On the Salisbury plains of England stands one of the most debated and mysterious prehistoric monuments in existence: Stonehenge. Though we’ll never know all of the details of the mammoth’s impressive history, we do know Stonehenge has stood for more than 4,000 years serving as a site of religious ceremony, cremation and burial as a part of a huge network of similar structures across a once sacred landscape. Massive stones believed to have come from over 100 miles away tower in a circular formation in a place they seemingly should never be, giving the otherwise innocuous surrounding an almost ominous feel. Although much has been discovered and learned through years of excavation and research, the historic site still holds locked within it many secrets, its mysteriousness attracting a record 1.3 million curious visitors last year alone.
In recent decades, Stonehenge has appeared in movies, on album covers, on t-shirts and countless other articles of media and décor. We can’t help but be inspired by the feat of engineering accomplished so long ago with primitive tools used in such ingenious fashion. The stones themselves weigh an average of twenty tons. The largest, the Heel Stone, weighs in at thirty tons. As to how the massive sarsen and blue stones were moved so far from their original resting places has been heavily debated, but what’s unquestionable is that their relocation required clever and labor intensive methods, significant manpower and great organization by the prehistoric designers. To face the dangers involved in moving such massive stone and to tediously chip away at them to create a tongue-and-groove construction proves that there was a real dedication by all involved to create the iconic Stonehenge. Whatever purpose these great stone circles were ultimately used for, it’s certain they were of great importance to the inhabitants of the area for thousands of years.
Travel Well’s Visit to Stonehenge
Twenty minutes after arriving at the Salisbury train station from London, we found ourselves pulling up to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre. Though the monument was a flat 1.5 mile walk from the center, we were anxious to get to the site, so we hopped on a shuttle bus that runs throughout the day. The short drive ended at a large open field where you follow a flat gravel path to the stones by foot. Years ago, visitors could actually move freely through the monument and touch the stones, but in the interest of preservation, the stones have since been roped off to prevent vandalism. Today, a gravel walkway leads up to and alongside the monument, making it easily accessible to all.
As we reached the upright stones, they almost seemed small in such an open landscape. This, however, does not make them any less awe inspiring. To get a true appreciation for Stonehenge, you must picture it as it was and not what you see today. The now bare plains surrounding it were at one time covered in dense forest that would have required immense time and effort to traverse. While we wandered around the circular formation, I couldn’t help but consider the great sacrifice made by the Neolithic people who worked so hard on this structure and how so many of them would never see the finished product of their great ambitions. After much thought and many pictures, we made our way back to the visitor center.
The newly rebuilt facility is an impressive structure in itself, mimicking the natural landscape and the stones. The eco-friendly and surprisingly modern building contains a café and gift shop full of jewelry, pottery, and your usual mix of novelty items. But some of the main attractions of the visitor center are the replica exhibitions: Thatched roof homes made with authentic materials just as the Neolithic people would have built and lived in, an impressive 360-degree audio-visual screening room that allows you to imagine the view of Stonehenge from the center of the monument and see the changing of the seasons, and hundreds of archeological finds excavated from the site on display along with a wealth of information on the ancient site.