Standing defiantly against time on the lush green of Wiltshire’s Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge is a prehistoric stone monument dating back to around 3000BC. Not only one of the most well-known of UK attractions, but also one of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a mysterious circular setting of large standing stones.
Following extensive archaeological research it is now believed that Stonehenge served as a burial ground for its prehistoric creators. It is for this reason it is situated at the centre of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including severalhundred burial mounds. Stonehenge is believed to have evolved over several construction phases spanning at least 1500 years. There is however evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape's time frame to 6500 years – around 8000BC.
From 3100BC to 2600BC the site consisted of simple wooden constructions set within a series of earthworks in the form of circular ditches. From 2600BC onwards stone became the material of choice at the site. Originally there were 80 bluestones on the site although now only 43 can be traced. The bluestones were thought for much of the 20th century to have been dragged by humans all the way from the Preseli Hills, 160 mile(250 kilometres) away in modern-day Pembrokeshire in Wales. However, recently another theory that has gained support, is that they were pushed much nearer to the site by the Irish Sea Glacier.
However, it was between 2600BC and 2400BC that the really big stones were brought in when 30 enormous sarsen stones were brought to the site, most probably from around 25 miles (40 kilometres) north of Stonehenge on the Marlborough Downs. The stones were erected as a 33 metre diameter circle of standing stones, with a ring of 30 lintel stones resting on top. Within this circle stood five constructions of stone arranged in a horseshoe shape 13.7 metres across with its open end facing north east. These huge stones, which form the site as it can be seen today, comprise of ten uprights and five lintels, weighing up to a colossal 50 tons each.
Despite the archaeological evidence, the true use of Stonehenge is still subject to much debate. Some say it was a place of sun worship while others argue it was a kind of prehistoric Lourdes offering hope to the sick. Today it is a popular UK attraction but once a year during the Summer Solstice, druids still gather to worship the rising sun.
Whatever the site's true use is not really important as it is the very fact that no one really knows that keeps visitors flocking to these mysterious stones in such an unlikely location.
Stonehenge and its visitor centre provide an unusual day out that can be taken in on the way to the Glastonbury Festival, Newquay in Cornwall, or en route to the Forest of Dean in Herefordshire.
Stonehenge opening time
Spring: 1 Apr to 31 May - 09.30 - 18.00
Summer: 1 Jun to 31 Aug - 09.00 - 19.00
Autumn: 1 Sept to 15 Oct - 09.30 - 18.00
Winter: 16 Oct to 15 Mar - 09.30 - 16.00
16Mar to 31Mar - 09.30 to 18.00
Child (5 - 15) £3.50
Child (Under 5) Free
Student and over 60 £5.90
Family Ticket £17.30
Getting to Stonenege
The postcode for Stonhenge is SP4 7DE. The junction of A303 and A344/360
The nearest train station to Stonehenge is Salisbury about 9.5 miles away.
From London the trains depart from Waterloo Station to Salisbury.
Buses depart from Heathrow Airport and from Victoria Coach Station in the centre of London. The journey takes about 2 hours.
Get off at Amesbury.