Britain’s most famous stone circle
We wanted to see Stonehenge. It wasn’t actually the main drawcard for us in Wiltshire, but, y’know, since we were going to be in the neighbourhood…
Our stop for the night ended up being in nearby Amesbury. The route there took us past Stonehenge, or should I say beside – I was really surprised at how close to the road this famous place is. I imagined something a bit more remote. It is incredibly accessible.
Many stop to simply view the stones from the road, saving themselves £8 or so. Not us though.
We returned for our proper look-see the following morning, arriving just before opening time. While you kinda gotta resign yourself to queuing at these places, mercifully at that time of day we didn’t have too long to wait. After 20ish minutes we were in, collecting our audio guides and walking through the tunnel that takes you under that much-too-close road.
From here you pop up at the start of the walkway that takes you around the outside of the stone circle.
This was the closest we would get to the stones. I probably should have lingered here longer, but a) I lacked patience in among the big crowd of people clustered in the same spot wanting the same photo; and b) I knew there was still a bit to fit into the day.
Until 1977 the public could freely walk amongst the stones. To get closer these days you can try to book a sought-after tour in the early morning or late evening that allows you to gain access to the circle. This did appeal to me, but it simply wasn’t something we had time to contemplate organising.
It is thought that the stone structure originated between 2000 and 3000 BC, and the whole site (much bigger than the main circle and contains other stones as well as earth banks and ditches) probably took around 1500 years to complete. It is quite something to be in the presence of such culturally significant oldness.
Experts believe that Stonehenge was last used for ritualistic purposes in the Iron Age, which in Britain was roughly the period 1200 BC – 400 AD.
Some restoration was undertaken periodically up until the 1960s, mainly to stand up the stones that had fallen over. As you might expect, archaeology has been carried out at various times and I can imagine how fascinating a place it must be to uncover traces of its past life.
I try to minimise the number of photos of the same object in each post. But I can’t help being a bit repetitive with this one!
As close to civilisation as the site feels, it is thanks to some concerned people of the 1920s that it was saved from further urban encroachment. The National Trust was able to acquire the site and steps were taken to start preserving it: nearby buildings were removed and grass allowed to return. However, the roads were left and today the site is flanked by two main A roads. I see there has been much debate about this over the years so I’m by no means alone in feeling concerned about how intrusive these are.
We completed the circuit and I contemplated going around again, but we really did need to get going. But that wasn’t the end of our stone monument visits that day. Next though we needed to find a local landmark with a strong link to New Zealand.