It is probably the world’s most famous prehistoric monument and, together with Avebury, it forms the heart of a World Heritage site hosting an incredible collection of prehistoric monuments.
If you’re planning a visit to Stonehenge or just interested in the fascinating history, here are 10 things you will love to know:
1. Originally there were 2 entrances – a wider one to the north east and a narrower once to the southern aspect, before usage created more gaps
2. It was built in two stages – the initial henge (a prehistoric monument) dates back about 5,000 years and the stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period, in about 2500 BC
3. Charles Darwin made an important discovery in the 1880’s – Darwin conducted the first scientific studies at the site and discovered that earthworms were the cause of the stones sinking into the soil
4. The original structure comprised many more stones - Stonehenge was made up of an outer circle of 30 standing stones called ‘sarsens’, which surrounded five huge stone arches in a horseshoe shape. There were also two circles made of smaller ‘bluestones’ – one inside the outer circle and one inside the horseshoe
5. The stones have 2 different origins – it is believed that the sarsens were brought from the neighbouring Marlborough Downs and the bluestones originated in south Wales, about 150 miles away.
6. There are some fascinating astronomical links – in 1771 John Smith concluded that the original total of 30 sarsens multiplied by the 12 astrological signs related to the 360 days in the year and that the inner circle represented the lunar month.
7. Stonehenge was first mentioned in about 1130 AD – referenced in Henry of Huntingdon’s archaeological study as Stanhenge. English Heritage believe that it became known as Stonehenge in 1610.
8. The Aubrey Holes were identified in the late 17th century – They comprise a circle of 56 pits which may have contained posts or additional stones
9. The building process of Stonehenge is still not confirmed – however it is believed that a series of sledges and ropes was used. As the sarsens weighed 22 tonnes, it was an incredible feat of ingenuity and strength
10.Excavated artefacts have indicated times of most use – The volume of Roman pottery and coins demonstrate greater use during this period than during medieval times.
Located about 2 hours west of London, you have the option of a private exploration of the stones before they open to the public or a fascinating guided tour including Stonehenge and Avebury, in addition to other related sites in the area. There are some rather lovely venues that you can choose for lunch once you have completed your exploration of our prehistoric history.
Its proximity to the beautiful city of Bath and the stunning stately homes of Longleat and Stourhead offer the opportunity to create a wonderful day’s itinerary.