Just Back From…Stonehenge

A quick weekend visit to Wiltshire to visit family gave me the opportunity to finally revisit Stonehenge after many, many years. I was one of the fortunate people who was able to run around the stones back in the 1960s. Since 1978 the stones have been fenced off and the experience of viewing them through wire did not appeal to me, even though I have passed the site often on my way to the South-West.

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The whole site has been much improved by the removal of the old A344, a major road that ran up the north edge of the stones. You now approach from the west, either on foot or using the shuttle bus, and make your way clockwise around the monument which allows you to see all the stones above ground.

north view

What you see probably originates from around 2500 BC and took 800 years to build. Obviously the site has changed over the centuries, but it seems that the larger sarsen stones were constructed then and do not appear to have been moved, whereas the smaller bluestones may have been rearranged several times.

west view 2

Stonehenge has an ‘axis’ – an alignment that runs north-east to south-west up the final straight line of the Avenue. This alignment works for the summer and winter solstices and there is growing evidence that the winter solstice was the most important.

west view

It was a cold, raw windy winter’s day, but at least the sun shone casting black shadows over the bright-green grass and providing a striking contrast to the darkening clouds forming overhead.

west view 3

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves and if you are ever in the area I do recommend a visit to this extraordinary site. Barrows and monuments in the landscape can be explored on foot over the uneven grass.

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Heyjude

I now live in the UK, but spent several years travelling and then living in South Africa. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

67 thoughts on “Just Back From…Stonehenge”

  1. Wonderful, simply wonderful.
    In that still of ‘The great sarsen stones’ is one on the left that has a self-size stone on top, that reminds me of the Easter Island stones – a wee bit …

  2. You did have a lovely day for this! I was able to touch the stones in the 1960s as a child, and recently found a booklet from then, that we must have picked up when in the area. In more recent years, I have seen the stones many times from the A303 on journeys down to the West Country to see my parents, but never wanted to stop off and gaze over a fence!

    1. You and I must be twins parted at birth Sue! I can see why they need protecting though as many more people visit now (they estimate a 1000 visitors a day even in winter, though there was nothing like that last Saturday) and the ground would just get destroyed. But it looks very well placed in the landscape now with that road gone.

  3. This remains one of the enduring sights (and sites!) of my life. When I first saw this as a youngster, and could wander around the stones freely, I was always amazed by the weight and size of them. I went back many times, but the last time I took a visitor from France to see them, the distance we had to stand from the site reduced the impact. I haven’t been back in decades, but still love to see them as I drive past.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. They look so small from the road don’t they, but close up you get much more of a sense of awe. The exhibition is good too – as you enter you are in the middle of the stones and a timeline takes you through the year with both solstices. Really well done.

    1. We had lovely light Sherri, though it was very cold and windy!! My fingers were numb! I kept watching that black cloud praying it wouldn’t dump snow on us, and it didn’t, it helped create a lovely moody atmosphere. This must be near you?

    1. I suppose we Brits take a lot of this history for granted. We have rather a lot on our little isle. It is nice to know my photos give pleasure around the world. Thanks Tess 🙂

  4. An amazing journey around an amazing site. I felt the same way when I saw Aboriginal rock paintings caged at Mutawintji – although it was necessary: people had been slicing bits off. One great slab was found in a garden in Melbourne.

    Is “Just back from …” the beginning of a series? Or were you just being tantalising and leaving space for a roll of rums or a tantara of trumpets? It works beautifully as a title.

    1. It is a shame what people do…
      Just Back From is a series of posts about short travels in the UK – if you click on the ‘On The Road’ menu link on the left you’ll see a link to the posts. But I kinda like a roll of rums 😉

  5. We visited Stonehenge in July 1999 with our daughters. The wind blowing off Salisbury Plain was freezing but that didn’t stop me from feeling in awe of this ancient site. I remember thinking at the time how incredible it was that the highway could come so close, so I’m pleased to hear that it has changed. Thanks for the memories.

    1. The A303 still whizzes by the site, but the way you approach the site now seems to make such a difference. The stones appear to sit better in the landscape. I believe there is a plan to create a tunnel to bypass the site, but it’s quite controversial.

  6. You lucky dog, you (american-soeak for you lucky bloke or someting like that). I have always yearned to visit Stonehenge, although would have preferred the 1960s version. Thanks for posting these. Absolutely one of the most magical endeavors by man and nature.

    1. Well, by virtue of WP now you have 😀

      Avebury is nearby (see my link in the comments or maybe even one below the post) and there you can walk among the stones, none with the lintels though, which is what makes Stonehenge so special plus the fact that no-one really knows why it was built.

      1. Thanks, Jude. I’ll explore those links.

        Have you heard of The Outlander fiction series? I read 3 of the books then stopped (they get quite convoluted). The premise is time travel back (I think in Scotland) and it’s done via a portal in some ancient stone formations where pagan ceremonies are held.
        It definitely caught my imagination!

        1. I’ve read only three time-travel authors; all of which had portals to the past that resonated with me. In general it’s ‘not my thing’ and I can’t relate to futuristic or dystopian AT ALL!!

  7. There goes my wanderlust meter again. Love these photos Jude and Stonehenge has long been on our list. I surely will need to live to be 150 to see all of the wonders on this glorious planet.

