After gaping at Windsor Castle‘s high ceilings and highly detailed fresco paintings, wandering in the castle’s lavishly decorated halls and rooms and marveling at the exquisite trimmings, I rejoined my group on the double-decker bus waiting outside that will take us to the charming ‘spa city’ of Bath. I was on a package tour that included stops at Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge. We have just finished the first leg of our tour and were looking forward to exploring Bath which was a couple of hours away.
Located in Somerset, South West of England, the city of Bath is known for its eponymous Roman baths and well-preserved Georgian architecture dating back to the 18th century. Its cobblestone pathways, neoclassical Palladian buildings, semicircular rows of terraced houses have gained the hearts of many and earned it a spot in the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. But right after leaving Windsor Castle on the way to Bath, a powerful hailstorm hit us. Deafening thunder and flashes of lightning tearing up the sky ensued. “There goes my chance at enjoying Stonehenge later,” I thought as my hopes were dashed. I was wrong.
Even after seeing the inclement weather, I still prayed that the sun would miraculously come out when we reach Stonehenge. After almost getting intoxicated by the steam rising from the hot springs in the Roman baths in Bath, as we left the city’s old world charm behind and approached Salisbury later that day the rain has completely stopped. The sky was dotted with pockets of white clouds, as if a divine hand has gently moved the dark clouds away. I knew my prayer was answered. The sun was beaming down on the colossal Stonehenge, revealing the monument in its glory. I was so touched by this, what seemed like divine providence. Having waited since college days to see Stonehenge and having flown all the way from Manila, I wanted the moment to be perfect. And it turned out to be.
Located in Wiltshire, England, about 3 kilometers west of Amesbury, Stonehenge looked like gray-colored cardboards stacked on top of each other, imposing over the stark green Salisbury plain. Believed to be at least three thousand years old, Stonehenge is probably the most popular megalithic monument in the world today. Shrouded in mystery it has garnered several speculations on why and how it was built, baffling historians and archaeologists alike.
Built in three stages over at least 500 years, the first construction in Stonehenge is believed to have started with a circular earthen enclosure in 2900 BC. Lining the circular ditch were 56 pits known as Aubrey poles. Five-ton stones called Bluestones, believed to have come from the Prescelli Mountains in South Wales, were then erected inside the ditch. These will be later dug up and repositioned 100 years later. Each standing at least 10 feet tall and weighing over 27 tons, 30 Sarsen stones were then erected concentrically inside the ditch. Then, atop the sarsens were placed 30 arc-shaped lintels, truly an engineering feat reflecting the Neolithic people’s ingenuity. Five sets of Trilithon Horseshoe were then built, each Trilithon consisting of two erected stones topped with a lintel.
On the northeast section of the monolith stood the Slaughter Stone believed to be the entrance of Stonehenge. From where the Slaughter Stone stood, parallel ditches called the Avenue were then built outside the circle. The Avenue, which leads from Stonehenge to the River Avon about .8 miles away, was believed to have been erected on the axis of midsummer sunrise suggesting Stonehenge was constructed for sun worship. This remains a bone of contention among many though.
But as everything on earth is ephemeral so is Stonehenge. What was once a majestic monument, only a handful of the sarsens and bluestones remains today. Weathering and pillaging have left Stonehenge in ruins proving once again that nothing here is set in stone. Assiduous restoration efforts are underway though and access to the inner circle is now restricted but to a few. Still, what remains of the monument proves to be enigmatic drawing almost one million visitors each year. Whether it was built for cultic purposes, pagan worship or simply a burial ground, it remains a sight to behold and is worth a peek if only for curiosity’s sake.
As I was leaving the site, I noticed the clouds have gathered again threatening to rain. True enough, as I was about to board the bus, another hail storm hit. But instead of boarding I turned around and tried to gather hail, excited by the prospect of playing with the tiny ‘white stones’ for the first time. The driver, seeing my excitement, tried to join in and helped me catch hail. It proved to be a futile attempt of course but loads of fun nonetheless. On the way back, as we turned around a corner, we saw Stonehenge again, looking prodigious as always. It stood almost defiant against the pouring rain as dark clouds hovered, seemingly about to engulf Stonehenge and leave it shrouded in mystery once more. I muttered silently, “Let it be so.”
Admission fee – Adult £13.90, Child (5-15) £8.30 for timed tickets and must be booked in advance to guarantee entry. Click here for more details.
How to get there
By bus – Take the bus from either Heathrow Airport or from Victoria Coach Station in London City centre going to Salisbury. The trip takes about two hours, get off at Amesbury. You can then walk for around two miles or take a cab.
You will need to get to Heathrow Airport first if you’re coming from Gatwick Airport.
By train – Take the train going to Salisbury from Waterloo Station, trains depart every hour but timings may change. The trip takes about an hour and a half. From Salisbury you can take a local bus or cab to Stonehenge.