The ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is one of the most famous sights in Britain, and one of the most mysterious. There are plenty of theories as to the monument’s function and history, but very little is known for certain.
Stonehenge lies on a spot where a series of circular monuments were constructed between 3000BC and 1600BC. Originally made of earth and wood, the stones which now stand in a circle, aligned with the solstice rising sun, were brought from various locations: sarsens from the Marlborough Downs (these are the large standing stones in an outer ring, connected by lintels), and bluestones brought all the way from Wales; a considerable achievement. Stonehenge is part of a fascinating wider landscape, including various burial mounds, Neolithic long barrows, an earthwork of unknown purpose and Woodhenge, also oriented to the solstice sunrise.
Stonehenge is managed by English Heritage and is surrounded by land owned by the National Trust. Members of both these organisations are admitted free. A full-price adult ticket costs £13.90, and concessions and family tickets are available. All visitors must book timed tickets in advance from English Heritage.
The site endures huge visitor numbers, and the commercialisation of the attraction, with a new visitor centre, does not please everyone. Visitors may only walk within the stone circle by special advance permission (and even then they may not touch the stones), and in bad weather it may not be possible to use the walkway around the site.
Stonehenge can be reached by a bus service, the Stonehenge Tour Bus, from Salisbury railway station (an hour by train from Bath).
For visitors who are staying in Bath without a car, or who prefer not to drive, it’s possible to book coach trips from Bath to Stonehenge.
Stonehenge coach tours from Bath
Holidaymakers should consider which option suits them best – a straightforward coach trip to Stonehenge, a guided tour driving through scenic villages, or a full day out. Obviously prices vary considerably according to what type of Stonehenge trip you choose. Check whether entrance to Stonehenge is included in the tour price; usually you are expected to buy your own ticket on arrival, though there may be a discounted admission price for tour customers. Entrance is free to English Heritage or National Trust members. It’s advisable to book in advance online, by telephone, or in Bath Tourist Information Office (by the Abbey). The tours listed depart from the centre of Bath, close to the Abbey. Visitors should check the latest details with the companies below.
Stonehenge Tour – Scarper Tours
Scarper Tours offer daily tours from Bath to Stonehenge. Theirs is a four-hour scenic trip departing from Terrace Walk in Bath at 9.30am and 2pm (all year) They offer all-inclusive tickets, or transport-only prices for National Trust/English Heritage members.
Stonehenge, Avebury and Lacock – Mad Max Tours
Mad Max tours offer a full-day bus tour which visits Stonehenge and also Avebury and the National Trust village of Lacock. The tour leaves Bath at 8:30am most days of the year, leaving from North Parade. If you have the time to spare, this is a good way to see more of the area.
Stanton Drew Stone Circle – an alternative
No-one would claim it is as dramatic as Stonehenge, but if you want to experience a stone circle up close, away from the tourist crowds, then Stanton Drew makes an interesting alternative destination. The stone circles are among fields in a rural setting, and you might find yourself the only visitor. A further group of three stones is situated in the garden of a village pub, the Druid’s Arms. The site is to the west of Bath, near Chew Valley Lake.