Last September, Peter and I found ourselves bored one weekend and one of us came up with a brilliant idea to take a road trip to Stonehenge. After some light research, we learned that a regular Stonehenge admission ticket would permit entry to the Stonehenge grounds but would not permit access to the stones themselves.
A little more research revealed that the English Heritage offers “stone circle access” visits. Stone circle access visits must be booked in advance, are restricted to 26 people, and are held outside of regular operating hours (either in the early morning or early evening). The fee for the stone circle access visit is double the regular adult admission price but worth it for the following reasons:
- fewer people/easier to take photos without random strangers peering out from behind the stones
- up-close access to the stones (no touching, though!)
- access to the grounds and audio guides during regular operating hours
Between seasonal closures and availability, the first available date was six months out. So we booked that date and waited for it to arrive.
After much consideration, I decided that we (I) would drive versus taking public transportation (trains + buses). Driving was the absolute right decision. The drive was so easy (106 km / 66 mi each way and took about an hour and a half).
We saved considerable time that would have otherwise been spent sitting on train platforms and waiting for buses.
Before exiting the house, I reviewed Peter’s very clear and simple “rules for the drive.”
- No reading
- No internet surfing
- No gaming
- No sleeping
- Must assist with navigation
With the rules reviewed, we began our journey. Seven minutes later, Peter was sleeping.
We arrived at Stonehenge at 3:30pm, 30 minutes prior to regular admission closing time. We grabbed a map and entered the Stonehenge grounds, skipping the audio guide as we assumed our “private tour” would be more informative and interesting than the audio guide. We quickly walked the perimeter and then walked back to the private tour meeting point.
At 4:30pm, our private tour started, which was as far from a tour as possible. As the name suggests, the “stone circle access” visit provided us access to the stone circle but did not offer any sort of tour.
In summary, two security guards walked our group up to the stones and ensured we did not touch them. We didn’t learn anything about Stonehenge except that the stones are humungous.
Below are two photos to help understand the scale of Stonehenge’s enormity and gale-force winds. I am 178 cm / 5 ft 10 in, and the stone I am standing in front of reportedly weighs 25 tons.
Finally, the most tragic photo…
The English Heritage had to insert a concrete support pillar in one of the larger stones after visitors chipped away enough of the stone to make it unsafe.
Overall, it was a lovely day trip, and it was nice to get out of Maidenhead!