What to see in Great Britain

Stonehenge

Vacations to Great Britain

Tourist attractions Stonehenge

In the high and green plains of Wiltshire, in the south of England, stands Stonehenge, one of the most intriguing monuments in the world due to its mysterious origins.

The word Stonehenge comes from the union of "stone" and "henge" which means fence, to refer to this circular-shaped monument. To estimate the age of this colossal megalithic structure, we must go back to prehistory. Stonehenge had 3 construction phases distributed between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, the first beginning between 4000 and 3000 BC, with the completed monument dating from around 2500 BC.

At first, it consisted of 30 sandstone pillars weighing about 25 tons, which, as the name suggests, were carved in a rectangular shape and placed vertically, burying their lower part in the ground. In turn, these were crowned by other horizontal blocks of approximately 7 tons, forming a covered circle. Inside it, another orderly horseshoe-shaped construction was erected that was made up of 5 triliths, and in the middle of it, a large central slab was arranged that would have acted as an altar.

Surrounding this main monument are 50 holes marked with lime. These were burial places where cremation rituals were once performed as offerings to the unknown deities of the time. Finally, surrounding the outermost area, a deep trench was dug. To the northeast, there is a processionary path that leads to the heart of the monument. Unfortunately, turbulent weather and the continuous thefts of the stones has altered the original aesthetics of Stonehenge over the centuries.

Outside the main monument is the famous 30 ton Heelstone from Sarsen, located 77 meters from the centre of the circle to the southwest. It marks the point where the sun rises on the horizon at the summer solstice when viewed from the centre of the circle. 

If you visit Stonehenge, be sure to explore Woodhenge, 3.7 kilometres from the main monument. It consists of 6 rings formed by wooden posts within which the skull of a child was found to be buried. It is believed that Woodhenge used to be a place for human sacrifice and it was first discovered in 1926.

As for its actual purpose, there is much speculation. It is believed that the area was an important hunting area and Stonehenge acted as a meeting place to celebrate banquets in order to give thanks for the food that nature bestowed upon the hunters. It is also thought that Stonehenge could be a monument in commemoration of the unification of Great Britain or as a funerary monument that evolved into a temple. Alternatively, it is widely believed that Stonehenge acted as a prehistoric calendar and astronomical observatory, enabling the people of the time to predict the seasons.

There are many legends that have existed during all these years around this fascinating construction. Its construction has been linked to the Magician Merlin, to Druids, Celtic priests or even the Romans, Phoenicians and Danes. Some theories go even further, alluding that Stonehenge was constructed by beings from another planet! In addition, Stonehenge has featured in many songs by popular British artists such as The Beatles and Black Sabbath.

If you travel to Stonehenge, you’re sure to wonder how these giant stones were moved over 200 kilometres from West Wales to Wiltshire. Geologists have determined that the 42 small stones known as the blue stones, came from the Preseli Mountains. Archaeologists first believed that they used a wooden ball bearing system to move them, but the theory that they were rolled inside a ball woven from willow and alder trees has gained more traction in recent years.

Today more than a million people a year choose to travel to Stonehenge to admire this legendary stone circle, protected by English Heritage and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1986. It is a popular day trip from London, and near Stonehenge, you can also visit the beautiful cities of Amesbury and Salisbury.

Despite all the hypotheses that have been considered by researchers, the truth is that the origin and meaning of Stonehenge are not known with absolute certainty, so the mystery continues to this day! Of course, visiting Stonehenge is most magical during the Winter or Summer Solstice, when Druids and mystics descend on the site for their bi-annual celebrations of light and darkness. 

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