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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Stonehenge - Rock of Ages

Written by  Stuart Hely

1_Stonehenge_RockofAgesPlanetHop! spent literally months and months researching – basically the entire world – to identify the most interesting and exciting destinations on the planet. While we don't publicize it, we do have our own special Top 10 destinations that no self-respecting PlanetHopper! can possibly overlook. Coming in at a respectable #7 is Stonehenge. Why so high? Simple, it's ancient (estimates are that it was constructed at least 4,000 years ago). It's a recognizable icon around the world, whether you're in the most remote reaches of Africa or the bazaars of the Middle East. It's easily accessible from one of the world's most awesome cities (London). And finally, it presents perhaps the world's most intriguing mysteries in that no one really knows exactly who built it or for what purpose. Follow in the footsteps of millions who have been drawn to Stonehennge throughout the ages and walk amongst these monoliths an wonder what dark secrets they may hide... It's an absolute must if you ever hope to consider your PlanetHop! passport complete. Read on to find out more...

If you want to dive into ancient history in England, Stonehenge is certainly a place to start. I think it can be argued that it is Europe's most famous prehistoric monument.

You've seen the pictures... of a "mysterious" circle of upright stones in Southern England on the Salisbury Plain... pictures of modern day Druids holding ceremonies as the sun come up during the Summer Solstice.

Maybe you've read accounts of Merlin moving the stones by magic. Whether it's fact or fiction you've been reading... doesn't it make you want to go?

Most authorities say that it was built in stages starting from about 3000 BC. Research into and about the monument and the surrounding area is ongoing. New discoveries, details, and theories are turning up all the time. Maybe it's because people think it is or was a place of religious or spiritual significance that draws so many of them as visitors.

I think the fact that we know so little about such a great site is part of its allure. Whatever draws you to this amazing stone circle, make the effort to see it.2_Stonehenge

You can make this a day trip out of London if your time is short. The best way to do this is probably to book a one day tour.

You can also take the train to Salisbury, which is the closest town to the Monument. (It's about 80 minutes from London to Salisbury. Trains leave from London's Waterloo Station.) In Salisbury, catch the Stonehenge Tour Bus, which goes about every 30 minutes from the Salisbury train station and bus station.

The bus will take you to the entrance of Stonehenge. It returns to the Train Station with a stop at Old Sarum, which is an Iron Age Hill Fort... and was the site of Old Salisbury.

We've always rented a car to get to there. It is about 90 miles (145 km) from London; 2 miles west of Amesbury on the junction of two highways, A303 and A344/A360. The circle stands on its own in the middle of open countryside.... you can't miss it.

Facilities are pretty basic. There are toilets and a small stand selling coffee, sodas, and snacks. Parking is usually free. (We've heard that sometimes a refundable deposit is collected at the car park during peak travel times.)

There is an entrance fee. (Check into a British Heritage Pass for entrance to this and several other monuments. If you're planning to visit several of them, it could be worth it.) Audio tours in a choice of nine languages are included with your entrance fee.

Only a chain link fence separates the road from the standing stones. You can even stick your camera through the fence and take a picture and be done... but why would you want to do that? Go in and spend a little time with the stones.

You are not allowed within the circle unless you apply for a special access pass. Check with English Heritage for more details. Take something warm with you; the stones stand on an open plain, and it can get windy and cold.

Stonehenge is not an isolated piece of prehistory. There are many Neolithic burial mounds in the area; the most famous is the West Kennet Long Barrow. Avebury is a larger, some say older, stone circle about 20 miles (32 km) north of Stonehenge. Silbury Hill, another Neolithic site nearby, is the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe. The ruins of Old Sarum are worth a visit and moving forward in history, so is the town of Salisbury.

See modern London, visit its historic areas, then take at least a day to get further back in history with a visit to Stonehenge.

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Make sure to click on the Additional Info and Related Video tabs for more details...

 

In summary, it's not always easy to say why a place like Stonehenge is so special and important for travellers to visit. You can carp on about how old it is and its place in history, but in the end the real reason you visit a place like Stonehenge is because it's a mystery that's never been solved. How did these enormous stones make it out into the middle of the barren English countryside? At this point we don't know, but one day someone who comes here to commune with the stones will figure it out. It could be tomorrow or 100 years from now, but one day it will happen. And hopefully it's a PlanetHopper! that figures it out! Laughing 

This article was posted by Stuart Hely on Published-Articles.com and PlanetHop! supplied the accompanying photos, introductory, and Additional Info text. Stuart is the founder of BookCentralCoast.com.au, the specialists in NSW Central Coast accommodation. Check them out for the best accommodation deals and news on the beautiful Central Coast beaches.

Who (will enjoy)

Perfect for members of the entire family. Even the youngest of children will be entranced by the visit. Just make sure to take lots of photos so they can show their friends at school.

What (to do)

Wander amongst the stones – just remember that you need to apply for a special permit to actually go within the circle.

When (should I visit)

Summer is best if you're sensitive to the cold, but many actually prefer to go during the "off-season", especially winter, when the number of PlanetHoppers! is much lower. If you're luck and time your visit right, you might even have the entire place to yourself (at least for a while).

Where (to stay)

Day trips are available if you've based yourself in London, but for a more leisurely visit, stay in Salisbury, which is the closet major town to the monument. Here you'll find a variety of accommodation to suit all budgets.

How (much will it cost)

Entrance Fees (as of March 2012):

Adults: £7.50

Children: £4.50

Audio Guides (in 10 languages): Complimentary

Special Access within the Stones: Price is based on the type of tour that you book. Special access visits are available most, but not all months of the year (no visits are allowed in October and November and not available on or around midsummer's day). Demands for tickets far exceed supply, with dates often being sold out months in advance. Do not expect to get tickets without ordering well in advance.


Stonehenge