Two years ago, while on the World Cruise, we called at Southampton and contemplated taking the ship’s tour to Stonehenge. However, friends from Dorset and Isle of Wight came to Southampton, joining us for lunch. This turned out to be rather fortunate, as the ship’s tour only visited Stonehenge, completely missing the other local pre-historic attractions in the area.
This post will focus entirely on Stonehenge, with the next post covering other local sites – West Kennett, Avebury, to name just a couple of them.
The surrounding lands are owned by National Trust, but Stonehenge is managed by English Heritage.
Judi at Stonehenge entrance plaza
Although it is not advertised anywhere at the entrance plaza, they do accept National Trust members for complimentary entrance, a saving of almost UKP 20. National Trust members are also permitted to use the shorter English Heritage member’s queue.
The entrance plaza includes a cafeteria and giftshop to the left, an audio-visual presentation and a replica neolithic village. We started with the presentation, which is an audio-visual presentation that provides an almost 360 degree view from inside the stones.
Audio-visual presentation from within the stones
The audio-visual presentation from inside the stones shows the summer and winter solstices, showing sunrise on 1 side and then moving to sunset on the opposite side. The above photograph shows the Heel Stone and Slaughter stone almost aligned. At the summer solstice, when the sun rises, it is directly above the heel stone.
Check out a relevant website by clicking here.
This bears an uncanny resemblance to what we experienced on Easter Island, where the stones were also aligned with the solstices. I find it amazing that about 5,500 years ago, 2 groups of people, a 1/2 world apart, managed to align huge stones with the location of the sun at the solstices.
Stonehenge Stone Circle & Avenue to the river
Departing the presentation, we entered the Stonehenge Exhibition, which was an amazing collection of artifacts from neolithic times.
Model of Stonehenge from about 2500 BC
Exiting the exhibition, we visited the Neolithic houses that would have housed the local Stonehenge residents.
Judi at door to house
Judi inside one of the houses
We noted with interest the similarities between these houses and the tribal village we visited on the Masai Mara in Kenya.
Sample stone rigged for transport
The larger, or Sarsen stones can be up to 30 feet long and weigh up to 25 tons. Above is a sample stone rigged for transport. It is believed they were pulled manually a distance of 20 to 30 miles, requiring a crew of about 100 men. However, the smaller 4 ton Bluestones came from Wales, a distance of over 150 miles.
Next on the agenda is the highlight – Stonehenge Stone Circle; however, it is about 1.25 miles from the entrance plaza. You can take a pleasant stroll through the fields, or join the queue for the complimentary bus that runs every few minutes.
View from where you are dropped off by the bus
Until about 1977, you could walk through the stones, even climb them. However, since then, they have constructed a path around the stones, so no direct access is permitted.
Stonehenge Stone Circle with walkway outside the outer ditch
Stonehenge Stone Circle with a Station Stone in foreground
There were 4 Station Stones arranged on the points of a rectangle, outside the main circle of stones. Two of the stones were set on opposing raised banks.
Busy walkway around the stones
Enjoy the following photographs, as we completed the full circle around the stones.
Judi at Stonehenge
Andy at Stonehenge
While the vertical Sarsen Stones are 30 feet long, only 13 to 14′ are above ground
Stonehenge Heel Stone, which aligns with summer solstice sunrise
Burial mound in foreground, with more up on the ridge
Arriving back at the bus stop, we joined the queue for the bus, but some elected to take the stroll through the cow pasture, seen below, heading back to the visitor centre.
Walking route back to visitor centre
Back at the visitor centre, we checked out the gift-shop then stopped into the cafeteria for a spot of tea.
Stonehenge is the local attraction that most people have heard of, and/or seen pictures of, and I can assure you it is definitely worth visiting. Seeing the circle of stones live certainly beat photographs, or documentary films. However, the local area has so much more history, that previously, before researching this area, we had not heard of before.
Horse carving close to Stonehenge
Check back in a couple of days for the continuation of our neolithic history tour.