What’s so spectacular about a pile of rocks? I booked a tour to Stonehenge, a UNESCO Heritage site since 1986, and was determined to find out.
Archeologists believe that Stonehenge was built between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago with continuous construction lasting as long as 1,500 years. The site is significant because it’s a place of burial, ceremonies and festivals. Excavations have uncovered cremated bones belonging to 63 different men, women and children, making Stonehenge the oldest cremation site in the United Kingdom.
Most of the details about Stonehenge are what I’d call educated guesses. Scientists have been able to date different parts of the structure, including stones, bones, pottery and other items found in the area. They’ve used this information to guide them, however, the real purpose of Stonehenge remains a mystery. There is no written data that directly states what it was used for so there are different versions and theories to explain it.
When the shuttle bus pulled in to the parking lot, we disembarked and skipped the queue. I suppose this is one of the great benefits of belonging to a tour group. Stonehenge staff gave us a booklet with a map and a headset that would explain the history and science behind this mysterious set of rocks.
To be honest, the audio guide was fairly boring and it was hard to concentrate on it. There were heaps of people milling about taking photos. Others would stop in the middle of the path to listen to the guide. You really had to pay attention to what you were doing so you couldn’t concentrate entirely on the history and culture of the place.
In the past, visitors were able to walk among the rocks and even touch them. Of course, this caused erosion and damage so it’s been prohibited since the 1970s. Now there is a path lined with rope that takes you around the entire structure. It’s fairly close considering the tremendous size of the stones, but it’s still pretty far away so you can’t see much detail on them.
I guess Stonehenge is one of those must-see places for most tourists. I found it intriguing but probably don’t need to see another one of these structures again (there are a few in England and the surrounding areas). It’s one of those places that just challenges you to think outside the box and will probably remain a lifelong mystery.