Planning On Visiting Stonehenge? Here Are All The Details From Our Trip!
Want to see something that rocks? Check out Stonehenge. Whether you decide to visit Stonehenge by car, train, bus, or on a day trip to Stonehenge from London, we think the classic monument in southern England is worth visiting! The official site for Stonehenge has great information – like special access tours and opening hours – but it doesn’t tell you what a visit to Stonehenge is really like. That’s where we come in!
Eric got to explore the famous stone circle as a part of a smaller group tour in the early summer months. So, while his experience might be slightly different from a visit by car, he still managed to find out all the details so you know exactly what to expect when you visit Stonehenge.
If you want to visit Stonehenge for free, there are (kind of) ways to do it which we will mention below. That said, Eric did the paid version and really enjoyed the day exploring. So, if you’re looking for details like the best time to visit, how to visit by car or the history of Stonehenge, you’re in the right place!
The Brief History of Stonehenge
Stonehenge is actually more than just the stones that we see today. The site is made up of several other monuments and mounds that have been built in stages as far back as 5,000 years ago! In short, Stonehenge is likely the world’s most famous prehistoric monument and part of a system of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in the south of England.
Why the stones were placed there is still up for debate, but it’s believed (they found human remains) that the site was originally used as a burial ground. Oh, and the site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. Considering some stones weigh 25 tonnes and were moved thousands of years ago – this makes sense form a cultural and historical standpoint!
Where is Stonehenge?
The site of Stonehenge is technically located in Salisbury, a small city in the south end of England between London in the east and Bristol in the west. Stonehenge is very close to the small town of Amesbury (about 5/10 minutes driving).
Best Time to Visit Stonehenge
In terms of the time of day, the “golden hours” around sunrise and sunset make for the most beautiful, most dramatic photos. The fog/mist will rise from the field and you can catch the light shining through the stones. Eric visited in the afternoon and it was just as lovely! That said, you might be interested in a “special access” Stonehenge tour which allows you to walk up to/through the stones with a guide before opening hours!
Season-wise, the best time really depends on your personal preference. The summer months of June through August can be quite busy to visit – but you’ll most likely have nice weather.
Stonehenge is open year-round – it’s even open in December. Basically the only day of the year it’s officially closed to visitors is Christmas Day. That said, Stonehenge in December is likely to be cold and pretty wet. UK winters aren’t overly snowy but they can be wet – so bring the rain jacket (like Eric’s Northface) and/or Welly boots and you’ll be good to go!
Accommodations Near Stonehenge
If you wanted to stay close to Stonehenge, you might choose a larger city like Bath or Salisbury. That said, there are some lovely cottages, B&B’s, and charming hotels in Amesbury – the closest town near the grounds of Stonehenge tucked away in the English countryside. You can check here for accommodations near Stonehenge.
How to Get to Stonehenge
As for actually getting to Stonehenge, there are a few different options available. You might drive yourself there or take the bus/train to the nearby city. Day trips on coach/minibuses are a popular option – and this is how Eric visited. We’ll explain all the option below!
Driving to Stonehenge
Stonehenge is located in the middle of nowhere between larger city centre and smaller towns. This makes renting a car a really, really good option for exploring the site and the surrounding areas!
Address: Salisbury SP4 7DE, UK
As mentioned above, the stones are about 3 kilometres west of the town of Amesbury and around 20 minutes driving north from the larger city of Salisbury. From the spa city of Bath, the rocks are located just an hour away to the south by driving the A36. From London, Stonehenge is about 2.5 hours driving southwest on the M3 (traffic depending).
Walking/Biking to Stonehenge
You could walk or bike to Stonehenge if you’re staying in the area. Ideally, you are staying in Amesbury. If not, aim for Amesbury and then walk to the site using the green foot/cycle paths available through the countryside. It’s about 3 km so definitely doable in a day and back.
