Few of the wonders of the world, whether natural, industrial, modern, ancient or medieval still remain a mystery to us today, yet Stonehenge is just that. Nobody can be sure of why it was built and what official purpose it served, but it holds a great deal of historical fact and emotional significance for a great number of people across the world.
Located in the county of Wiltshire, England, Stonehenge is essentially a circle of stones; some supporting others. The earthworks (mounds of earth, artificially created) that surround the stones have been confirmed to have been constructed in c.3100 BC, yet within the earthworks and ditch the actual Stonehenge stones may have been constructed in c.3000 BC or later, between c.2400 and c.2200 BC. Many archaeologists believe they were intended for religious use, and even to this day Pagans and those who worship the sun visit Stonehenge at the summer solstice (the longest day of the year) to celebrate. Others believe that Stonehenge was created as a way to view the stars at night, and others believe that it symbolises a place for the dead, as there are several burial mounds in the area too.
Over the years it has been suggested that Stonehenge could not have been constructed using normal, neolithic human methods to move such large and heavy stones and therefore supernatural forces must have been at work. However, several archaeologists have since proven that there are various techniques that could be used all those thousands of years ago.
Stonehenge is still very much standing strong today, although it looks very different to how it did five thousand years ago when construction began.
At first farmers began deforestation in the area, clearing trees and woodland. There was a monument erected some 2300 feet from the Stonehenge site in c.3500 BC, but the very first Stonehenge stone structures didn’t appear until around c.2600 BC when it’s estimated 80 stones were laid, possible in two rings. Before this, timber was used to fill holes which stood just inside the ditch and bank that were constructed in c.3100 BC and filled with animals bones and flints. Later, between c.2600 and 2400 BC there were around 30 large sarsen stones brought to the site and erected in a 110ft diameter circle, with stones resting on top of them in the same fashion we see today. Between c.2400 BC and 2280 BC the stones were rearranged in various ways, including in a horseshoe shape. These rearrangements finally ended in approximately C.1600 BC, in the arrangement we see today.
It is possible to visit the Stonehenge site today, although the only times that visitors are permitted to actually touch the stones are the spring and autumn equinoxes, and the summer and winter solstices.
How to Get There:
The nearest commercial airport to Stonehenge is at Bristol, although flights are far more regular and readily available when you fly to Heathrow airport in London.
From here it takes around an hour and a half to drive and there is a motorway (the A34) running right past the Stonehenge site, so by car is the perfect way to travel. You can either rent a car from London Heathrow, or take a train halfway to Basingstoke and then rent a car from there, from one the agencies such as Thrifty car hire. From here it takes around 40 minutes to get to Stonehenge along the A34.
Where to Stay:
Although you may choose to as it is a larger, more metropolitan area, you do not have to stay in a hotel in Basingstoke. The Best Western Red Lion hotel is within walking distance of Salisbury bus station, and provides three star accommodation for between $268 and $308. Another luxury hotel is the Old Mill Hotel and Restaurant; a 15th century historical building in Harnham.
For a cheaper stay, try the number 2 Park Lane Bed & Breakfast is great quality accommodation in Salisbury, with rooms ranging from $98 to $131 per night.