  8. Great photos Jude! I went to Stonehenge on a family holiday in the late 70’s haven’t to my recollection been back since though my husband’s family live in the West Country (Somerset and Gloucestershire). We are usually on a whistle stop tour round the Uk seeing family and friends when we’re in the Uk and it doesn’t always leave much time for sightseeing! Have loved looking through all your photos thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Ah, yes, family visits are a bit like that. Nice to spend time with them, but it does impact on what you can get to see. Fortunately I shall have a new grandchild to visit in this area so I will have an excuse to pop over regularly 😉

        1. Quite a dynasty indeed! We have another granddaughter on the way due the end of April (my elder daughter’s second). We are due back from our European trip 6 days before her due date!!

        2. Yes hope so! We’re coming to UK to see family (mainly Yorkshire and London and a couple of nights for me in the West Country) followed by 9 days in Munich and Bavaria looking forward to it!

  9. You were incredibly lucky to have been able to walk among the stones! I visited a couple of years ago but it was part of a bus tour so couldn’t linger. I plan to return with a picnic lunch and spend some quiet quality time there, taking it all in. It’s just amazing that they are still standing. Lovely, moody pictures, and a nice variety of them too!

    1. You can’t walk amongst the stones now though Linda, just look at them from a reasonably close distance, although I think you can pre-book special access so maybe look into that. It would be nice to walk around that landscape, so many fascinating barrows. I guess as a child I didn’t really appreciate them that much – they were just stones to hide behind.

  10. Argh, I’m super green with envy Jude. Gorgeous pics despite the chilly weather. The “Henge” was right on the top of my To Do list the last time I visited England (about 5 years ago). I’ve always been drawn to castles and ruins and those magical, sacred sites that evoke mystery and magic, but any thoughts I had of feeling the magic and capturing it on film evaporated fast. The mistake I made was visiting in December. It was -1°C outside and the wind was whipping across Salisbury Plain like a rampant South-Easter. (Back home in Cape Town it was a blissful, balmy 28°C). I stepped out of the car just long enough to take a few really really bad photographs as I walked through the stones desperate to feel the magic as quickly as possible. And then I left the busloads of Japanese tourists with their Nikon lenses and earphones to it. Next time I’ll go in the summer 🙂

  11. I love a roll of rums! Definitely adds something 🙂 🙂
    I’ve never been to Stonehenge, Jude, and always thought I might be under-impressed, but the antiquity and back story is mind boggling. Presumably you used that wonderful zoom of yours to take the close ups? Should i ever pass that way I will take your recommendation 🙂

    1. The whole landscape is quite astonishing Jo, the stones are a small part, but quite magical. You look at them and wonder – who, why? My camera died (those dodgy batteries again) so I had to nick the OH’s compact Panasonic. Fortunately it has a fairly good zoom 😀

  12. I’m not fool enough to quibble with Stonehenge, although I’m fool enough to do all sorts of other dumb things, and I do understand why they rope them off, but the ancient monuments in Cornwall that you can still walk up to, lean on, and picnic with knock me out. They’re just standing there, as they must have been thousands of years ago.

    1. I understand that the reason for fencing them off (unlike other stones) is that the site attracts more than 1,000,000 visitors a year and no doubt this volume would quickly destroy the site. It is the most iconic, mystical and magnificent prehistoric structure. Why Avebury doesn’t get so many visitors I don’t know as it isn’t much further away, and you can touch the stones there. I suppose the stone circles in Cornwall and Cumbria are safe as they are too far away from the London coach-trips and hordes of tourists. 🙂

  13. Wonderful images of this powerful, magical and so iconic place, Jude. I just realize how lucky I was back in 1975, being able to walk freely amongst the stones. In Cumbria we were lucky to see three great stone circles. We had them all to ourselves! 🙂
    Wishing you a great weekend,
    best regards from the Four of us,
    Dina xo

    1. There are some lovely stone circles up there. Did you go to Long Meg and her Daughters? We tried to find it en route to Alston, but missed it altogether which is a shame. I just love the name!

  14. Thanks. Stonehenge definitely has a mystical aura. We often stop off here and at Glastonbury on our way down to Cornwall’s lands end. Enjoying my visits to your blog. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox.

  15. I visited this site long ago as a Prehistory undergraduate. In those days you could wander all round the stones. I think they have been given a sense of gravity now, and your photos give the stones a sense of grandeur.

    1. A place so well-known is often disappointing to visit, but being so near and having EH membership so it was free I thought it was time to have a closer look than peering through the windscreen from the A303. I htink they have done a very good job. The whole experience was good. They just need to get a good barista in and make proper coffee 😉

  16. I was also one of those fortunate people who played hide and seek amongst these colossal stones in my youth. We visited Stonehenge a couple of years back, and although it was great to see it again, the long queue to get in, plus the hoards of people wandering around, did take away that mystical aura for me. Even in August it was cold, windy and raining. 🙂

    1. It’s that flat Wiltshire Plain that does it – the wind just sweeps across with nothing to stop it! I guess visiting in winter has its advantages – less crowds = more mystic. Though I would like to wander in the land around the stones in warmer weather.

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