Thursday, 11 July 2019

How to see Stonehenge for free!

Stonehenge
Four and a half thousand years ago (give or take a century or two) pre-historic Britons dragged a whole lot of very big stones to a pleasant spot on the Salisbury Plain and built a circle. It is hard to know why they did it, although archaeologists generally believe it had something to do with burials. The stones weighed up to 40 tons so this was a bit more than a casual morning's mucking about. Today the circle is called Stonehenge. It attracts more than one million visitors a year and it charges a hefty £19 for every single one of them EXCEPT for those who know how to visit for free.


How to see Stonehenge for free.


I am not going to keep you in suspense. There is a public walking path right next to Stonehenge. It is perfectly legal and completely free to walk along. You just have to know it is there.


Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Directions to the free public footpath.


  • Park near the intersection of Fargo Rd and Willoughby Rd, Larkhill.  Turn onto the B3086 from the A303, drive past the Stonehenge parking, turn right at The Packway then right again at Fargo Rd and follow it until you come to Willoughby Rd. You might have to go a short way past the intersection to park.
  • From there walk due south down Willoughby Rd. The pathway from the end of Willoughby Rd goes all the way through to the A303 passing Stonehenge in less than a mile.  It is maddeningly difficult to get the path to show up on Google Maps but you can do it by using '3 Stonehenge Rd, Amesbury, Salisbury' as the address of Stonehenge. If you just type in Stonehenge you get directions to the Visitor Centre.  The red marker on my map is the intersection of Fargo and Willoughby Rds. The path on the map shows you veering off to the left a bit before the gate leading to the free public path.  Keep going until you see the sign described in the next bullet point. 
  • Look for the bus drop off circle for tourists coming from the Stonehenge Visitor Centre. You can't miss it, there will be lots of people around. Before the gate which leads to the paid pathway there is a gate with a sign saying 'Permissive path for pedestrians and cyclists'. Walk through and enjoy seeing Stonehenge for free.




free path to Stonehenge
The free public footpath is on the left.



Is the free view as good as the view you pay for?


Yes  - and no.  Paid ticket holders can walk a circular path round the stones seeing them from every direction. The free path runs next to the paid path along one side of the stones. The view of Stonehenge is more or less the same from every direction. In the photo below, the paid path is on the left and the free path is on the right. The stones are on the left outside the photo. The path is at its furthest distance from the stones where the free path runs next to it. It is close enough to get a great view but if getting as close to the stones as you can is a priority then the best way to see Stonehenge is to take the paid path.


free path Sontehenge
The paid path is on the left and the free public footpath is on the right.


Where can you park?


  • Park in Larkhill, as close as you can to the southern end of Willoughby Road. Fargo Rd is the best place.
  • The same road/path which leads from Willoughy Road past Stonehenge goes all the way through to the A303. It would be a quicker walk from the A303 end however it is usually blocked off to cars leaving you nowhere to park.
  • The day we visited there were lots of cars parked on the dirt road right next to Stonehenge. I don't know how they got there but I guess the entrance from the A303 had been left open.  I was told that the parking isn't legal and you run the risk of getting a ticket. 

Can you see Stonehenge from the road?


You can see Stonehenge in the middle distance from the A303 driving in both directions. Don't expect a great view. There is nowhere to stop, let alone park.

Stonehenge

Other ways to see Stonehenge for free.


Walk from Woodhenge


Woodhenge is a Neolithic site which was probably a burial ground. It once consisted of concentric rings of wooden posts which may have supported a circular building. It looks impressive in reconstructed photos. Google 'Woodhenge reconstruction' and you will see what I mean. Sadly, some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to place concrete markers where the poles once were. The concrete is just ugly!  It is still worth a visit, if only to know you are standing on a site where people once stood thousands of years ago.

There is a walking trail from Woodhenge all the way to Stonehenge, a distance of about 2.5 miles (4 kms). The walk is described on the National Trust Stonehenge website. You will find a map at the same link.  Woodhenge is free to visit and there is plenty of parking beside the road.



Woodhenge
Woodhenge - with David in the blue jacket.


Join English Heritage


Stonehenge is managed by English Heritage. Members have free access to Stonehenge, along with other historic buildings, monuments and sites throughout England. A year's membership costs £60.  Just a word of caution, while Stonehenge is pricey, many English Heritage sites are either free or relatively inexpensive. It is worth checking which sites you want to visit before you join.

