London has its fair share of tourist attractions, museums, galleries and historic sights, making it a top destination for visitors from all around the world. However, for tourists and natives alike, there is one national monument that people from everywhere flock to see – Stonehenge.
This mystical prehistoric monument nestled in the Wiltshire countryside was erected in 2,500 BC, yet the site itself dates back even further to 4,500 BC. As such, it’s an incredible part of living history and a true engineering feat that you must visit at least once in your lifetime.
Some believe that the giant stone ring formation was once a religious site or perhaps an astronomical observatory. There are even theories that it was used for healing, burial and acoustics, due to its excellent sound reflection.
With some 1.3 million visitors a year, the area is well equipped for tourists, making the journey from the capital entirely do-able. Taking one of the first trains of the day, it’s easy to take in the sights of the wider Salisbury area and get back home in time for tea. So, if you’re planning a day trip to Stonehenge from London, here’s a useful day guide to make the most of your visit.
Getting to Stonehenge from London
Nearly 90 miles from London, situated close to historic Salisbury, the landmark site can be visited by train, car and bus. However, the train is often the preferred route for a day trip, taking just 1h 23m from London Waterloo on the direct train to Salisbury.
09:20 – Arrive in Salisbury
Since Stonehenge doesn’t open until 09:30, there’s plenty of time to make your way from the city on a scenic journey through the rural countryside.
The 07:50 train from London Waterloo is perfectly timed to arrive at 09:20, allowing you to make the most of your full day out.
A fitting setting for such a mysterious sight, many believe Wiltshire has a unique energy attached to it. Some suggest that its ley lines are associated with sacred sites, and many have been wowed by the crop circles and other unusual activity over the years. Put simply – a day trip to Stonehenge from London is a must.
There are plenty of taxi options available from the station when you arrive. From here it’s a quick 15-minute journey to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, operated by English Heritage since it is a protected site.
09:35 – Arrive at Stonehenge Visitor Centre
Upon arrival, you’ll come into the Stonehenge Visitor Centre. This can be enjoyed at your leisure – it usually takes an hour or two to look around.
The virtual stones experience is a good place to start. This exhibition will teach you about the monument and its ancient history. Bringing it to life virtually, you can ‘touch’ the stones in a 360-degree audio-visual experience. This is great for children but no less informative for adults.
In the Stonehenge exhibition, there are more than 250 fascinating archaeological treasures on display, which were discovered on site.
The final part of the tour is a visit to the Neolithic houses. Reconstructed to reflect life 4,500 years ago, they are impressively built using authentic materials and original techniques, in keeping with the integrity of the exhibition.
11:30 – The Stone Circle
And finally, here it is – thousands of years of history standing in front of you. It’s quite a sight to behold! Upon arrival at the Stone Circle, take time to wander around this iconic symbol of mankind, taking it all in. It’s hard not to reflect on the enormous engineering effort that went into creating this solid structure that stands before you today.
The stones are said to have been constructed in parts – there are lots of information points dotted around the site that explain the stones and their roles in more detail.
Since it’s a protected area, you cannot touch the stones, and there is some distance between visitors and the formation. However, even with these protective measures, visitors get a full sense of the scale and magnificence of the site. Join the hundreds of visitors vying for the best position for a photograph, and of course a mandatory selfie before you leave.
12:45 – Lunch
After working your way back down to the visitor centre, there’s an opportunity for lunch in the café. There are sandwiches, soups and pastries along with a choice of coffee to choose from.
Before leaving, be sure to visit the gift shop. There’s plenty of brilliant merchandise you won’t want to leave without!
14:20 – Head into Salisbury
With plenty of time left in your schedule, it would be remiss not to take a detour into Salisbury. A taxi into the centre takes a further 17-minutes, arriving at 14:20.
This medieval city is brimming with historical significance and sights to see. At its centre is Salisbury Cathedral, a beacon in the skyline, inviting worshippers since the late 12th-century. It’s also home to the original copy of the Magna Carta written in 1215 AD, which is not to be missed.
A gentle walk back to the train station takes less than 15-minutes and allows you to take in the sights and streets along the way. This includes a number of National Trust buildings, including Mompesson House, as well as the natural beauty of Queen Elizabeth Gardens.
16:47 – Return to London
Of course, all good things must come to an end. Beat the early evening rush by catching the 16:47 train to London Waterloo, which takes 1h 34m. Arriving back in the city at 18:21, you’ll have enough time to enjoy a refreshing sip before the sun sets.