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Our guide to visiting Stonehenge

An icon of England, Stonehenge is a magnificent prehistoric site that is instantly recognized the world over but remains shrouded in mystery and whilst dating back to 3000 BC continues to baffle experts to this day.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric circle of monoliths standing on the Salisbury Plain in the picturesque Wiltshire countryside approximately 9 miles from Salisbury itself. The site was constructed in phases with an outer bank dating back to 3000 BC whilst the standing stones that we see today are thought to have been erected in 2500 BC which predates the Aztec Pyramids and the statues of Easter Island. Due to its historic significance, together with a number of surrounding prehistoric sites including Avebury Stone Cirlce, Silbury Hill and Old Sarum, Stonehenge enjoys World Heritage Status.

The era in which Stonehenge was constructed, along with where the rocks used originate, offers one of its many mysteries. The circle consists of 40 blocks of Bluestone whose source has been tracked to the Preseli Hills of South Wales which lies some 250 miles from where the rocks currently stand. Whilst some theorize that glacial movement may have transported the rocks in the previous ice-age, there is little evidence to support this and as a result it seems more likely that the rocks, weighing up to 50 tons each, were quarried and transported by man power. This would be an impressive feat with today’s technology and quite how it was achieved several thousand years ago remains a mystery.

Question marks not only surround how but also why the stone circle was created. Theories for the purpose of Stonehenge have been bounced back and forth for many years and include that it served as a temple, a place of sacrifice and burial, a place of worship to the sun or an astronomical calendar. This latter theory seems the most probable as the site seems to be aligned with sunrise and sunset on the Summer and Winter solstices but, again, no concrete conclusions have ever been drawn.

Regardless of its purpose and quite how it was constructed, today Stonehenge is one of Britain’s most popular visitor attractions. Whilst its visitor facilities do not compare to other attractions in Britain, and the nearby road can be distracting, there is an intriguing audio guide available and it is impossible not to get swept up in the unique air of mystery and myth which surrounds the site. Whether in sunshine or low hanging mists, Stonehenge provides a magnificent photo opportunity and to marvel at the stones and first-hand is a magical experience. Stonehenge is an absolute must when touring the south of England.

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