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Visiting Stonehenge in Wiltshire

Posted on 11th December 2013

As well as securing World Heritage Site status in 1986, alongside Avebury, Stonehenge is one of the country’s most prominent wonders. Questions are still being asked about its origin and the full extent of its meaning, and it is known as one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world.

Origin

Thought to have been built in several stages this great structure is said to have been constructed during the Neolithic period, around 2,500 BC. The monument is made up of two different types of stones, the larger rocks are sarsens and the smaller ones are called bluestones. These bluestones are thought to come from south-west Wales in the Preseli Hills, and how they came to be at this site in Wiltshire is still a mystery to this day.

The formation of these stones is of significant importance where their circular alignment is built upon the solstitial axis you can take a virtual tour of the inside of this formation at the English Heritage website. It is thought that this specific alignment meant that these seasonal changes, in which midsummer and midwinter is clearly marked by the setting and rising of the sun over the structure, meant a great deal to the prehistoric people that built Stonehenge.

Image Credit: Jose and Roxanne (flickr.com)

Solstice

The summer solstice draws thousands of people to the Stonehenge site every year, to watch the sunrise on the longest day of the calendar. Pagans and Druids hold this event in high acclaim as it holds great religious importance for them.

One of the great Stonehenge facts to be discovered is that it is thought that the location of Stonehenge is of particular importance to the solstice. When walking along the avenue leading out of Stonehenge the view is of where the sun rises during the midsummer solstice, and when you make a 180 degree turn from this point you can clearly see where the sun sets during the midwinter.

Image Credit: The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website (flickr.com)

Stonehenge today

Today the site is popular with more the general public visiting the area and staying in Wiltshire holiday cottages, as well as its religious following, leading to many disputes over its use. The site is run by English Heritage, the organisation that looks after a number of prominent historical sites in the country, and, while it is no longer permitted to freely wonder the site, English Heritage do put on tours in which people can get closer to the stones themselves.

Recently the organisation undertook and opened a new £27 million attraction, just west of Stonehenge. The plans included the opening of a whole new visitor centre in which the public can see hundreds of individual items that were present when Stonehenge was originally founded, many of which had not been on display to the public before.

While Stonehenge is still a site of mystery, visiting the site is still a fantastic adventure, particular in conjunction with the visitor centre as the public can freely learn all about the site’s impressive and mysterious history. See the English Heritage website for more information on ticket prices and opening times before your Wiltshire holiday.

Image Credit: eloqui (flickr.com)