Photo Essay: Stonehenge

by Christy on

Stonehenge, the world’s most famous circle of rocks.

Photos of Stonehenge

Archaeologists believe it was constructed in multiple stages between 3000 and 1500 BCE, but nobody really understands how it was actually built.

By all accounts the challenges presented by the massive weights and distances involved should have been impossible for the builders’ primitive tools to overcome.

Photos of Stonehenge

Adding to the mystery, we’re still not sure exactly why they embarked on such an epic undertaking in the first place.

Was Stonehenge a Druidic temple? A burial site? An astronomical observatory? An interstellar navigation marker planted by some alien race?

There’s evidence pointing to each of these (well, except maybe that last one!), but we’ll likely never know for sure.

Photos of Stonehenge

Photos of Stonehenge

Because it’s now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors must stay on a path that circles wide around the structure. We learned that if you’re a practicing Druid, however, you can walk freely amongst the stones during the one night each year that it’s opened for a religious ceremony… which immediately tripled my interest in spirituality.

Photos of Stonehenge

Photos of Stonehenge

Stonehenge is surrounded in almost every direction by green pastures dotted with grazing sheep. It’s a beautifully peaceful environment… if you discount all the tourists and ignore the main road bisecting one of the fields neighboring the stones.

It’s a bit of an eyesore (although there’s a rumor that the road will eventually be diverted into a tunnel to restore the area’s natural tranquility), but for now if you’re loathe to pay the fee you can opt to view Stonehenge through a chain-link fence.

Photos of Stonehenge

Seen in person, Stonehenge is definitely impressive, and the setting is undeniably beautiful.

I think it’s the age that gets me most, though; I get shivers thinking about ancient travelers passing through this area literally thousands of years ago looking up to see very much the same view as I do today… and probably being even more confused about what these huge rocks were doing standing up on the plains.

Photos of Stonehenge

Have you ever visited Stonehenge? What do you think it was built for?

NOTE: We visited Stonehenge as part of a complimentary tour from International Friends; read our review of International Friends to learn more.

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea October 6, 2011 at

Gorgeous pictures! I’ve never been there but my guess is that it’s some sort of place for ritual ceremonies. Thanks for telling me why it’s so mysterious – I never knew!
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

I think I agree about the ritual ceremonies…. I can’t imagine people putting in that much time/resources to build a stone circle so many thousands of years ago if it wasn’t for a spiritual purpose.

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Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelistatwitter: eurotravelista October 6, 2011 at

I am not a huge fan of Stonehenge itself but I do love the surrounding area! Your pictures are quite captivating too :)
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

The surrounding area was amazing, and we saw a whole group of caravans hanging out on a hill overlooking Stonehenge from a distance! It would be a great place to camp for a bit.

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Caanan @ No Vacation Requiredtwitter: NVRguys October 6, 2011 at

I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s just druidic hardscaping. :)
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

Haha, you’re such a hard sell!

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Sophietwitter: SophieR October 6, 2011 at

I like Stonehenge and t e mystery of it all. You can actually go inside the circle even without being a druid – just have to apply to English Heritage,for Stone Circle access, be flexible and prepare to get up very early. On the other hand, it’s a very cool place to see the sun rise.
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

Thanks for the info, Sophie! Maybe next time we head that way we’ll try to get Stone Circle access and watch the sun rise. :)

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Jeremy Branhamtwitter: budgettravelsac October 7, 2011 at

I have yet to go to Stonehenge but watched a documentary on it lately. How did you get so close for those photos if you have to stay on the path?
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

We have a pretty great zoom lens. :) We mostly used it for those two close-ups, though — on one side of the stones the path actually comes pretty close, and then makes a wider loop on the other side. The photos that have people in them make it look like you have to stay super far away from the circle, but those were taken on the part of the path that’s furthest away. Most of the time the path takes you much closer.

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Laureltwitter: ExpatGermany October 7, 2011 at

Great photos. I visited a Stonehenge in Scotland and was equally intrigued, especially since you leave with more questions than answers.
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

I’d love to do a tour of all the stone circles around the U.K. – they’re just so fascinating.

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Melissatwitter: longhaulproject October 7, 2011 at

I think about some of the public art you see around in cities today and wonder if one day, centuries from now, people will wonder why it’s there and what we did with it? Maybe Stonehenge was a modern art installation of its time?
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

I’ve never thought of that before – what an interesting idea! I guess the big difference is that we have so many written records, but if something was to happen to them (I don’t know, an Armageddon?) and the documentation was lost to future generations… what in the world would they think of some of the things we’ve built??

