I’m not 100 percent sure how old I was the first time I heard about Stonehenge, but I think I was young. I have a feeling I learned about this around the same time that I learned about Easter Island. I have to say, it was fascinating as a kid and equally so seeing it in person as an adult.
I don’t think I’ve seen too many prehistoric monuments outside of Ireland and Great Britain. A few years ago, when we went to Ireland for Mike & Rebecca’s wedding, we rented a car and drove all over Southern Ireland (cannot recommend this enough). After the wedding, we drove from Sligo back to Dublin (a northern route) and stopped to check out Newgrange, a neolithic site (very cool), so I was pretty excited to see Stonehenge, as well.
I had planned a solo day trip to check it out (St Albans to London to Salisbury to Stonehenge). While I’m glad I did it, there are a number of things I wish I’d paid closer attention to (arrival, departure times), as it would’ve saved me a lot of wasted time*. If you can drive from London to Salisbury/Stonehenge, I’d recommend it, as it’ll give you a lot more flexibility to see everything you want on your own time.
*My time wasn’t totally wasted. After I missed the 9:20 train to Salisbury, I decided to buy a book to read on the train. I opted for The Handmaid’s Tale. If you haven’t read the book or watched the television series (it won basically all the Emmys), I highly recommend both. What was even more fun was the clerk at the bookstore emphatically recommended a number of other books by Shirley Jackson: The Lottery & We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I haven’t heard of her or read anything by her, so I’m pretty excited to check them out.
The ride from London to Salisbury is pretty – very lush with seemingly endless green hillsides. I picked up the Stonehenge Tour bus just outside the station maybe 40 minutes after my train arrived (glad I had that book). It’s at this point that it started raining. The soft rain you think about when you see British or Irish films. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the Visitor’s Center it was monsoon-ish weather (for which I was not prepared, though I did have an umbrella).
Oddly, my photos don’t even look like it is raining, but it is…and it’s incredibly windy, too. Luckily I brought an umbrella, but not a whaling suit. As such, I ended up only staying an hour (I was drenched and it was cold), which was a little disappointing. I wished I could have explored more/walked around more, listened to all of the audioguide elements.
It’s wild when you realize you’re looking at something that is 5,000 years old and that these rocks were brought to this site from Wales, about 240 miles away. How on earth did they do it? It’s amazing. This is what traveling is all about.
I was taken aback, a little, at how much smaller the rocks were in person vs. what I had imagined. Don’t get me wrong, they’re huge, but maybe 10 feet tall. I guess in my mind they’d be closer to 20 feet tall. You can see the folks with their umbrellas standing not too far away, which gives you an idea of the actual size.
You’ll also notice the site itself is roped off (this is to preserve the site); however you can walk 360 degrees around the site and beyond. I found myself wishing there was an elevated platform somewhere where I could look down, but there wasn’t (and I suppose that would somewhat ruin the view for all other directions with an ugly building directly behind it.
Really, after looking at my photos, I wish I could hire a helicopter to see the formation from above, like the photos at the visitor’s center. That would be an amazing way to see this site.
As part of my admission ticket to Stonehenge, I could have also toured Old Sarum (another neolithic site), seen the Magna Carta in the Salisbury Cathedral, as well as explored Salisbury (it looked quaint). In all the brochures they recommend you allow a least 5 hours to see everything. I spent an hour and 10 minutes at the site and a total of maybe 3 hours in the Salisbury area. If it hadn’t been raining (and if I hadn’t been going to Bath in the afternoon), I would’ve stayed to check out more. This is, again, why I’d recommend driving.
It’s hard to say if I would’ve liked it more if it hadn’t been raining/cold/windy. But one thing is for sure – it’s majestic and I’m glad I saw it.