Stonehenge is probably one of Britain’s (the world’s) most well-known icons, and is probably the one we know the least about, too. This prehistoric monument has had countless theories put on it about how it was built, why it was built and when. And the answers? Well, nobody really knows.
On my quest to discover more about my own country, Great Britain, this place clearly had to be on the list. But I’m afraid I’m going to let down my own hometown and say…it wasn’t my best tourist experience. Sorry.
The thing about these stones is that they have, surrounding them, a mysterious, almost mythical aura. Trying to imagine how on earth people thousands of years ago had the tools, knowledge, and strength to create this place boggles the mind. And the alignment with the stars and sun makes it all that much more fascinating. I think that a lot of times we imagine or assume that understanding and knowledge of the astrological calendar is something we have gained in the years AD. But places like Stonehenge remind us that there were people long before us who knew a lot more than we give them credit for.
Ideally, I really wanted to walk through the stones, touch them, and try to imagine how it all came about. Unfortunately, in regular visiting hours, this is no longer the experience you get. It was how it worked once upon a time, but now in the interest of protecting the stones from damage, the experience is very different. Visiting the stones involves walking in a big circle around a rope, several dozen yards away from the stones with a bunch of other tourists. Not the experience I wanted.
I was expecting the tourist crowds, naturally, and I did know about the rope, but it was still disappointing.
So my tip for visiting Stonehenge: book WAY in advance, and organise a special Stone Circle Access. You still won’t be allowed to touch the stones, but you’ll be in a limited group early in the morning, or in the evening outside of normal hours and you’ll get to stand in the centre of the stone circle. That is an experience I would love to have as I think it would make the whole experience a lot more inspiring.
Or of course there’s always the druids. On winter and summer solstice every year, the druids come out to play at Stonehenge. The events are a lot more controlled now, again to protect the stones, but if you happen to be near Salisbury at that time of year, it’s probably the best time to see Stonehenge in action, so to speak.
Unfortunately, my timing meant I had the standard tourist experience of Stonehenge, and as much as I would love to recommend it, it’s hard to do so. However – this is one of the biggest icons we have in the world, so perhaps it’s worth the far-away views of this site simply to witness one of the world’s best mysteries. I’ll leave it up to you.