Buy an English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass


English Heritage Overseas Visitor Passes are valid for either 9 or 16 consecutive days. The 9 day pass costs £35 and the 16 day pass costs £42. They are valid at Stonehenge.

Join The United Kingdom National Trust 


Like English Heritage members, UK National Trust members can visit Stonehenge for free. A year's adult membership costs £72.

DO NOT join an affiliate organisation such as an Australian National Trust or the Scottish National Trust. Reciprocal rights (except free parking) are honoured at other National Trust sites but NOT at Stonehenge.

Go during the Summer Solstice


Stonehenge, including access to the inner circle of stones, is free during the Summer Solstice.


Interesting facts about Stonehenge


  • Geoffrey Monmouth the 12th Century author of the tale of King Arthur wrote that Stonehenge was the work of Merlin the Magician. Monmouth's work was treated as fact well into the Middle Ages. Source 
  • During the 17th Century a popular theory was that Stonehenge was built by the Druids. As it turned out, the Druids arrived in Britain more than 1,000 years after Stonehenge was built. Source
  • In 1620 the 1st Duke of Buckingham dug a large hole at Stonehenge looking for buried treasure. Source
  • You don't need to travel to Britain to see Stonehenge. It has inspired many Stonehenge replicas around the world.  My favourite is Stonehenge at Esperance, Western Australia, a full sized granite replica of Stonehenge as it was originally built, complete with cows grazing amongst the stones. 
Stonehenge replica
Stonehenge in Western Australia

NOTE: David and I had paid tickets. All the photos of Stonehenge in this blog post were taken from the paid pathway.

We got our tickets through Get Your Guide. I downloaded them to my phone (we didn't have a printer) and they worked like a charm. If you order tickets through Get Your Guide by following the links below I will earn a small commission. The price you pay will be the same.



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16 comments:

  1. Good to know about Stonehenge and how to enjoy it for free. It's a really beautiful site.

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  2. We paid for our visit to Stonehenge. It's nice to know there is a free way to view it. I would have liked to have seen Woodhenge though ( I didn't know about it).

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    1. Honestly - you didn't miss much. Woodhenge was fun because we had Andrew (younger son) with us and he is always up for taking the mickey out of me when I want to see sites which amount to nothing. You should have heard him when we were at Silbury Hill which is, you guessed it, just a hill.

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  3. Thanks for publishing this article about how to see Stonehenge for free. We have never traveled to the region, but had an opportunity to experience Stonehenge in virtual reality. It was very educational to be able to walk around inside the circle and actually see each of the stones up close.

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    1. There is a virtual reality experience at the Visitor Centre. Obviously you have to pay the ticket price to get that. We had paid tickets (mostly paid for through a voucher I had) but we didn't spend a lot of time at the Visitor Centre. Hubby and our son were a bit sick of it by then. I don't think the mystery of Stonehenge struck them quite the way it did me.

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  4. What a handy travel tip for people who are on a budget! I'd heard from someone else that Stonehenge was crowded with tourists and best avoided but based on your advice and photos it doesn't look too busy at all! It even looks worth paying for admission. I'm glad I read this post to convince me otherwise.

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    1. I wouldn't worry about the crowds. We went on a holiday Monday, one of the busiest days of the year according to a staff member I asked. Provided you have pre-booked your tickets the crowds were managed really well. There were lots of people but the site is large enough and well organised enough to cope with crowds.

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  5. I visited Stonehenge many years ago, when you could still walk up to the stones. It's a fascinating place with a mystical history. I'd love to visit again (especially after watching Outlander!)

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    1. I know what you mean about Outlander. The stones at the beginning are not Stonehenge though. They are the Callanish Stones, on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Outlander has added that to my bucket list.

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  6. Love this! Would love to see Stonehenge free, and I like the idea of getting a good walk in, too--so very English. Looks like the day you went a LOT of people were seeing it free.

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    1. There were quite a few people enjoying the free view which is remarkable given that the path has not been open for all that long. Word definitely travels fast.

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  7. Great information. Thanks so much for sharing. It sounds easy enough and is a great idea, especially for those on a budget. #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. For a first visit I would probably recommend buying a ticket but the path is great if you have seen Stonehenge before and just want another look.

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  8. What great travel tips. We have visited Stonehenge before. But why not use the free public footpath 👌

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    1. My thoughts exactly. Stonehenge is expensive - especially if you have a family in tow. How many people I wonder have skipped seeing because of the cost. Now they can see it.

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