Stonehenge Circle Access

Unique travel experiences often require you to go above and beyond and out of your way in order to obtain them. The Stonehenge Stone Circle Access is one of those. Stone Circle Access is when you are allowed to go in the actual circle of stones at Stonehenge, something you can't do during a normal visit. It occurs before public opening hours or after public opening hours. You have to apply for tickets, get accepted and then pay a fee. It can be quite a long process because your first few choices are usually taken and then you have to go back and forth to see what dates are available. It seems to be busy no matter what time of year it is. They do close down for a bit in November to work on the ground inside, but other than that it is year round.

Why is this such a big deal? Well it might not be for a lot of people. If you don’t like or think Stonehenge is a bunch of rocks  to begin with, getting center access is not going to push you to love it, however if you are fascinated by it already, getting in the middle is going to make you love it. This is for a number of reasons, some that are new age-y,  if you are slanted that way you will already understand, but others that involve the sheer size and illusion of the rocks. Upon my first visit to Stonehenge (here) I noted that from the top of the hill where you drive in from the West it looks like the rocks are almost cartoonish on the hill and gargantuan, but when you get up close they are smaller. This still holds true, although there was another twist to it. When you walk around the normal roped off visitor ring of Stonehenge and take pictures in front  of it, the stones appear large but not massive. It is a depth of field and positioning illusion. However, once you are inside the circle, the sheer size of these stones becomes apparent. I actually couldn’t believe how big they were compared to the size my brain had thought they were from the illusion points. I was absolutely dwarfed as evidenced by the pictures.

What do people do inside the circle? They take pictures, lots and lots of pictures. Besides that when I was there, a small group of women were doing a ceremony, others meditated, some used dowsing rods that the guy working security had handy for use, others just walked around a lot in awe. My time to visit was 6:45am. This was the only time open to me when I signed up, but it is also the time I would have chosen anyways because of the sunrise. When I left to go to the park, it was still mostly dark. Although we did not get a full sunrise due to partial cloud cover, we did have amazing colors and a peekaboo sun for a bit.

What did I do in the stone circle? I took over 100 pictures, meditated and walked in and out of the stones and the whole circle. I won’t lie, there were some spots where my heartbeat accelerated. I’ve experienced this other places as well and it always makes me ponder what it is all about. The new age side of me says that it is my body recognizing the energy or feeling a particularly strong bit of energy. The linear side of me says that it’s my imagination. The spiritual side of me says it is the recognition of a sacred place. No matter what the ‘real’ reason is, it is always fun for me to note and experience.

Recently, they have started to build a new visitor center for Stonehenge, a proper visitor center. Right now the old one is tiny, has no food facilities, a tiny gift shop and not that much parking considering how many people visit. I’m never really in favor of making places more touristy, but in this case it’s a good thing. I don’t know how they handle the volume of people with the small facilities they currently have. I hope they put some sort of historical museum or recognition of the archaeological finds and continued research that still goes on today in the new visitor center. Because of this new construction, the road that used to lead to Stonehenge, a quick turn off the A303, has been blocked off. All traffic is now routed all the way around the site (and farmland) and into a different entrance way. The new visitor center is in this area as well. It is much better signed that in was even two years ago when I came in 2011. I am sure this also has to do with the new construction.

Due to this construction and the early hour, I actually had to jump the fence to get in. There was a guy checking the list of names and all when I arrived but he was all the way down in the car park area that I couldn’t reach because the gate was locked and because of the construction. I pulled up one of the lanes and over to the side, hopped the gate and then walked up to him. He checked my name off and away I went. Someone after me walked in and just asked him to open the gate. I suppose that would have been just as easy.  Each access period is for one hour. There are two times before public opening and two times after public closing.  It is more than enough time unless you are doing a super elaborate ceremony of sorts. I would recommend the morning depending on what time of year it is, sunrise makes for great pictures and I personally love being up before people are out and about. The days when I get up before the sun while traveling are always a little different and inspiring.

Top Tips

Stonehenge is an about an hour and ten minute drive from Heathrow.

If this sounds appealing to you and you think you might be going to England, get tickets now. Register now. So many of the times and dates sell out. I tried to get purchase a ticket for August in June. I got at ticket for the end of September,  and there was only one spot left for that day at that time. I would say that this is just because it was the summer when I tried to book but the reality is that this site is very busy year round. Book ahead.

Make sure all of your camera equipment is charged up.

The person running the show security wise in the circle is pretty willing to take pictures of you.

They say that there is no guided part of this experience and that if you want the audio tour you have to come during regular business hours, this is true, and your ticket counts for regular business hours that day,  but the day I was there the security guy was more than willing to show us cool, unique items within the circle and on the rocks when asked.

He was also carrying dowsing rods for use, if you are into that.

They are serious about it only being an hour visit. You can come and go at will within that hour time period.

Surprisingly the gift shop was open on our way out at 7:45am.

The cost for this unique experience is 16.50 pounds sterling. You pay at the time you register online.

You cannot touch the rocks of course, but before the ticket area, they do have two similar stones which you can touch. They show this off because the two rocks are always two very different temperatures.

If you want to learn more or register, go here