“What’s the meaning of Stonehenge? It’s killing me that no one knows why it was built 5,000 years ago…what’s the purpose of Stonehenge? A giant granite birthday cake or a prison far too easy to escape?”
You may not be familiar with these lyrics from comedic singer, Ylvis, (it’s on YouTube…warning: explicit language,) but he does have a point. What is the purpose of all these rocks and why do so many travelers consider Stonehenge a major item on their bucket list?
Stonehenge is a serious draw for tourists. The site averages around one million visitors every year. Admittedly, in 2015, I was one of them.
Stonehenge isn’t super close to a major city in the United Kingdom, but it can easily be done as a day trip from London. Driving from the center of London, it takes a little bit longer than two hours. Using public transportation, the easiest way to get there is by taking the train from London to Salisbury. There is a bus outside of the Salisbury train station that leaves for Stonehenge every half-hour or hour, depending on the season.
There is still much debate as to the purpose of this circle of upright stones that sits in the middle of a grassy field. The stones are aligned with the sunrise during the summer solstice, so Stonehenge is considered to have been a place of worship. But, other considerations include a burial site or some sort of clock tracking astronomical alignments.
Archeologists have done extensive research on this site and have determined that Stonehenge was built in three phrases. Today, there are only 17 upright stones. There used to be 30.
The Stonehenge Visitors Center does provide information about the site and the different theories. From here, you have the opportunity to walk or take a shuttle to the actual site. I found the walk to be very enjoyable. It also reminded me of how difficult it must have been to drag these heavy stones to one spot from places all over like Wales.
Traveler tip: Tickets must be purchased online before visiting Stonehenge. There are very few tickets available that day at the ticket window. When buying tickets online, you will actually be assigned to a specific time slot. There were people we saw who didn’t know this and arrived at the Visitors Center, only to be told there were no tickets left for the day.
I was kind of disappointed how large an area around Stonehenge is roped off to visitors. Granted, Stonehenge has sustained a lot of damage, mostly because people used to be allowed to walk all over it. But, be prepared to circle Stonehenge from pretty far away. There is an audio guide to follow while walking around, but you’ll find most people are busy trying to take the “perfect” photo.
I went on this adventure with Oren’s sister, Tamar, and her family. In the end, I’m glad we chose to go. I have always wanted to see Stonehenge and I did snag some pretty neat photos. We decided to combine a visit here with Bath (an ancient Roman spa town), which is about an hour from Salisbury. I would highly recommend this combination for anyone renting a car.
Still, at the end of the day, I am still left singing to myself… “What’s the meaning of Stonehenge?” Mostly because I just can’t seem to the get the stupid song out of my head.