Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument whose construction started around 3000 BC. It is located in Wiltshire, about 8 miles north of Salisbury, and it is one of the most iconic features in the British landscape.
The importance of Stonehenge has long been recognised, and it has been protected since 1882 as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. In 1986 the site and its surroundings were included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Stonehenge itself is now managed by English Heritage and the surrounding land by the National Trust. Surprisingly, Stonehenge remained in private hands until 1918 when Cecil Chubb, who had bought the monument at auction three years earlier, gave it to the nation. It is now owned by the Crown.
History of Stonehenge
It seems likely that Stonehenge has always been associated with burial and it has been through several phases of construction during the 5,000 years it has stood on the site. Archaeologists continue to explore its history and new discoveries are still being made.
The monument has also become a focus for folklore and for celebrations in the neo-Druid calendar, most notably on June 21st for the Summer Solstice. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s the Stonehenge Free Festival was held on the site. However, after the Battle of Beanfield in 1985, when Wiltshire police clashed with those who wished the Free Festival to continue, access to the site for events of this nature has been heavily restricted.
It is possible to visit Stonehenge, and the site is open between 9am and 8pm. However, entrance is controlled by timed tickets and therefore to guarantee the date and time you require, it’s recommended to book in advance.
Around 1.5 miles from the monument is a newly built visitor centre, opened in 2013. This houses both temporary and permanent exhibitions, including more than 300 archaeological finds from the site itself. Outside the visitor centre are several reproductions of Neolithic houses. Here you can find out more about how the houses were constructed. You can also ask questions of the volunteers, who are always available at Stonehenge, about what it was like to live during this era.
There is a café, gallery and gift shop at the visitor centre, plus a shuttle service runs between the centre and Stonehenge regularly. If you prefer to approach the monument on foot, to enjoy the landscape and majesty of the stones rising before you, the shuttle service also offers a half-way drop off point.
Getting To Stonehenge
There are many ways to get to Stonehenge and they make it as accessible as possible. You can approach by road along the A303, although as this is one of the main routes into the South-West, it can get very busy during summer months. You can also take a national rail train to Salisbury and then from there take The Stonehenge Tour bus to the site. If you are on holiday in the area, there are also several walking and cycling routes which allow you access.
One of the best ways to see Stonehenge is from the air and this can be achieved via helicopter. A helicopter charter can include your journey there and back plus a day’s visit to the site. While it’s not possible to land at the monument itself, all your land transport is taken care of so you can just relax and enjoy your visit.
For those who built Stonehenge over the centuries, it would have been impossible for them to image that one day visitors would come to see the result of their work, let alone that they would travel there by air. We are in a privileged position whereby we can still see the site as it was first created and learn about all those who played a part in its history.