Stonehenge Day Trip From Salisbury
Every time I spoke to locals about Stonehenge, they always told me the same thing – it’s an overpriced tourist trap for rocks. Originally I agreed and had no interest in visiting because I had already seen ‘rocks’ at Avebury for free. However, I found cheap tour tickets from Salisbury and I decided it was worth it since James and I could also explore Salisbury, hence we were doing a Stonhenge day trip from Salisbury.
Transportation To Salisbury
With a quick search on trainline I found round trip tickets from Exeter St. Davids to Salisbury for just £15. Our friend Noor, who we actually became friends with while doing laundry in Exeter, also decided to come on the trip with us.
When we got to the train station and looked at our seat reservations we were pleasantly surprised to find we were somehow in first class. I scanned our tickets, again and again, to make sure there wasn’t a mistake, but somehow my cheap £15 ticket managed to get me a first class seat.
We gleefully found our seats and enjoyed our two-hour train ride in luxury. Free wifi, charging ports, cushy leather seats and complimentary snacks. I quickly realized I thoroughly enjoyed traveling in first class, and two hours later we were in Salisbury.
Stonehenge Tour Logistics
The Stonehenge Tour Company offered a variety of options. We selected The Stonehenge Tour – Bus, Old Sarum, Stonehenge & Cathedral option. At just £28 pounds we were transported from Salisbury train station to Stonehenge and back, provided an audio guide, access to Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral. When purchasing the tickets online I was a bit thrown off because I couldn’t select a specific day for my tickets. As it turns out, the tickets are valid for 6 months and you can present it on any day on which the tour is operating. No reservations necessary. Tickets can also be purchased on the bus.
EDIT: Since this trip prices are subject to change.
Catching the tour bus.
Once you make it to Salisbury Station and exit, turn left. Just at the very end of the building you’ll see a small poster on the wall for Stonehenge Tour. We waited there for about 15 minutes before a tour bus came to collect us. We presented our digital bar code and the operator provided us with physical tickets and audio guides.
The nice thing about the tour is you can go at your own pace, as there are buses that come and go to certain stops all throughout the day. You’re not limited to a certain amount of time in each location which is something I really liked.
While we drove through the Wiltshire country side we were able to listen to a fascinating audio guide all about Stonehenge and the town of Salisbury. I’m really grateful we selected a tour with an audio guide, because I felt that if we had seen Stonehenge without all this additional information it would have just been rocks. Finding out at these rocks were actually brought from Wales and Avebury by sea or land via rolling it on logs was extremely interesting. We also learned that the circle was never finished and that’s why it appears dismantled. Also, there is a front and back entrance of the circle, indicated by locations of the rocks.
It is thought that Stonehenge was used to keep track of something with the sun, however there is speculation that is actually a sacred burial ground as many bones were found around the structure. Speaking of the structure, I naively always thought the rocks were just sitting on the grass, but that is incorrect. Deep holes were dug into the ground and the rocks were placed in them to keep them standing upright. Years later through infrared technology further burial sties and wooden structures were also detected below Stonehenge. There’s definitely some pretty interesting stuff surrounding this ‘Wonder of the World’.
Fun Fact: The only time a year that Stonehenge is free to access and enter the circle is during the Annual Solstice where many come to perform religious rituals and worship ceremonies.
What to Expect
Once you purchase/present your tickets at the Welcome Center you have the option to walk a mile to Stonehenge, or you can take a shuttle bus. On a windy and brutally cold day as it was for us, the shuttle bus is a great choice. The bus lets you off right at the walkway to Stonehenge.
The famed stone circle is actually roped off, so you have to walk around a massive circle to see all sides of this architectural beauty. While you walk around the circle there will be multiple areas where you can stop and listen to your audio guide for relevant information as indicated by posted signs. We probably spent about 30-45 minutes walking around the circle listening to all of the information.
Additionally, the roped off area is quite a distance from the actual stones so I definitely recommend bringing a camera with a good lens. Speaking of photos, expect a crowd, and expect a stranger in almost all your photos.