Train to Stonehenge
If you want to take the train to visit Stonehenge, you’ll be able to get most of the way. The UK has a pretty good rail system and you’ll be looking to get to the closest station which is in Salisbury. From the city centre and train station of Salisbury, you can hop on a green tour bus to go the extra drive to the main entrance. You can search for train times at the National Rail website.
Bus to Stonehenge
For the bus to Stonehenge, it’s basically the same as the train. You’ll need to get to Salisbury and then take the green bus tour to get to the main site and Visitor’s Centre.
Guided Day Tours to Stonehenge
As we have said, getting to Stonehenge yourself is absolutely possible but visiting on a tour seems to be the overwhelming method of choice. This make sense: for a fixed fee, you don’t have to worry about parking, buying your own tickets, etc. You just show up on the coach, get your wrist band from a guide, enjoy exploring the grounds (with an audio guide or your live guide) and leave again hassle-free. Pretty simple.
Of course, Stonehenge is a very popular day trip from London. It’s an easy drive of between 2 to 2.5 hours and worth it if you are passing through London for a day or two or staying in England for longer. Day trips to Stonehenge will differ because they usually include one or two other places to see.
For example, you might want a day tour to the beautiful city of Bath that includes Stonehenge. You might want to see nearby towns like Bristol or the southern English coast with Brighton or the Seven Sisters Cliffs. It depends on your budget, interests, and where you are travelling from. We’d recommend this Stonehenge Day Tour (similar to Eric’s trip) but there are many great Stonehenge tours from London to choose from!
Arriving at Stonehenge: Entrance, Parking, & Admission Fees
Once you actually get to Stonehenge, your visit will go like this: you arrive, park, and gather your wristbands to visit the grounds. Then you can walk to the stones or hop on a shuttle to be taken to the actual site of Stonehenge (about 5 minutes driving by shuttle bus) from this first parking/staging area. We will break these steps down below:
Entrance and Parking at Stonehenge
There’s a roundabout to enter the parking lots near the Visitor’s Centre. As for parking, it depends on how you got to Stonehenge. There are two separate parking lots: one for cars (turn right after the roundabout) and one for tour/coach buses (turn left after the roundabout). You access both from the main roundabout near the entrance.
If you drove yourself, you have to pay 5 pounds for parking BUT you “get that refunded” when you buy your entrance ticket to see the stones. Otherwise, some use the car park to visit the area nearby and the Visitor’s Centre, have a picnic on the green landscape, etc. – basically do things other than seeing the stones.
If you are planning your visit to Stonehenge, you should check here for admission prices and opening hours. The last admission to Stonehenge is two hours before closing time each day. So keep that in mind if you are planning your day!
Admission Costs for Stonehenge
The admission prices for Stonehenge will differ based on age, family size, and whether you are part of the UK National Trust. Ticket prices will also depend on whether you are travelling as part of a big group or part of an educational tour.
If you want to book a visiting ticket in advance because you know which day you wish to visit, you can book your day and time to visit Stonehenge here. You are encouraged (by Get Your Guide + Heritage England) to book your ticket in advance because that guarantees you the time you want AND it’s a bit cheaper than a “walk-up” price.
You CAN still (June, 2019) visit Stonehenge for free – but not exactly like the people who pay for admission. We didn’t do this method but if you have a car you can take a gravel road north of the site, park along it, and walk in to near the stones.
Once you are close to the site, you’ll see a public gateway/path which is quite close to the “paid” entrance. You’ll be about 20 yards behind the “paid” visitors at their farthest vantage point – but you can still see the site.
Exploring the Stonehenge Visitor Centre
Once you’re all settled and paid with your wristbands/tickets, you can grab an orientation leaflet that tells you what’s going on at the site. There is actually plenty to see and do at the Visitor’s Centre area before you even head out to the stone circle.
