Stonehenge

Overview

Introduction

Stonehenge, the circle of megalithic stones on the Salisbury Plain 80 mi/130 km southwest of London, may have been a religious site as long ago as 5000 BC. Various evidence points to ancient burials and possible religious activities.

With Stonehenge now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, a visitors center is in the works and improvements have been proposed to divert road traffic away from the stones and restore the site to the "lonely temple to the winds" described by Thomas Hardy.

Large crowds can spoil the atmosphere of this site, as does the giant fence around the stones, but it remains one of the wonders of the prehistoric age. Some of the stones were brought from the Preseli mountains in western Wales when no roads or machinery existed. And how were the 50-ton lintel stones raised? It's no wonder that supernatural powers and aliens are intrinsic to Stonehenge folklore.

Unfortunately, visitors can no longer walk among the stones except at the summer solstice or by special arrangement. The best time to visit is off-season or early in the day.

There is a less imposing—but far more extensive—complex of standing stones and burial mounds 20 mi/30 km north at Avebury. It's still very impressive, you won't see so many people there, and you can still touch and walk among the stones. (Other examples of standing stones can be found throughout England.)

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