Why should i go and see a load of old stones? A questions which some young people might ask if you suggest going to visit the UNESCO world heritage site at Stonehenge, just outside of Salisbury in Wiltshire. In a way, if you haven’t visited a site like Stonehenge, you could be wrong in thinking that it is just a bunch of old stones. But actually, even if your teens aren’t necessarily into Neolithic sites – which in fairness many are not – visiting Stonehenge is actually a really interesting day out, in fact many of the young people that we here at Travel with the Tribe teach in our regular jobs say how much they have enjoyed a day out at the stones. There is actually a lot more to Stonehenge nowadays than just (and we don’t say the word just lightly!) the stone circle, although of course that’s the main driver in people from all over the world wanting to visit the site, but over the years English Heritage (who are responsible for the stones) has invested a lot of time, money and love into creating a family-friendly, engaging and accessible experience for all ages and family groups.
So why should we visit Stonehenge with our teens?
You can spend a couple of hours, a morning or afternoon at Stonehenge, or a whole day, so you can be absolutely flexible about how you want to plan and visit the site. The English Heritage website (https://www.englishheritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/plan-your-visit/itineraries/) has plenty of information about how you can plan out your time at Stonehenge, but the great thing about visiting the stones is that you can be flexible with your family and decide beforehand how much time you want to devote there when you visit. We tend to spend 2-3 hours there because we live close to the site, so we always plan to walk around the stone circle – making sure we always take lots of piccies, we visit the newer part of the site’s exhibition on the history of Stonehenge, go into the outdoor area where there are some cool Neotlithic Roundhouses, and then a (quick!) visit to the shop and cafe if we are in need of refreshments. You can make your trip longer if you are coming from further afield, and even combine it with some other local points of interest, for example the historic Medieval city of Salisbury or if you like looking at Neolithic sites there is also Old Sarum fortress nearby, which is another site looked after by English Heritage.
For those UK visitors only, if you are members of the National Trust, you can also use your trust membership here at Stonehenge, and get in to see the stones for free! Some English Heritage properties/sites have an agreement with the National Trust which means you can also visit certain places in the UK and use your membership for free entry! We think that this is a bonus, because you get to visit more historical sites than you would usually, but it also makes your membership of either English Heritage or the National Trust a worthwhile investment.
Stonehenge is sooooo cool! And that’s not just the stones – you can’t touch them these days!!! Actually, this should be the first reason why we think it’s a great place to visit, because there is a lot more going on to engage young people now than certainly when we first visited Stonehenge without our tribe 20 years ago. Back then, the stone circle was pretty much all that was there, accessed by crossing a very busy road, and we remember a tiny hut which resembled a prefabricated ticket office where we flashed our NT cards to get in! Wow, how things have now changed! Alongside a very flashy and modern entrance, which also includes the shop and cafe, there are now regular buses which will take you and your family up to the stone circle – no walking up there any longer, which is great particularly if you have pushchairs, wheelchair, mobility scooters, or would prefer not to walk. You almost feel a sense of quiet anticipation when the bus starts to make it’s way up to the stone circle, as if everyone on the bus is feeling the same as you – we are about to visit one of the most significant historical sites in the world…..OMG. Then, when you see the stones for the first time, in fact even for the 20th time, you cannot fail to be absolutely blown away by them, it’s hard to put your finger on why they are so special, but they just are! Maybe it’s the knowledge that the site at Stonehenge precedes the ancient Egyptian Pyramids at Giza, maybe it’s the eeriness and strange atmosphere you feel whilst walking around this very isolated site, maybe it’s the respect you feel for the ancient Britons who moved those stones hundreds of miles to place them at Stonehenge, or maybe it’s the thought that human and animal sacrifice took place at the site which captures your imagination and interest, but whatever it is, our teens love it and embrace it!
When you visit Stonehenge, you learn about the Neolithic people who built this ancient monument, and there are over 250 artefacts and archaeological finds from the site, which is now part of the new Stonehenge exhibition. One thing which will really interest you and your family is the story of those people, and how interesting their lives were. This is something up until fairly recently you didn’t have the opportunity to find out about at Stonehenge. Human stories will always interest other humans, and there are some really cool finds from the site with information, but it’s not displayed in a typical “museum” style. It is very interactive, colourful and will capture the interest of your little ones. For example, when we visited with our 12 year old, the thing that they found most interesting were the little Neolithic houses, or Roundhouses as later Britons called them. They were interesting because you can go inside each house, which are built to show how Neolithic people lived together, and make the obvious comparisons about their lives and ours. We even had a conversation about where an XBox would be able to live, or actually whether there was room for it in their houses! (There wasn’t!) Later on in the day, still talking about our experiences at Stonehenge, we continued to talk about how sustainable Neolithic people were, and how they used their natural environment to build their world around them, very high brow!
Stonehenge is now completely accessible, and there is a clear focus to ensure that the facilities on site are meeting the different needs of the visitors who visit the site. For example, there are Disabled toilets, Assistance Dogs are welcomed, there is the hire of wheelchairs and mobility scooters available on site, and the stone circle is accessible by a wheelchair path. There are also Braille Guides and Tour Transcripts for Visually and Hearing impaired visitors, and bottle warming and high chairs for smaller children. Please see the website for specific information, and contact Stonehenge for further details about visiting the site if you have any questions.
We really love visiting Stonehenge, we always find something new and interesting about the site which we haven’t found out before, and English Heritage have really made the whole experience easy, family friendly and relaxing. We just advise taking it all in when you’re in front of those stones, the oldest ones there are 5,500 years old, and it feels really funny but cool to be looking at them and thinking about the history which has passed since they’ve been there. You can see why Stonehenge is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the UK, but also in the world, there isn’t anything really quite like it, it stands out as a completely unique worldwide monument, and that makes it something very, very special. If you a visitor to the UK, thinking about having a day out with your family, what to do during half terms, Easter or Christmas school holidays – it’s really cool in the snow – ,or just a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon, you must visit Stonehenge, it really does rock!