I managed to check off one of my Bucket List items for this year. Visit Stonehenge! A business trip brought me to the UK in late June and since our offices are about halfway between London and Stonehenge, I decided to stay the weekend and head down to Salisbury to check it out.
I took the train down to Salisbury and then once in Salisbury there is a tour operator at the train station that will take you to the Stonehenge Visitors Centre. It’s a nice double-decker motorcoach and the ride includes some history of the area and Stonehenge itself.
I bought my tickets online about a week in advance, so I had to plan my trip quite thoroughly (ie. like figuring out when I thought I would actually get to Stonehenge, within about an hour or so – yikes!), but it was worth it. There was no line for pre-paid tickets and quite a queue for non-ticket holders.
Once at the Visitors Centre I also paid a little extra and got an audio tour. In general I find audio tours can be hit-or-miss; some work perfectly (if you’re ever in San Fran, the Alcatraz audio tour is amazing!), but others are confusing and often out of sync with what you’re looking at. In any event, the Stonehenge one was fantastic! Another (very short, 5 minute) bus ride from the Visitor’s Centre takes you to the ruins.
Once at the ancient site, you can only walk around the perimeter of Stonehenge, at a fair distance. Gone are the days of actually wandering amongst the stones themselves. To preserve the stones and prevent erosion, the stones were ‘closed’ to the public in the mid ‘70s. Numbers along the perimeter path correspond with the audio tour and give a detail description of the stones, the surrounding countryside and their significance.
I maybe spent about 45 minutes to an hour circling the stones. And, I’ll be honest, once that’s done, that’s pretty much it. I decided to forego the little bus ride back to the visitor’s centre and I took one of the footpaths back through the beautiful countryside and a small forest. I even startled a pheasant and saw two foxes on my little walk. It was really a beautiful and relaxing walk – I mean look at this view!
I caught the motorcoach from the Visitor’s Centre back into the town of Salisbury and got off in the town centre. True to British weather, it poured rain once I got off the bus, but it cleared up quite quickly and it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon.
I had spent about a whole seven minutes (OK, maybe three full minutes) reading up on the history of Salisbury and what to see, so I ended up mostly wondering the streets of the medieval town marvelling at the architecture and thinking I was on the set of a Harry Potter movie. I did briefly check out the Salisbury Cathedral, with its breath-taking spire. On the motorcoach ride back from Stonehenge, they noted that as the tallest church spire in England (404ft – combined tower & spire) it had been used as a landmark by the German Luftwaffe and thus Salisbury was spared significant bombing during the Second World War.
All in all it was a fun day visiting Salisbury and Stonehenge, and although I was maybe a little “is that it?” about Stonehenge, it’s still worth it if you find yourself in southern England and you have Stonehenge on your Bucket List.