Stonehenge is a historical phenomena that intrigues and baffles us all. We all have our theories on the purpose and construction of this landscape-defining site (read on for my suggested ideas!), so here is how you can squeeze in a visit in just a 2 hour tour from Salisbury to Stonehenge, and still see all the best bits!
Where is Stonehenge?
Stonehenge is located near the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire, UK, and 2 miles west of Amesbury. The stones can be seen from the A303 (Amesbury Bypass) which is a main road from London to the south west of England.
How can I get to Stonehenge?
By public transport, the easiest way to reach Stonehenge is to take the train to Salisbury where you can then take the Stonehenge tour bus to the stones. Trains to Salisbury are easily accessible form London Waterloo, Exeter, and Cardiff.
How long should I stay at Stonehenge?
There are a number of things to do at Stonehenge and the surroundings areas that can easily fill a whole day. If you’re a little tight for time, however, a 2 hour tour of Stonehenge is enough time to see the stones themselves and get back to Salisbury.
2 Hour Tour From Salisbury To Stonehenge
10.40am – Arrive at Salisbury Station
Trains to Salisbury arrive fairly regularly from a number of origins. If you’re able to time your transport right, you can catch the tour bus with limited waiting time. If you do have to wait, however, there are cafes of the platform and inside the station entrance to help bide your time.
You can find the Stonehenge tour bus directly outside the station. Simply exit the station (there’s only one exit!), and turn left out the entrance. Along the wall of the station you will be a bus stop sign with the green Stonehenge Tour Bus logo and timetable. Either wait here for your bus, or wait inside the station where it’s a little warmer and or drier!
In our case, we were doubly unlucky with our transport. Trains were delayed from our origin (London), which meant we missed the tour bus we had hoped to get! We waited inside the station as it bucketed down with rain and were incredibly thankful when we saw the bus roll up! The bus arrived 30 minutes before its scheduled departure time, which was fine for us as it meant somewhere warm and dry to sit until we left!
11am – Depart Salisbury Station
The Stonehenge Tour Bus departs Salisbury station every hour in the winter season, and every 30 minutes in the spring – autumn. Check the Stonehenge Tour timetable for the detailed times of when they depart so you can accurately plan your tour of Stonehenge according to the season.
The bus journey itself takes you from Salisbury station and through the small, historical city. With commentary to accompany you, it’s a great way to see a little bit of Salisbury without having much time. Pausing to pick up passengers from the city centre, we continued onwards to the site of Stonehenge.
11.30am Arrive at Stonehenge Visitor Centre
Arriving at the visitors centre, you’ll likely be keen to get going and start our exploration of this fascinating site. Despite the eagerness, passengers have to remain on the bus for a few more minutes to await being given tickets and audio guides. Although it is a little frustrating not to be allowed off right away, be patient and you’ll be off in no time.
Tickets in hand, head towards to visitors centre. Fortunately, you’ll be able to bypass any queues and go straight to the stones if you wish, or browse the museum area first.
We decided to walk to the stones, as we knew we were in somewhat of a hurry and a brief let-up in the dismal weather meant we wanted to avoid another downpour!
11.45am – 12.30pm Explore Stonehenge
The walk to the stones from the visitors centre took around 20 minutes, and we battled heavy rain and blustery winds in that time, so it would likely be slightly shorter on a calmer day. A gentle incline as we walked along the field-lined roads, if you do choose to walk be prepared to stay right to the side as the shuttle bus drives past every 5-10 minutes. If you choose to take the shuttle bus, head to the lefthand side from inside the visitors centre (past the shop) and you can join the queue. On particularly rainy days it is likely to be quite busy, so be prepared to wait or consider the walk instead.
Once at the stones themselves, enjoy your audio guide as you slowly walk the circumference of the site. There are a few info points to offer facts and details about the stones, however, for the most part you will be left alone to feel immersed in the experience of wonderment.
Begin your walk around the stones by following the footpath anti-clockwise around the stones. There is a paved path between the low roped fence, until the path ends and you’re left walking on the grass around the rest of the stones.
On our visit, we couldn’t fully encircle the stones as the pathway was partially closed due to the poor weather. This didn’t matter though, as we were still able to see the whole site and get just the same contemplative experience as if the whole path is open.
The stones themselves are quite fascinating indeed. As you approach and they increase in height, your mind begins to race as to their meaning and construction. A few far-out theories we joked included aliens, coincidental nature, and art. While these may not be plausible by any means, it’s good fun to consider all the options about this unusual feat of architectural work. The low fencing surrounding the stones has been expanded over time, and you are far enough to appreciate the entirety of the stones from most angles.
Photography is absolutely allowed, if not encouraged, at the stones. With a full 360 degrees to explore you’ll be able to capture the sights from all angles. When snapping photos of the stones, I would recommend trying your camera’s zoom at times, as the distance to the stones may appear further when using wide angles lenses or certain cameras.
It’s also important to remember that other visitors are also keen to capture their trip. Be as efficient as possible with your photo-taking, don’t block the pathway, and be patient by waiting for those taking photos of their companions who may be in your way. Your turn will come! On our visit for example, the poor weather meant most people crowded the entrance to take photos as quickly as possible. We had much more freedom and space towards the other side of the stones and could take our time (without getting our equipment wet!).
