Visiting Stonehenge from London
it’s time to play travel catch up because my eyes and soul have experienced so much in the past 9 days! when i’ve traveled in the past, i’ve stayed up late or woke up exhausted to get a post out but realized i was doing a disservice to myself to not be fully present while experiencing travel.
we landed in london and hit that city hard for a few days there because this was my first time there and so much to see and do. it was important for me to see stonehenge because it is intriguingly beautiful and mysterious to me. my husband has been to london a few times previously but had never seen stonehenge either so he was more than game. visiting stonehenge from london is super easy with all the tours that go there.
although we got to england on sunday afternoon, we opted to sign up for an early morning half-day tour to stonehenge monday, since we had a speaking engagement together later that night. i was a little nervous to see how the jet-lag would play out but i would highly recommend doing it this way if you are coming from the states!
we booked online through a tour bus company and they scooped us up bright and early from our hotel at 7:25am and then deposited us at an insanely chaotic bus terminal to catch a different bus. there are lots of tour buses (or coaches as they call them) that will take you multiple places, including stonehenge. you could visit castles, go see the city of Bath, go to a tradition pub. it’s quite easy to tack on other things during your adventure to stonehenge.
the bus ride from the coach terminal in central london takes about 1.5 hours to stonehenge so it’s perfectly fine if you doze off for a bit. the seats are comfy and the tour guide only talks in the beginning and the end of the ride so you can get some shuteye.
the coach will drop you off at the new visitor’s center and most likely you paid for an audio guide if you’ve book with a tour company. then you wait in a queue (line) to board another bus for a short ride to the stones. you can also walk there if you have the time, as it’s around 1 mile. definitely go see the stones first so that you can spend all the time you want there. the visitor center is quality but to me, the stones are the main attraction.
something you should know about me…i love rocks. i really do. i almost broke my parents’ washing machine because as a child i would fill my pockets with rocks i found that i thought were interesting or pretty. as i was clearing out boxes as my dad’s house, i cannot tell you the amount of rocks i found hidden away.
evidence: “i found my rock in my backyard.” why were “Ys” so hard!?
to see massive rocks on this scale and with the mystery that surrounds them was outstanding for my rock-loving-soul!
you used to be able to touch the rocks and weave in between them but they stopped allowing that in 1978 because a rock fell over and it was a safety hazard. fools also started chipping away at the stones so that was no good. my mom backpacked through europe when she was younger (yes, she’s the coolest) and she got to touch them!
multiple times i considered just how much trouble i would get in if i stepped over the little rope and bolted to hug a rock. my husband said it wasn’t worth it.
you can watch a video (it has no sound) from the english heritage website HERE about how they think they moved and transported the stones, more than 5,000 years ago!
the massive stones of the outer circle are made of a type of sandstone, called sarsen and weigh about 25 tons. archeologists believe they came from a town called Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles away. the largest of these stones is the heel stone, pictured below.
stonehenge is wondrous because the stones are aligned on the solstitial axis so during summer, the sun rises closest to the heel stone during the summer solstice.
the inner and smaller stones are referred to as bluestones, which are believed to have been moved from 150 miles from Preseli Hills in south-west Wales. apparently they appear blue when wet or when freshly broken. they are believed to have special healing powers by some and weigh 2-5 tons.
it it not known for sure how any of these stones were transported to stonehenge. some say as glaciers moved, most others believe it was by incredible human efforts.
we loved it here and even though it was incredibly windy, we were grateful for the bursts of sun and dry air!
i did however, walk around looking like this for the remainder of our time there:
according to our audio guide and the english-heritage site, most theories of why stonehenge was created are one of these reasons: a coronation place for danish kings, a druid temple, an astronomical computer for predicting eclipses and solar events, a place where ancestors were worshipped or a cult centre for healing.
as i said before, the mystery and options of why stonehenge was built and what it was used for intrigue me deeply and make me want to get all nancy drew on it! i mean, it’s not like the neolithic people had computers or advanced tools to put all this together. they didn’t even have coolers to put their sandwiches and gatorade in!
“mortice holes and protruding tenons were created. the lintels were slotted together using tongue and groove joints. these types of joint are usually found only in woodworking,” says the english hertiage website. basically this means the large stones on top are fitted almost like legos to the two they lay on. especially spectacular because of the simple tools that had to have been used to measure and shape the stones so they all fit together like a puzzle!
some of the stones even go as far as 8 feet into the ground!
lucky for you i saved my windblown guide so you can see what stonehenge looks like from an arial drawing. the circular ditch was made first 3,000 BC and then the center stone additions were added around 2500 BC.
the slaughter stone was named that because the when wet, the iron in the stone makes it look red and some people think the druids used to sacrifice people on it. it was once standing and now has fallen over.
stonehenge is one of the 7 wonders of the medieval world, along side the great wall of china! visiting stonehenge from london is an easy thing to do and absolutely worth it, even if you are not obsessed with rocks. it holds mystery, connection and intrigue from the moment you lay eyes on it. it’s amazing to think how society and our ancestors functioned back then, not to mention how their relationships might have worked!
have you visited stonehenge before? is it on your list?