Uncover the story of Stonehenge. Take in the unforgettable atmosphere of this World Heritage Site and best known prehistoric monument in Europe, visit our world-class exhibition to discover how the Stonehenge builders worked and walk amongst the Neolithic houses to experience how they lived.
You now need to book timed-tickets in advance to visit Stonehenge. We have introduced limits on visitor numbers to help keep everyone safe, and you won’t be able to visit without your booking confirmation. If you’re a Member or a Local Resident Pass holder, your ticket will be free, but you still need to book in advance.
A walk around the Stone Circle is the centrepiece of any visit to the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.
With a history spanning 4,500 years Stonehenge has many different meanings to people today. It is a wonder of the world, a spiritual place and a source of inspiration.
The Stone Circle is a masterpiece of engineering, and building it would have taken huge effort from hundreds of well-organised people using only simple tools and technologies. Visit Stonehenge to find out more about this iconic symbol of Britain.
STONE CIRCLE EXPERIENCE
A Stone Circle Experience gives you a unique opportunity to experience up close this world famous monument.
The visits take place outside of our normal general admission opening hours and are subject to very limited availability.
WHAT WAS STONEHENGE FOR?
The purpose of Stonehenge is unknown to us. It has no obvious practical purpose. It was not lived in and could not have been defended so there must have been a spiritual reason why Neolithic and Bronze Age people put so much effort into building it.
There have been many theories put forth over the years but what does the evidence suggest it may have been used for?
STONES THAT ALIGN WITH THE SUN
The sarsen stones, put up in at the centre of the site in about 2500 BC, were carefully aligned to line up with the movements of the sun. If you were to stand in the middle of the stone circle on midsummer’s day, the sun rises just to the left of the Heel Stone, an outlying stone to the north-east of the monument. Archaeological excavations have found a large stone hole to the left of the Heel Stone and it may have held a partner stone, the two stones framing the sunrise.
On midwinter’s day, turning 180° to face towards the south-west, the sun would originally have set between the two uprights of the tallest trilithon, at the head of the sarsen horseshoe. It would have dropped down into the Altar Stone, a sandstone block which was placed across the solstice axis. Today, this effect has been lost because one half of the trilithon has fallen at some point in the history of the monument. Analysis of a laser survey of Stonehenge has shown that those stones that frame the solstice axis were the most carefully worked and shaped using hammerstones, creating vertical sides that framed the movement of the sun.
The whole layout of Stonehenge is therefore positioned in relation to the solstices, or the extreme limits of the sun’s movement; the word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”). The solstice axis is also marked by the Station Stones which are positioned in a rectangle on the edge of the surrounding circular ditch, with the short sides of the rectangle on the same alignment as the sarsen stones.
The avenue, made up of parallel banks and ditches, links Stonehenge to the nearby River Avon. It also has an important link to the movements of the sun, with its final straight stretch close to Stonehenge aligned on the north-east to south-west solar axis. Recent excavations across the avenue have found that the earthworks appear to follow the line of some natural ridges, with gullies (known as periglacial stripes) between them. These are natural features from glaciation, but the presence of ridges and gullies that happened to line up with the solstice may have been noticed by Neolithic people, leading them to build Stonehenge on this particular site.