Everyone has an image in their mind of what Britain’s number one tourist attraction looks like.
But its only when you visit Stonehenge that you get a sense of the size and starkness of the bronze age monoliths, erected 3,500 years ago.
While on route to Stonehenge, why not also visit Salisbury Cathedral which has the tallest spire in England.
Getting there by Train
To reach Stonehenge by train, you will need to catch a bus from Salisbury.
Trains depart from London Waterloo to Salisbury every half hour (at twenty past and ten to the hour).
Journey time is around one and a half hours during weekdays and two and a half hours on weekends.
Things to See
Its original purpose is unclear but some have speculated that Stonehenge was a temple made for the worship of ancient earth deities. It has also been called an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on the prehistoric calendar.
Others claim that Stonehenge was a sacred site for the burial of high-ranking citizens from the societies of long ago. Whatever its purpose when built, it makes a great day out to visit.
The stones you can see today represent Stonehenge in ruin. You can no longer walk among them.
Many of the original stones have fallen or been removed by previous generations for home construction or road repair. There has also been serious damage to some of the smaller bluestones resulting from close visitor contact (prohibited since 1978) and the prehistoric carvings on the larger sarsen stones show signs of significant wear.
Salisbury Cathedral did not evolve gradually over centuries, with constant additions and renovations. Rather, it was built nearly to completion within a single generation. As a result, it presents a unity of vision that is remarkable.
The Cathedral was begun in 1220, and finished, with the exception of the tower and spire, in 1258. At 404 feet, it is the tallest spire in England.
The medieval builders of the spire accomplished their masterpiece with foundations only 5 to 6 feet deep in the wet ground to take the strain of 6400 tonnes.
Old Sarum is the site of Salisbury’s earliest settlement, settled in around 3000 BC. It sits just to the north of present day Salisbury. It was originally a hill fort, being located close to trade routes and the River Avon. It was later used by the Romans as a military base, and under the Saxons it was a major town.
A castle was built on the site after the Norman Conquest and in 1086 William the Conqueror held council there.
It started to decline around 1220 when a cathedral was built at New Sarum (modern day Salisbury).
From the reign of Edward II in the 14th century, Old Sarum elected two members to the House of Commons, despite the fact that from at least the 17th century it had no resident voters at all. In 1831 it had eleven voters, all of whom were landowners who lived elsewhere. This made Old Sarum the most notorious of the rotten boroughs. The Reform Act 1832 completely disenfranchised Old Sarum.
You can walk to Old Sarum from Salisbury along the river path and explore the ruins of the castle, cathedral and royal palace. There are also wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.