12.45pm Depart Stonehenge Visitor Centre
Or rather, make that 12.43 according to the Stonehenge Tour timetable! Don’t rely on the buses to be 100% accurate though, as traffic delays (and in our case the weather) can mean the bus may not arrive on schedule.
You can catch the free shuttle bus that runs from the stones to the visitors centre, which we did, or you can walk your way down the road back to the start. Once you arrive back at the visitors centre, stop by the gift shop if there’s time as there are some of the usual gift shop items (looking at you, rulers and novelty pens), plus some interesting books and postcards.
To make your return to Salisbury station from Stonehenge simply head back towards the coach drop-off/car park and wait by the bus stop just right of the toilet and office building. Bear in mind that the Stonehenge Tour bus runs as a shuttle service, so you’ll have to wait for arriving visitors to depart the bus (and await their tickets) before you can hop on.
On our way back from Stonehenge to Salisbury, we enjoyed further audio commentary on the bus, which explained a few tidbits of historical facts and legends from the surrounding countryside. The bus drives back through rolling West Country hills, and makes a stop at Old Sarum where visitors can break up their return journey with another historical site. Due to our strict timings we didn’t have a chance on this occasion, which may have been for the best as the weather made the site more of a swampy pond from all the rain!
The bus journey back to the station should take around 30 minutes, however, do accommodate a little extra time for any onward journeys. In our case, not many passengers got on or off at Old Sarum or the return stop at Salisbury city centre, but I imagine in busier times you might find a slight delay due to waiting for arrivals to take their seats.
1. 20pm Arrive at Salisbury Station
The Stonehenge bus tour stops at the same spot right outside Salisbury station on its return. This makes for an easy roundtrip to plan your day around, and the great connections elsewhere in the region make it a handy location to continue your trip.
Our day trip was taking us onwards to Bath and then Bristol, to discover more historical wonders of the South West. After a couple of hours out in the freezing rain, we were glad to be in the warm confines of a train carriage!
Top Tips for Visiting Stonehenge
- Give yourself more time than you think you need to get to the stones themselves. Once you’re at the visitors centre it is a further 20 minute walk to the stones, or (at quickest) a 5 minute bus ride. It’s also important to give more time in your 2 hour Stonehenge hour to account for transport issues that may occur getting to and from Salisbury and Stonehenge.
- Prepare for unexpected weather conditions. We were very prepared for exceptionally dreary weather, but remember that even if the climate looks reasonable the unpredictability of British weather can strike and any time and drastically change quite quickly. Furthermore, the exposed nature of Stonehenge means it’s likely to be windier and/or colder than the relatively sheltered towns and cities nearby.
- Take your time around the stones. No matter the weather, taking your time to enjoy Stonehenge is vital to making the most of your trip. Many visitors have high expectations in anticipation to seeing the stones, so be sure to soak it all up and value the experience.
- Book Stonehenge tickets in advance to avoid higher prices and queueing. For ease of you and your fellow tourists, booking Stonehenge tickets online will save any issues paying on the Stonehenge tour bus or at the visitors centre. At busier times this is especially handy, as you’ll bypass the queues to really maximise your 2 hours at Stonehenge.
- Catch the shuttle bus to and from the stones, but do be aware of the queues there too. The shuttle bus from the visitors centre is a great way to save your legs from a 20 minute walk, and can save vital minutes that could be spent exploring! The weather can hugely impact how busy the shuttle bus is, so make your decision based on how long the queue looks and estimate if the walk might in fact be quicker!
- Take your rubbish with you. We came across more than one or two pieces of litter at the site of the stones. Not only is this visually pollutant to the incredible aesthetic of Stonehenge, but environmentally irresponsible of visitors. There are bins at the visitors centre and car park, so there is no excuse for littering.
- Travel light where possible. There is no luggage storage at Stonehenge or Salisbury station, so if you are planning onward travel or visiting from elsewhere with large bags, do keep this in mind. There are options for luggage storage (£3 per item) in Salisbury such as at the Railway Tavern, just 2 minutes from the station. For a 2 hour tour of Stonehenge, it may just be easier to keep your items to a minimum and carry them with you.
- Respect other visitors. All visitors are hoping to get the best experience possible, and we can help each other do so by being mindful of how your actions impact others. For example, don’t crowd the start of the footpath, as everyone jostles to catch their photos when it may be easier to explore the other side where there is more space. When catching the shuttle bus, remember that some visitors may have mobilities issues or by accompanied by prams or older guests. Allow these visitors to go ahead, and offer your seat to them if needed.
- Wear decent shoes. If you encounter bad weather (or the weather has recently been poor), take care to wear shoes you don’t mind getting muddy or grassy, as the unmarked path around parts of the stones mean you’re likely to come away having walked through some messier patches.
And there we have a guide to a 2 hour tour of Stonehenge from Salisbury! Granted, our 2 hour visit to Stonehenge would likely have been much longer had we been more lucky with transport and the weather, but nonetheless we found much to be enjoyed and appreciated in a short visit to this historically valuable site.
Have you visited Stonehenge? I’d love to hear your experiences, and hope you had better weather!
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