A trip to Salisbury is not complete without venturing out to the world-famous Stonehenge. Situated on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, Stonehenge was built around 5,000 years ago and is an engineering marvel (considering they didn’t have today’s technology and machinery back then).
As I was travelling to Salisbury by train, I was pleased to discover The Stonehenge Tour – a tour bus run by Salisbury Reds bus company. The Stonehenge Tour begins right outside Salisbury train station (look for the big green double-decker tour bus), but also picks up in the city centre, and takes in the beautiful countryside before arriving at Stonehenge Visitor Centre (the return journey goes via Old Sarum, for those wishing to visit).
Due to the number of visitors, entrance to Stonehenge is now managed through timed tickets, so it is advisable to book entry tickets in advance (even if you are an English Heritage or National Trust member). However, The Stonehenge Tour ticket holders (excepting “bus only” tickets) are allowed in without advanced booking.
Upon arrival at Stonehenge, you will see just how popular an attraction it is. Even on an autumnal October day (which had begun with a torrential downpour of rain), it was surprisingly busy. Due to a cancelled train, I had arrived at Stonehenge an hour later than planned, so I had to make the most of just a short time there. The visitor centre is a mile and a half away from Stonehenge itself, so I headed straight to the free shuttle bus for the 10 minute journey (although you can walk to them if you’re feeling more energetic).
The stones are roped off, but you can follow a path around them to see Stonehenge from 360 degrees. You can request a Stone Circle access visit via the English Heritage website, but places and times are limited.
I was slightly underwhelmed by my visit to Stonehenge. I was somewhat surprised that the stones weren’t as big as I thought they would be. Also, the sheer amount of people there somewhat ruins the experience. I imagine Stonehenge should be a peaceful and serene place, after all the standing stones are aligned to mark the passage of the sun and the changing seasons. The druids and pagans go there to mark the summer and winter solstices and spring and autumn equinoxes. Unfortunately, the world and its neighbour wants to visit this place of wonder and take numerous selfies with the stones. I suspect a Stone Circle access visit (when the masses aren’t there) might be in order to appreciate it better.
Whilst at Stonehenge, there is the opportunity to explore nearby features such as Woodhenge, Cuckoo Stone and various barrows. However, these are accessed on foot and over uneven ground. As my time was short, I didn’t get to explore them.
Back at the visitor centre, you will find Neolithic houses, an exhibition, cafe and shop. The Neolithic houses are recent recreations of the type of homes the builders of Stonehenge might have lived in. They are single room properties with thatched roofs and white chalk walls. (Be careful not to accidentally brush against the houses… I discovered a big patch of white chalk dust on my black bag as I boarded the tour bus back to Salisbury!).
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit the exhibition or the cafe as I had other plans back in Salisbury, but I did pop into the shop. The shop is quite large and full of everything and anything you can think of to do with Stonehenge, from hoodies and t-shirts to postcards and books. Of course, I picked up a guidebook and a handful of postcards.
Stonehenge is accessible for visitors with mobility issues and two wheelchairs are available onsite for those who might need them. With 22 disabled parking spaces available, parking shouldn’t be an issue for disabled visitors (though do be aware that Stonehenge gets very busy, especially in the summer months).
If I’m honest (and I am!), I’d like to visit Stonehenge again, but when the crowds aren’t there, to fully appreciate this ancient monument.
If you visit Stonehenge, be sure to visit nearby Salisbury (especially Salisbury Museum and Salisbury Cathedral).