Stonehenge, England, the temple to the sun, moon and the stars.
Stonehenge is Europe's most famous ancient monument. It is a great temple to the sun, moon and planets. A timepiece made with giant carved stones produces shadows, which act much like a clock's hands, indicating the days, months and seasons.
To make your visit special, we provide stone circle access at Stonehenge during sunrise or sunset. The out of hours service has limited availability, and therefore please book early. A peak season guided tour of Stonehenge can be a rewarding experience also. We suggest having our Driver Guide meet you early to beat the tour groups; this allows a leisurely tour of Stonehenge.
Stonehenge is not alone; there are many Neolithic, bronze age and iron age sites of interest in the region. There is a suggestion that Avebury Stone Circle is the senior of the two. The tour of the Avebury stone circle complex of ancient sites and Stonehenge is a fascinating journey into pre-historic times.
Temple to the sun, moon and stars
Set high up on Salisbury Plain there's a vast sky and an almost indefinable stillness and quality of light about the Stonehenge monument site. Those same conditions must have appealed to our prehistoric ancestors 5,000 years ago when they chose this location to build a place of worship and celebration.
Stonehenge ranks among the most important ancient sites in the world. A 5,000-year-old monument, and by far the oldest ceremonial structure in Britain. It is with a mixture of mystery and awe that over 800,000 visitors a year travel from around the world to view this UNESCO world heritage site. Archaeologists and historians have never been able to identify precisely the reason for building this monument, or even its purpose. Many theories abound, many do agree that Stonehenge is a great timepiece. Marking the longest and shortest days of the year depending on the angle the sun falls onto the stones, creating shadows and shafts of light – much like a massive sundial.
Some 3000 years ago, the first stage was constructing a large, wide circular ditch, which enclosed an area 100 metres wide with two entrances. Discovered within the ditch were 56 pits thought to have contained wooden posts. Evidence of burials around the post holes suggests that as many as 150 individual graves.
The second stage is perhaps the most intriguing. Around 2500 BC the stones we see today were positioned – with two types of rocks used. The smaller, inner circle of bluestones each weigh around 5 tons and came from the Preseli Hills in Wales some 215 miles away. The larger outer circle stones called sarsens, with lintels, came from the Marlborough Downs, just 17 miles away. The largest of them weighing over 45 tons. The carved sarsen stones have an attractive shape with mortice and tenon like joints that secure the lintels onto the upright stones. The shaping, carving and interlocking joints make Stonehenge unique.
Moving the stones
The sheer effort required to move these stones is positively mind-boggling. This project would have involved the entire community. An appreciation of the action indicates the significance of prehistoric human attraction to the site.
Aligning the stones
The stones' setting provides the best clue we have for the possible significance of the site to those who created it. At the summer and winter solstices, the heel stone is in perfect alignment with the points of sunrise and sunset. With their lives dominated by the seasons, these will have been crucial times for prehistoric man. An indicator of when to sow seeds and when to reap the harvest – Stonehenge's people were early farmers.
Evidence found at the site indicates that the Romans were frequent visitors, and in Saxon times sheep farming took place in the area. The earliest written references date from the 14th Century to regarding it from the Saxon period.
The Stonehenge site became part of Amesbury Abbey. It passed into the ownership of Henry VIII since he dissolved the monastic institutions. It then passed through the purchase of various nobles until 1915 when it was bought at auction by Cecil Chubb as a present for his wife. In 1928, the land was gifted to the National Trust who, in concert with English Heritage, is today's custodian.
Having visited Stonehenge, we suggest that you take the opportunity of a short journey to Salisbury to see the magnificent Cathedral and one of the only copies of the Magna Carta.
Stonehenge prehistoric monument
UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Tailored Day Tour
- Expert DRIVER GUIDED Tour
- Stone Circle Access Available (before or after opening hours)
- Tour Stonehenge with Salisbury Cathedral
- Explore nearby Avebury Stone Circle
Stone Circle Access
Customised group tours available
Silbury Hill - ancient man-made pyramid
Stonehenge winter sunshine