It’s also worth mentioning that Stonehenge is not the only sacred site you can see on the property. There are a handful of other sites located on the same property, however we were far to cold to walk and check them all out, instead we made our way back to the Welcome Center to check out the exhibit. The exhibits held some of the bones excavated during archaeological digs of Stonehenge. Along with the bones were various rocks that were used as knives to “cut” other rocks, and pots and vases presumed to be used during sacred rituals. There was also an interactive exhibit which showed how many people were needed to move one of the large rocks. Turns out approximately 100 people are needed, and when I tried to pull it I didn’t even register the strength of just on person.
After spending a few hours at Stonehenge we made our way to the parking lot where the bus dropped us off to wait for the next bus. Once the bus collected us we made our way to Old Sarum, which was once a thriving town. It was chosen by William the Conqueror following the Norman Conquest as a place of settlement. Old Sarum was originally a fort during the Iron Age, and was occupied by the Romans prior to William the Conqueror. A castle, cathedral, and massive moat are the main features of what remains today of the settlement. The people of that town decided to dismantle it, so they could use the rocks to build a new town, which is now known as Salisbury.
Whilst walking through the ruins, we read various signs pointing out where the remnants of the Cathedral, Royal Castle and Royal Toilets were. I pity the person whose job was to scoop out the feces when the King wasn’t around.
After Old Sarum, we decided to wait for our bus and head to Salisbury. By the time we got to Salisbury it was almost 4 p.m. so we went directly to the Salisbury Cathedral.
The Magna Carta
Salisbury Cathedral is home to a few gems, one being the world’s oldest working clock, and the other is a remaining copy of the Magna Carta. If you don’t recall from you high school history class, The Magna Carta is a famous charter that established the principle that every person is privy to the law and must obey it, even the King. Additionally, it established basic rights, such as the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial. It was surreal to see such a historic, and important document in its original state. As is the case with documents of this nature (Book of Kells in Ireland) you are not allowed to take photos. The Magna Carta is written on sheepskin with impeccable penmanship. Each page took about 2 days to write and if any mistakes were made they would be scraped off with a knife and redone.
The Salisbury Cathedral
The Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest spire in all of Britain, an during the second World War, pilots were instructed not to bomb the town of Salisbury. Why you ask? Well, the pilots could use the Cathedral’s spire as a landmark geographically while in the air to help orient themselves before attacking other British towns. Due to this most of Salisbury was spared from bombings. The spire itself is so structurally heavy, that the columns that support it are bending under the weight.
The Cathedral itself is free to tour with a recommended donation. If you visit during 12 pm and 3 pm you can climb the spire for free. Space is limited however as they try to mitigate the wear and tear of the tower. This attraction is actually quite popular and recommended to be organized prior to your visit.
After viewing the Magna Carta we decided to investigate more of the Cathedral. We were promptly told the Cathedral would be closed to visitors for an Evensong, but we were welcome to stay. None of us had been to Evensong before so we decided to stay and view the ceremony. I should mention I had no idea what an Evensong was, but as the name suggests it was a lot of singing. I was really surprised at how “angelic” the choir boys sounded and amazed at how high their voices could go. The only time my voice ever got that high it was in the shower, and it never sounded that pleasant. The service itself was mainly dedicated to giving three individuals awards, for their outstanding service in the community and church.
Following the hour-long service refreshments were served and we were all quite pleased.
The spread was lovely and included wine, squash, water, garlic balls, chips and salsa, cheese sticks, grapes, and cheese. We ate and mingled for a bit then thanked the Ministers on our way out. By the time the Evensong ended it was time to get our train. Even though we didn’t get to explore much of Salisbury it was a wonderful time.
Regardless, James and I will just have to return to Salisbury another time to explore more of this beautiful town. We definitely had a great time exploring on our Salisbury and Stonehenge day trip with Noor. Have you ever been to Stonehenge or Salisbury?
Total Cost: £86.40
- Transportation: £30.40
- Train Tickets First Class Exeter St. David’s to Salisbury round trip: £15.20 per person = £30.40 total
- Attractions: £56
- Stonehenge Tour: £28 per person = £56
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