Stonehenge with cloud near London as the National Heritage site of UK.
Stonehenge Tours: The Sacred & the Profane
Stonehenge today is a place where the sacred & profane mingle, usually with mixed results. Traditionally, a place known to have an extraordinary historic, geometric and healing significance is now often overrun with bus loads of tourists who show up because it happens to be a stop on their fast paced travel itinerary. With paparazzi like skirmishes amidst the stones it's hard to really appreciate the essence and true value these sacred stones represent.
For the British, it would be hard to come by someone in England who hasn’t heard of Stonehenge, but it's surprising how many people haven’t been to see this prehistoric monument in Wiltshire. It is one of the best-known prehistoric monuments in Europe and people will travel from all over the globe to visit but the incredible places that are right under our noses are often overlooked.
Located in southern England, Stonehenge is comprised of roughly 100 massive upright stones placed in a circular layout. It has been legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1882 when legislation to protect historic monuments was first successfully introduced in Britain. .
The site and its surroundings were also added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. Now, Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage whereas the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust. If this site intrigues you then keep reading to find out more about it today.
The Stonehenge that you see today is the final stage that was completed about 3500 years ago, however, the history dates back much further than this. For centuries, historians and archaeologists have been puzzled by the many mysteries of this prehistoric monument that took Neolithic builders an estimated 1500 years to erect.
Archaeologists think that Stonehenge was built in several stages starting 5000 or more years ago. The Neolithic Britons were the first people to create a henge on this site, some say that it may have once held a ring of timber posts. Several hundred years later the bluestone was added to this site and then even later on came the sarsen sandstone slabs. What we see today is a combination of all of these different stages.
Its construction is fascinating to many. While the sandstone slabs that make up the outer ring are from local quarries, scientists have traced the bluestones that make up the inner ring all the way back to the Preseli Hills in Wales, approximately 200 miles from where Stonehenge sits on Salisbury Plain. Exactly how a civilisation without modern technology, or even the wheel, produced this mighty monument will always be baffling and incredibly intriguing. .
Bluestone from the Preseli Hills in West Wales (Around 180 miles away).
Function and Significance
The real purpose of this incredible monument is still to this day a mystery, there are lots of different stories and legends behind the use of the site. There is strong archaeological evidence that Stonehenge was once used as a burial site, however, it is also believed that it served other functions as well such as a ceremonial site, a religious pilgrimage destination, a final resting place for royalty or a memorial erected to honour of and to spiritually connect with distant ancestors.
Sacred Geometry: A recently published book, Megalith, claims that the ancient Britons built Stonehenge “and other stone circles with a knowledge of Pythagoras' theorem, approximately 2,000 years before the Greek philosopher formalized geometry.”
Megalithic researcher Robin Heath, who contributed to the book, told reporters at The Telegraph that he presents evidence of “a great Pythagorean triangle in the British landscape” and editor John Matineau connects “Stonehenge with Lundy Island in Wales and the site from which Stonehenge’s ‘Preseli bluestones’ were quarried.”
Astronomy: Magnetometer measurements, ground penetrating radar, and airborne laser scanning has revealed that the huge stones we see today at England’s Stonehenge were once surrounded by a circle of 56 wooden posts or smaller stones. Many eminent archaeologists believe these secondary structures recorded the position of the Sun and the Moon which would help predict eclipses and monitor seasonal changes to assist with agriculture. The bluestone horseshoe at the center of Stonehenge is thought to have contained 19 stones, each representing the approximate number of solar years it takes for the Sun & Moon to complete a ‘metonic cycle'.
Healing: In more recent years, the signs of illness and injury in the human remains unearthed at Stonehenge have led a group of British archaeologists to speculate that it was considered a place of healing. It is thought that perhaps people believed that the bluestones had curative powers. Here's a poem from 1200 AD that captures this nicely:
The stones are great
And magic power they have
Men that are sick
Fare to that stone
And they wash that stone
And with that water bathe away their sickness
Whatever the true purpose of the site may be Stonehenge continues to have a role as a sacred place of special religious and cultural significance for many. It inspires a strong sense of awe and humility for thousands of visitors who visit the site every year
Visiting Stonehenge Today
It is amazing that people can visit this spectacular monument, however, it has become incredibly tourist-orientated now and some may say that it has lost its sacred feel. There are frequent events at the site throughout the year and many feel as though the respect for the site is often overlooked.
If you are interested in visiting Stonehenge but would like to avoid the tourists and allow yourself to be fully immersed in the beauty, culture, heritage of the site then it is worth looking into booking a Stonehenge private tour. Visiting with a Stonehenge tour guide will enable you to beat the crowds and experience the site with someone that is a passionate, local expert, who will share with you their knowledge and the best of the region, the history and the landscapes off the tourist radar.
You can book a tour of Stonehenge with Around & About Bath. Our incredibly experienced and respectful tour guides offer a truly unique, unhurried, intimate and in-depth half-day tour. We always aim to complete our tours before the tourists bombard the site so whether you would like a premium tour of Stonehenge at sunset or sunrise, please get in touch with our friendly team today.