The Stonehenge you can see today is about 4,000 years old. I think for that reason alone 'visiting Stonehenge' should be top of your British bucket list, but you know you better than I do, so don't let me force you. As Salisbury is it's closest city, with such a gorgeous cathedral, my recommendation is that you visit Salisbury too.
So Stonehenge; older than The Parthenon, the Easter Island Statues and the Great Wall of China it's definitely worth a look. They've revamped the site in the last few years - the ticket area and parking is now a couple of miles away from it. It costs £14 to get in, which I think is quite a lot, however the money is used to maintain not just Stonehenge's area, but also other English heritage sites across Britain. As Stonehenge makes the most money, it has to support the others - like a husband in the 50s. (We actually got in for FREE because my dad has a heritage card)
You can walk the two miles to stonehenge, or take one of the jurassic park type 4 by 4s:
they go really slowly, but also really regularly.
Anyway, here it is:
There are always quite a few people here, but as the area is quite vast it doesn't feel crowded or touristy. We didn't have to wait to get a section that was free from people to get an iconic photo:
There is a rope around Stonehenge which is well thought out, the rope is more oval than circle, so at certain points you're really far away:
and at other points you're really close up:
which makes for a more interesting walk around the edge. The rope is inoffensive too, it's not a nasty 'we don't trust you barbed wire and concrete' barrier, it's just a rope. You could easily jump over it, which lots of people do to try and hug the stones - then they get chucked out by security. If you really really want to get in, and don't want to be chucked out, you can get a group of people together and book a private Stonehenge tour in the morning, or in the evening during summertime - there is a waiting list though.
You can get the 4 by 4s back, or you can walk. If you walk you get to see the round barrows where they used to bury their dead:
There are also two big ditches called the cursus, and they don't know what they were used for, but they are super super old (nearly 6,000 years old):
it's just that flattened bit of grass
At Stonehenge's visitor centre there are also toilets (clean), a gift shop (stuffed toy crows), a restaurant (£4 sandwich) and a really informative exhibition centre.
The exhibition centre is really well thought out, you enter a room and surrounding you on the walls is a projection of the stones, so you can watch them change throughout time.
Our favourite part was when they explained the history of Stonehenge:
At the beginning there was just a circle of blue stones, which looks really creepy, but amazingly the stones came all the way from Wales - a hundred miles away, without a lorry! Later on they added the big stones that you see today, and over time a few of these fell over/were nicked. They also incorporated the earlier blue stones into today's layout - though to us they looked grey.
The other thing that the wall projection shows you is how the stones are perfectly positioned for the shortest (and longest) days of the year. On the shortest day (Dec 21st, also known as winter solstice) the sun sets between the biggest stones.
This midwinter sun sets exactly opposite to where the midsummer sun rises, so on the longest day of the year (June 21st, summer solstice) the sun rises above the heel stone and into the centre.
This is the heel stone:
For years modern day people have flocked to Stonehenge on the summer solstice, to stay up all night and watch the sun rise. However, archeologists now believe that back in the day, the winter solstice was a lot more important, olden day people would honour their ancestors and pray for the sun to return.
In the exhibition centre there is also a timeline that puts everything in perspective. There are also things that have been collected on site including bones, daggers, pottery and jewellery.
All in all, we enjoyed the stones and hope you do too!
How do you get to Stonehenge?
There are a lot of tours that go to Stonehenge from London/ Bath/ Bristol/ Salisbury. We personally hate tours, they're normally too constricting and annoying - and the British ones are the worst in the world for making up rules that aren't necessary. Plus they are expensive! So alternately there is a train station in Salisbury and from there you can get the bus to stonehenge. This bus costs £14 for just the bus and £26 for bus and entry to Stonehenge. As normal Stonehenge entry costs £14 and you understand that 14+14=28 you should definitely opt for the £26 option. That's still so expensive though, especially if you include however much your train fare was.. So you could just hitch hike for free. I would recommend the hitch hiking, even though we are normally too cowardly to do it.. How did we travel to Stonehenge then? My dad drove us :)
On the way to the cathedral is a nice arch, which is the gateway to the cathedral close:
I really like this photo, it's very British (apart from the German in it):
The spire in the above background is from Salisbury Cathedral. Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest church spire in Britain, the oldest clock in the world, and at the moment the best copy of the Magna Carta. It's also without a doubt the most beautiful British cathedral that I've ever seen (sorry Gloucester). Here it is:
and here's it's spire:
The best out of the four copies of the Magna Carta lives in this cathedral, it dates back to 1215! The Magna Carta is the first bill of rights in the world. I just think it's incredible that we are able to see something from eight hundred years ago. You're not allowed to take photos of it, but I took a photo of a photo of it:
The Cathedral itself dates from around the same time (1220 onwards) and that's impressive too. This is my favourite part, the cloisters:
I think it looks a lot like the cloisters in Harry Potter, but according to the internet it's not. Lots of cloisters in the UK look like each other okay!?
Inside the cathedral, it's gorgeous:
and there's lots of nice little details everywhere:
Near the entrance is an infinity pool (also the baptism font) which cleverly reflects the ceiling, so you don't have to crane your neck:
This is the oldest clock in the world, it doesn't have a face but it dates about 1386 and still works - by ringing a bell on the hour every hour!
Just as we were leaving, a tour guide started talking to us and insisted on showing us this water gauge:
Salisbury Cathedral was built on a high water table, but as the foundations are made of flint that's a good thing - without the flint the cathedral would sink, and without the water the flint would shift. It's like magic! She lifted this metal square, stuck a wooden pole in and showed us that the water was only 3 ft below us.
Edward Heath, one of Britain's Prime-ministers is buried in the cathedral:
The tall spire on the top was added on after the main building was built and as a consequence the pillars lean:
It was really nice of the lady to teach us so much, she was very knowledgeable.
We really enjoyed Stonehenge and Salisbury, and hope you do too! Whilst you're in the area we highly recommend that you check out Dorset and stay with Dream Cottages Dorset.
And if you're looking for guided tours or even trips from London to Stonehenge, we'd say go for Compare Stonehenge Tours (www.comparestonehengetours.com). They offer a wealth of information about Stonehenge and how to visit it, including how to see it for free as well as what there is for kids.
We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same!