Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It is at the centre of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. Different parts of the monument date back to 3100 - 1600 BC.  The earliest part being the circular bank and ditch (.3,000 BC) within which Stonehenge as it is seen it today was constructed some 500 years later. A ring of 56 pits known as the 'Aubrey Holes' also date from around this time (they  lie just inside the tail of the bank, and today those which were excavated are marked on the ground) these may have held posts, or as some think, small stones. Both the ditch and Aubrey Holes have yielded cremated human remains. There were several periods of stone construction and reconstruction, the first stone phase used not the massive sandstone (sarsens), but the much smaller and exotic 'bluestones', these were later re-used within the Circle. The final structural activity appears to have taken place around 1600 BC and is represented by be the cutting of two mysterious concentric rings of pits (the 'Y & Z holes) juts outside the sarsen circle. Recent archaeological research is moving away from the idea that Stonehenge was an 'astronomical observatory' and considers the burials and  the precise mirrored geometric design of the monument as providing an insight into the mindset behind its construction. It is also now considered by most archaeologists that Stonehenge was laid out to 'face' the midwinter sunset (1).

Getting to Stonehenge by public transport is a bit of a trek - either take a 2 hour bus journey from Victoria (or from Heathrow) to Amesbury and then walk for 2 miles (or take a taxi) or take a train from London Waterloo to Salisbury (Salisbury is about 10 miles from Stonehenge) and then take a local bus or taxi. For cheapest tickets try the Trainline? (saves around 40%).

 

 

One way to avoid the trek and hassle and make the best use of a day of sightseeing is to take bus tours that combine Stonehenge with Windsor and Oxford or Windsor and Bath. Most sight seeing tours offer 2 versions - a cheaper version in which customers buy the entrance tickets for the attractions they want to enter after getting there or a slightly more expensive version that includes the entrance tickets and helps customers skip the queues. Golden Tours, Premium Tours and various others offer Coach Tours to Stonehenge (not Woodhenge!) in part of their program and pick up from your London hotel. 'Flying Purple Pig Tours' and a few others offer a private car tour service and will personalize your tour for you - but normally only six can travel per vehicle.

Tours from Antiquity offer somthing unique for the interested traveller, they only use archaeologist guides on their small group tours from London to Stonehenge, Bath and Avebury world heritage sites. With a maximum of 20 passengers, skip the queue tickets and an experienced archaeologist guide,  this tour company offers the best. They also stop at Woodhenge, West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, Durrington Walls, Stonehenge Cursus and plenty of Bronze Age burial mounds.

Also located nearby is little known 'Woodhenge', estimated to be from around the same period as Stonehenge itself - perhaps part of a larger complex of circles, or 'Henges'. Also looked after by English Heritage, this is free at the moment and is rarely busy. It was on part of an organized private car tour with a London based 'Photo Tour Company' called Flying Purple Pig. Amazingly, the Propriotor/Driver was knighted at Stonehenge on the Equinox of 2010 by a Pagan King & Swordbearer (Arthur Pendragon no less - he had the pictures!) and he gave a real insight into the modern Druid and Pagan world around Stonehenge, Amesbury and Woodhenge. As it's name suggests Woodhenge was wooden, and the Henge itself is marked by concrete post giving the outline. It is never busy here and if you wanted a more 'personal' feel this type of tour is an option. The visit also included Windsor & the parade, Salisbury Cathedral and the Magna Carta. It cost about £75 each for the four, for the whole day. (Leaving the hotel in Victoria at 9.30 and didn't get back until about 6 or 7!)