graphically presented on you tube, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkVIMhUXnec

Many of us were able in the past to visit this site when it was still completely open and available without charge or restriction to anyone, to picnic amongst the stones and climb on them if we chose, and this had the custom for hundreds or years. Of course it was far quieter then, not a commercial tourist attraction as it is today, and while we all probably accept that some restrictions are now necessary with the sheer numbers of visitors, some commercialisation like limiting the use of photographs taken on the charged sessions, seem off. 

Perhaps we should appreciate the many other sites which so far have avoided the commercialisation that tourism brings about, and make the most of these while we still are able to.

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Visiting Today

Today you access the site via booked timed tickets, but after some major development work the site now has a visitor centre which includes a large Stonehenge Exhibition, an audio visual 360 degree view from inside the stones, cafe and shop. Outside the visitors centre are some Neolithic houses which allow you to explore and get an idea of how people lived 4,500 years ago. They have been built with authentic materials and techniques and volunteers in period dress demonstrate ancient domestic shills like flint knapping, making rope out of rushes and grinding grain. Getting to the stones is a ?? walk from the visitor centre or you can take a ride on the visitor shuttle. Once up close to the stones access is a walk around a path system which allows you to get photos of the stones from many angles, however on busy days there can be a lot of people. There is also an audio tour available.

Access amongst the stones, off the public path. You can still book to get access to the stones for fee, but there are restrictions on photography for commercial uses, and for website use in these events without paying a larger fee.

You can click on the smaller images above to see a larger version.


Further information Grid

 

Location:

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Ceremonial County: Wiltshire

Grid Reference:

SU 122422 - OS Map 184

Map Link:

Google

Aerial photo: Google maps aerial photo

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

Out of the main tourist season

E-mail:

 

Website:

English Heritage

National Trust - Landscape around Stonehenge

Other useful websites:

Wiki

www.megalithia.com/stonehenge/index.html

Nearby Locations:

Durrington Walls     Woodhenge 

Avebury          Silbury Hill, nr Avebury   

West Kennet Long Barrow     WKLB Gallery

The Sanctuary, nr Avebury

Other Relevant pages:

Our section on stone circles

The discussion on the purpose of stone circles

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

 

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Planning Grid

Location:

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Grid Reference:

SU 122422 - OS Map 184

Getting there:

2 miles West of Amesbury on junction of A303 and A344/A360

Access:

From car park and following payment of entry fee, on foot via underpass under the road and then onto marked path. No access onto stones themselves, low level fencing on edge of path.

Parking:

Car Park - Free for National Trust and English Heritage members, seasonal charge for others, refundable on entry.

Facilities:

Toilets, shop, restaurant, audio tour, disabled access

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Stone Circle, plus some views of the local countryside.

What to take:

Camera, Tripod, panorama kit, grads

Nature highlights:

Usually too many people here to see much wildlife up close. But in the middle of an area with plenty of opportunities.

Colourful displays of downland flowers around the area in June and July.

Address:

Stonehenge

Wiltshire

Postcode:

SP4 7DE

Telephone:

0870 333 1181

Opening times:

Open daily 9:30am-7pm except for 24-25 Dec closed, 26th Dec and 1st Jan 10am-4pm. Also may be some restrictions from 20-22 Jun due to Summer Solstice.

Last Admission 2 hours before closing time.

Access to the stones is now by timed tickets which have to be booked in advance, including for English Heritage and National Trust Members.

Charges:

Free to English Heritage and National Trust Members. Parking charges are for Members and Non-Members.

Non Members Adults 16, Child (5-15yrs) 9.60, Concessions 14.40,

Family (2+3) 41.60.  Audio Tour 2 or for families 6.

Photo Restrictions:

No commercial photography.

Other Restrictions: Except on special occasions, visitors are unable to walk amongst the stones when open to the public. See under opening times.
Special Needs Access: Reserved parking for disabled drivers is available close to entrance. Ticket office reached by short, sloping tarmac path.
Special Needs Facilities: Toilets: WC adapted for wheelchair users in large toilet block at far end of car park. Shop: Level access.
Refreshments: Light refreshments are available from the Stonehenge Kitchen.
Braille and large print guides are available on request
Children Facilities: All inspiring site for children and the free guided tour in a wand, enthrals some. But they have to keep to the paths and visitor numbers can be large and queues quite long at times.
Dogs Allowed: Guide and hearing dogs only

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By: Keith Park Section: Stone Circles Section Key:
Page Ref: Stonehenge Topic: Stone Circles Last Updated: 05/2015

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