There is a museum onsite and a separate indoor exhibit to virtually “stand inside” the stones. At these main exhibits, you can learn about the history of the monument like the people who lived there, see their artifacts that have been found, and even see a forensically reconstructed face to get an idea of how these early settlers may have looked like!
If you need a break before or after the visit, there’s a cafe onsite where you can get real food as well as ice cream, hot drinks, cakes, and even a beverage from Stonehenge Brewery! Of course, you’ll also find the washrooms, baby change facilities, etc.
Likely the coolest part of the site is exploring the Neolithic village and the life of the people who built Stonehenge. So, you can wander through a small village that has been re-created with Neolithic houses from the time period. You can explore the houses, their contents, the tools used in the day, and more to get a sense of life back then.
They have volunteers on site who demonstrate making rope, flint pointed knives/arrowheads and more using old techniques. There’s even a stone which you can try to pull along on its cart/sled (demonstrating how the stones were moved thousands of years ago). Spoiler: it’s heavy.
Getting to The Actual Stones Once At Stonehenge
As we mentioned about, once you park you aren’t even close to the Stones. You need to grab your ticket/wrist bands for entry to see the stones. Once you do that, you can hop on the shuttle bus or walk to the stones.
Shuttle to Stonehenge
If you want to be driven to the stones, the shuttle is included in your ticket. So you would just park, then pick up your wrist bands (assuming you booked ahead) at the Visitor’s Centre, then get on the shuttle bus. Eric’s guide got the wristbands for the group.
As you can see below, you simply cue up and show your ticket/wristband and get on the bus. It drives a straight road up and over a hill about 5ish minutes where you get off and you are at the site of the stones! Eric took the shuttle there.
Walking to Stonehenge
You can walk to the stones, too. Eric did that on the way back from the stones to the Visitor’s Centre. It only took about 20 minutes at a good pace and was definitely worth it for the exercise, fresh air, and experience. You CAN walk half way (there or back) – the shuttle does stop in the middle between the stones and the Visitor’s Centre for that option. If you commit to the whole walk, just make sure you have enough time if you are catching a tour bus outta there!
Exploring the Grounds at Stonehenge
So, once you get off the shuttle or walk to the actual stones, you’ll see them up the slight hill. Just follow the path ahead and you’ll soon be pretty close to the ruins themselves! As you circle the stones, some of the walkways are on a gravel path while other portions are on the open grass. That said, plan your footwear accordingly.
Just so we’re clear – you cannot go right up and touch the stones on a regular admission visit. This is too bad because a local taxi driver told us the story of how they used to drive right up in the 1970s and hang out among the stone. What a shame!
If you want this experience, you have to be on a special tour which takes you right in the stones but these tours have very limited availability. You might have also come on a day trip with a guide who will talk to you about the stones in which case you’ll get all the right information as you walk along.
As you explore, you will see numbered signs on things around the grounds. These numbers correspond with the audio guide information. If you do rent an audio guide (available in 10 languages and for a small additional fee) from the Visitor’s Centre, you’ll get some extra knowledge during your visit.
If you didn’t rent an audio guide at the Visitor’s Centre, you can actually also download a Heritage England official app to your smartphone for similar information. Check for it in the Google Play Store or the App Store. Eric downloaded it but got too excited to listen to it and just took in the wander around the stones.
When Eric was there, there were quite a few people visiting and taking loads of photos. This was in mid-May so we can imagine the experience being different in the busy summer season. Once you are done exploring the stones, you can walk back to the Visitor’s Centre or simply hop on the shuttle again. The choice is yours – and might depend on the size of the crowd and how much walking you have already done that day!
And there you have it – a few of the important details if you are planning a visit to Stonehenge. Honestly, the prices are a little high for entrance, any food, etc – but overall we’d say the experience of being there, seeing it, and exploring the additional exhibits is worth it. Definitely leave time to see the Visitor’s Centre because you’ll appreciate the actual site that much more knowing the backstory! Let us know what you think!
As always, Happy Stonehenge Waddlin’,