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Who on Earth would want to see a giant pile of rocks?
Stonehenge is probably the most famous prehistoric site on Earth. Show anybody a photo of this sacred place, and they’ll immediately know what it is. Still, until you grasp some basic Stonehenge facts, you’ll probably just think that its just a bunch of cool looking rocks. But once you understand what it’s all about, visiting Stonehenge will be an awe-inspiring experience.
Stonehenge at a Glance
|Country:||United Kingdom (England)|
|Type of Site:||Archaeological, possibly religious|
|Constructed:||2,500 B.C. (estimated)|
|Known For:||Giant rock formation|
Stonehenge Facts and History
Stonehenge is an ancient megalithic monument believed to have been erected during the Neolithic Period around 2,500 B.C. Stonehenge was constructed over a number of years, and together with the surrounding area, was believed to be under construction and continuous use for over 2,000 years. Located in Wiltshire, England, Stonehenge was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Although the archeological site is composed of ancient neolithic houses, burial grounds, and a visitors’ center, the real draw is the gigantic rock formation. The rock circle itself contains an inner and an outer circle, each made from a different type of stone.
Over the years, historians have debated why Stonehenge was built. One popular theory was that the Druids built the monument as a temple to worship their Gods. However, that theory has largely been disregarded by today’s historians and archaeologists since we now know that the Druids did not come to England until long after Stonehenge was built. Although we still don’t know its exact use, it is largely believed that the monument is a temple built to track the movements of the sun. In fact, if you stand inside the rock circle on the Summer Solstice, you’ll see the sun rise directly over the “Heel Stone.”
Perhaps even more interesting than why it was built is how Stonehenge got built at all. It’s hard to appreciate the sheer size of these stones just by looking at a picture. You really need to be standing next to them to get the full effect. The formation itself is composed of about 80 stones, but could have originally contained as many as 160. The biggest stones are 30 feet (9 meters) high and weigh 25 tons (22.6 metric tons). These stones were transported from about 20 miles away. The smaller stones, known as the “bluestones,” weigh up to 4 tons. They are believed to have come from the Preseli Hills in Wales, more than 150 miles away!
Nobody knows how the Neolithic builders got these stones to his spot. Remember, this was constructed in 2,500 B.C., so hauling them by box truck was not an option. On top of that, the large horizontal beams at the top are secured using tongue and groove joints, which is very interesting. And, how in the world did they lift those rocks up there? Stonehenge must have been an extremely important place for a group of people to put so much effort into it for so long a time.
How to Get to Stonehenge
Visiting Stonehenge makes a great half-day trip from either London or Bath. You can easily rent a car and drive from London to Stonehenge in about two hours. It takes about one hour from Bath. Parking is free, provided you buy a ticket to see Stonehenge. You’ll find the site just off the A360, near Airman’s Corner.
Once you’ve arrived at the Visitors’ Center and bought your ticket, you’ll be transported by a miniature shuttle to the actual stone formation. Walking around the monument takes about 30-45 minutes. Make sure to bring your camera and take a ton of pictures. Since Stonehenge is located in the middle of the countryside, you’ll also want to bring a coat and umbrella. The Visitors’ Center is quite a distance from the stones themselves, and the weather is known to change extremely quickly here. The last thing you want is to get stranded out in the wind, cold, and rain without the proper attire.
Stonehenge Ticket Prices and Hours
Please note that booking your tickets in advance is now (basically) required. Entrance to the monument is timed, so purchasing your tickets ahead of time is the only way to guarantee that you’ll get in on the day and time you want. As of November 2015, tickets cost £14.50 for adults, £8.70 for children (age 5-15), and £37.70 for families (2 adults, 3 children).
Hours of Operation are as follows:
- Summer (Mid March-Mid October): 9:30 AM to 7 PM, Daily
- Winter (Mid October-Mid March): 9:30 AM to 5 PM, Daily
Be aware that the last admission is 2 hours before closing time.
Stonehenge is one of those places that you just have to visit in order to truly absorb its majesty. You just can’t appreciate the size of these stones, and what it took to get them there, until you are standing in front of them. Although you might only need to see it once, it is definitely a place to put on your bucket list.