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Stonehenge, Amesbury. Near Salisbury in Wiltshire, UK

Stonehenge is a British landmark, hidden gem, cultural mecca and UNESCO World Heritage site.

Located near Salisbury in Wiltshire, Stonehenge offers a peek back to the Bronze Age when some of the first parts of the monument visible today are believed to have been erected.

Those who travel on the A303 between London and Exeter will see the stone circle from the road. Plans are in the making to tunnel the A303 under Stonehenge to alleviate traffic and travel problems caused by some motorists slowing down to take a look.

Visitors pay to gain access and are treated to a modern exhibition and audio tours to enhance their visit. Although you can't walk up to and touch the stones there are many public footpaths in the surrounding area.

Stonehenge near Salisbury

(image: English Heritage)

Construction

The stone circle is constructed from a mix of stone but predominantly Sarsen and Bluestone. Sarsen is a form of Sandstone and can be found from Essex to Dorset but most locally to Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain and Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire. The term “bluestone” is a cover-all phrase that loosely describes the Stonehenge stones that aren’t Sarsen.

The Bluestones at Stonehenge were places at the beginning of the third phase of construction around 2300BC and it’s believed the originate from the Preseli Hills in Wales around 150miles away. It’s unclear how they came to be at Stonehenge but either human transportation or as glacial deposits are two popular theories.

Stonehenge has evolved in several phases of construction. Around 8000BC the area was wooded and beneath the car park of todays visitor centre archaeologists have found four, possibly five, Mesolithic postholes. These held posts aligned East-West and eventually rotted. 4000 years later the area was gradually cleared of trees for agriculture and nearby, a number of stone and wooden structures as well as burial mounds have been discovered.

Stonehenge near Salisbury

The first phase of construction consisted of a simple circular bank and ditch. Four or five hundred years later evidence indicates the possibility of a wooden structure existing within the enclosure.

The 3rd phase of construction (circa 2600BC) marks the arrival of the familiar stones we see today. 80 standing stones were supported in holes, however just 43 can be traced today. Each stone stands around 2 meters high and nearly 1 metre thick and were later arranged into an inner oval.

A later and more major phase of development at Stonehenge is believed to have taken place between 2600BC and 2400BC. 30 vast Sarsen stones possibly from Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire were erected and many lintels were added, the tops of which are nearly 5 meters above ground. Each stone measures around 2 meters high and weighs 25 tons. A number of the inward facing surfaces are smoother and would have been more diligently worked than the outer.

Science and archaeology has given us some information but still to this day little evidence reveals much about those who built Stonehenge, or how they built it. Researchers believe that the Neolithic village Durrington Walls which lies around a mile north of Stonehenge, may have been home to the circles builders.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Culture

With few written records available many myths surround Stonehenge.

Surrounding the area are a huge number of burials leading some to suggest that the function of the monument may have been a place of healing, worship, sacrifice or ritual passage from life to death. The design of Stonehenge may have assisted in the prediction of the summer and winter solstice and the spring and autumn equinox, amongst other celestial events. These reflect aspects of contemporary religion.

Today Stonehenge is regarded as a place of religious significance. Ancient Pagan traditions note solstice events as an opportunity to celebrate the cycles of life and death, the winter solstice marking the rebirth of the Sun as days begin to lengthen leading into spring.

In 2018 Stonehenge celebrated 100 years of being a public monument having been donated by Cecil Chubb and his wife Mary in 1918 so that they could be properly looked after and enjoyed by all. Initially the stones were cared for The Office of Works, what would eventually become English Heritage.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Latest News from Stonehenge

Changes to Salisbury Reds bus services for Christmas 2019

Monday 23rd December, 2019

There'll be some alterations to normal timetables over the festive season.

Stonehenge 'excited' to welcome visitors back

Saturday 4th July, 2020

The English Heritage site is being opened up again today (Saturday 4th July), but we can expect a few changes.

Wiltshire Council makes more changes to its own set up to cut costs

Wednesday 1st July, 2020

The local authority has reduced the number of Cabinet members and the number of Portfolio Holders in a bid to save money.

Marco Pierre White restaurant to open at High Post hotel

Monday 29th June, 2020

One of the UK's best known chefs is taking over the restaurant at the Stones Hotel - with work already underway to get it ready for customers.

New prehistoric monument found near Stonehenge

Monday 22nd June, 2020

Archaeologists have discovered a ring of prehistoric shafts created thousands of years ago.

3.6 million watch a cloudy Stonehenge Summer Solstice online

Sunday 21st June, 2020

The important event to mark the longest day of the year has been held virtually, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

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Winter Solstice 2017 at Stonehenge
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