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Annie - FootTracker October 7, 2011 at

I watched a TV show that went to a Stonehenge place. They were lucky they got permission to walk around freely and stayed overnight. Apparently Stonehenge has very strong electromagnetic field. If the Stonehenge don’t like you, you will feel the headache and dizziness right away XD.
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

I didn’t even know that! How cool and mysterious.

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John D. Wilson October 7, 2011 at

Good post and most excellent pics!
Been to England 3 times, and never had a chance to get to Stonehedge – my loss.
Thanks for the post and pictures – another one of the many places I need to get too!
Cheers,
John D. Wilson
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

Stonehenge isn’t very accessible (you’d have to rent a car or take a tour), so I can see why a lot of visitors to England don’t make it out there. For us, though, it was definitely worth it! :)

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Stephanie - The Travel Chicatwitter: thetravelchica October 7, 2011 at

I went to Stonehenge in 2010. It was very impressive, and I agree that the setting is very beautiful.

Good job on getting so many shots without all the people. That was definitely a challenge when I was there :-)
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Christy October 7, 2011 at

We got super lucky and arrived after there had been a lull, so there were only a handful of people on the path ahead of us. By the time we got to the other side, we could see all those people who had arrived after!

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Shirlene from Idelishtwitter: idelishTravel October 7, 2011 at

Absolutely beautiful photos! We’ve not yet visited and hope to one day.
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Christy October 8, 2011 at

Thanks, Shirlene!

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Red Nomad OZ October 8, 2011 at

Well, I’ve recently visited Stonehenge in Queensland Australia – but somehow I don’t think that’s what you meant!! I’ve wanted to visit THIS Stonehenge ever since I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles – this virtual tour is the next best thing!!
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Christy October 9, 2011 at

Haha, that sort of works! :P I’ve never read Tess of the D’Urbervilles – I’ll have to look that up.

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Artitwitter: artisdiary October 8, 2011 at

Looks such a heavenly sight, the lovely green carpet and the clear blue skies!! And off course, the Stonehenge, looks beautiful.
I have never been outside India, so this is an amazing post. Have a wonderful weekend:)
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Christy October 9, 2011 at

The grass does look like carpet! It must be all the rain England gets; kind of a pain in the ass, but leads to some great foliage. :)

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Raymond @ Man On The Lamtwitter: m October 8, 2011 at

Those photos are spectacular! I too have not been there though… :(
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Christy October 9, 2011 at

Thanks, Raymond! Maybe someday?

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Cathy Sweeneytwitter: TravelingWithS October 8, 2011 at

Beautiful photos of Stonehenge. I was somewhat reluctant to go since I thought there would be so many tourists, but I’m glad I did. So impressive. The day I went, it was actually pretty quiet and I took a walk down a nearby road — very pleasant.

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Christy October 9, 2011 at

I was worried about the tourists as well, but it was still surprisingly peaceful. I think it’s because the entire area just feels so open, and there’s a lot of space for visitors to spread out. There were a number of campervans scattered about, and we kept thinking that it would be a lovely place to spend a few days.

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Grace October 8, 2011 at

Ancient stones = awesomeness. Extremely jealous and the photos are lovely.

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Christy October 9, 2011 at

Seriously – even if the ancient stones weren’t in such a cool formation, they’d still be awesome.

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Christy @ Ordinary Traveler October 8, 2011 at

I hope to see this one day, and NOT through a chain link fence. I think the aliens built it! :)
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Uttoran Sentwitter: traveltamed October 9, 2011 at

I haven’t visited Stonehenge yet, it is certainly on my travel list. I would love to believe that it is created by some alien but realistically that might not be the case. I guess the stones might have been pulled by large elephants, using logs underneath the stones… some of the ancient constructions have been done this way and it kinda works out too.

Thanks for sharing the images, it will look great as a desktop background.
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Deb October 9, 2011 at

Great shots guys, I have always wanted to go to stonehenge and when we were in London we should have made time for it, but we had so much preparations for the Mongol Rally, we barely had time to see the city. It’s a good excuse to come back though!

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Christy October 10, 2011 at

It sounded like you had so much to do for the Mongol Rally, I don’t know how you fit in any sight-seeing. :) But you’re right, it just means you have more reason to come back again!

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Traveling Tedtwitter: travelingted October 9, 2011 at

Kurt Vonnegut wrote in the Sirens of Titan that Stonehenge was a message for a spaceman stranded on a distant planet who was stuck because his spaceship had a defective part. When he panned in on earth and saw Stonehenge it was actually a message that said “don’t worry, the part is coming soon.”
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Christy October 10, 2011 at

That is awesome – probably my favorite explanation so far!

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Jadetwitter: vagabond3live October 11, 2011 at

I loved Stonehenge when we went with our college group. Actually my favorite part were all the random sheep everywhere! I just thought it was so funny that they were everywhere!
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Christy October 12, 2011 at

Seriously, there were sheep everywhere! I thought is was awesome – it almost felt like it could have hundreds/thousands of years ago.

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Sailortwitter: CruisePictures October 11, 2011 at

Beautiful pictures!

I am catching up on my email subscriptions…just wanted to let you know that I am not trying to spam your blog :D
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Christy October 12, 2011 at

Haha, no worries! I know you’re not spam, Sailor. ;)

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Smitty October 12, 2011 at

Great Blog! – I am really envious of you two!
My wife and I have been to Stonehenge and It was well worth the trip – though we were there in January and it was bloody cold. We spent a month traveling in the UK over the Christmas holiday and most of January. If I may, there are a few places that I might suggest visiting when in the UK -if you haven’t already. Bath is a wonderful old town with a rich architectural fabric not too far from Stonehenge. Cardiff the capital of Wales was a day-trip we took and well worth it. Edinburgh is a must – we spent Christmas there and it was one of the best experiences. Hogmanay is the big festival at new years and you can have Christmas dinner at Edinburgh castle (a very nice experience for a young couple such as yourselves). Also, the Scottish Parliament building there is a wonderful piece of architecture that you can tour (forgive my bias towards architecture, as I was an architecture major in college). Walking ghost tours, seemingly endless alleyways (“closes” as they are called), every kind of food imaginable. Looking back, I think I could live there as a bum on the street and be happy. Bottom line – go experience it, I think you would enjoy it immensely….
Did I mention how envious I was! :)

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Christy October 12, 2011 at

Thank you so much for these recommendations, Smitty! We spent a few hours in Bath the same day we saw Stonehenge, but it wasn’t nearly enough time – and we haven’t visited the other places you mentioned. Kali and I are really excited about the possibility of buying a campervan next spring and driving around the entire U.K. for 6 months, so hopefully we’ll have lots of opportunity to see everything here!! And Christmas / New Years in Edinburgh sounds amazing. :)

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robin October 12, 2011 at

Beautiful, and you had some decidedly un-English weather!
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Christy October 13, 2011 at

I know, we seriously lucked out on that. :)

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Kris Koellertwitter: kriskoeller October 17, 2011 at

We visited Stonehenge a few years ago, despite many of the locals dissuading us that it “wasn’t terribly interesting.” I loved it, and I like the way it was setup so that the crowds are well managed and set back from the monument. We had an extra day to spend in Bath, so tacked on this tour and I’m so glad we did. Great write up.
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Christy October 17, 2011 at

We also had some people tell us that Stonehenge wasn’t worth it, but I agree with you — it was well worth the effort! It’s probably not worth flying to England just to see, lol, but if you’re already there Stonehenge is definitely a wonderful addition.

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Christinetwitter: cdricafuente October 19, 2011 at

I love how these photos tell a story! I’ve never seen anything like it but hope I can oneday! Thanks for sharing.

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Christy October 22, 2011 at

Thanks, Christine! :)

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Andrew October 28, 2011 at

Yup, definitely on the list. Although I have read enough about other stone circles in the area that you can get closer to, I think I might try those first. I am sure I’d go to Stonehenge just for the name, but the experience I think I’d like to get with somewhat fewer people around and more immersive path. Great pictures though. What time of the year were you there?
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Christy October 28, 2011 at

We visited during the first week of September and the timing was great – still relatively nice weather but far fewer tourists. I agree that Stonehenge is nice to visit for its popularity, but it would be really cool to see some of the sites in a more intimate setting. I can see why they don’t want so many people trampling through there, but it was a bummer not being able to walk around freely!

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Cynthia October 29, 2011 at

We took the International Friends day trip to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Avebury, with David (a treasure in his own right) as our driver/guide, and though I have previously always done my own research and planning, and know we could have taken a train from London to see the stones, it was so much easier and more pleasant with International Friends.
Also, love your blog!!

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Christy November 1, 2011 at

Thank you so much for the comment, Cynthia! :) We can’t stop talking up International Friends – for a first tour experience it was really fantastic. And David was such a hoot; I’m sure we would have had an equally fun time with another tour guide, but I think we lucked out. Int’l Friends also has some neat looking adventure-type tours, which I’d love to check out when we’re in the U.K. again.

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Victor November 6, 2011 at

Well, I am the practicing Druid :-)
When this mysterious night will be?
I’d like to come.

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Christy November 8, 2011 at

Are you really, Victor? That’s cool – I’ve never met a practicing Druid before. I’m very interested in the tenets of the belief system, though, so there are definitely multiple reasons why I want to attend one of those mysterious night ceremonies. :)

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