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Wessex Gallery grand opening (12th July). Bringing the history of Stonehenge and Wessex to life.

ANTHROPOLOGIST and BBC TV Coast and Origins of Us presenter Dr Alice Robertswill open Salisbury Museum’s new £2.4m Wessex Gallery on Saturday (Salisbury Journal).

The new gallery will house one of Europe’s most extensive collections of Stonehenge and prehistoric artefacts including the Salisbury MuseumAmesbury Archer – popularly dubbed the King of Stonehenge and the Wardour Hoard.

To mark the event the museum will be hosting an admission-free day of action-packed celebrations, special events, living history displays and demonstrations of traditional skills and crafts.

There will also be other celebrity guests including Channel 4 Time Team presenter and field archaeologist Phil Harding, who will be demonstrating flint knapping – the ancient art of shaping tools and weapons from stones – which early the Britons used.

Along with a free view of the new Wessex Gallery, members of the public will have the opportunity to see Norman falconry displays, try on Norman dresses, or get suited and booted in a knight’s hefty chainmail armour complete with sword.

There will also be ancient coppicing, stone masonry, pottery-making and wool dyeing demonstrations as well as a chance for people to try their hand at reconstructing a prehistoric face, carve a Stone Age chalk animal and experience an Anglo Saxon burial ritual.

Museum director Adrian Green said: “The grand opening of our new Wessex Gallery is going to be a fantastic all-day event with lots of exciting activities to see and do for all age groups.

“It’s also a great opportunity for people to see our amazing new Wessex Gallery which brings the prehistory and history of Stonehenge and Wessex to life.”

The Wessex Gallery Grand Opening is on Saturday, 12 July from 10am to 4pm at Salisbury Museum, The Close.

For more information call 01722 332151 or visit: www.salisburymuseum.org.uk.

Read the full article in the Salisbury Journal: http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/11321466.New_gallery_set_to_open/?ref=var_0

 

Stonehenge Guided Tours
Mystical County, Magical Tours
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Harry Potter set, Gothic cathedral and an Iron Age village: 10 reasons to visit Wiltshire

THIS beautiful leafy county has more to offer than the historic site of Stonehenge

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument built from gigantic stone slabs around 5000 years ago [GETTY]

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument built from gigantic stone slabs around 5000 years ago [GETTY]

1. Wonder at world-famous Stonehenge. The mysterious, magical stone circle dates back to 3100 BC and now has a revamped visitor’s centre to help bring history to life. english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/Stonehenge

2. Climb the 332 steps to the top of Salisbury Cathedral tower for a great view. Salisbury’s pointy gothic cathedral has the tallest tower in Britain.

3. Meet a real film star. Picturesque Lacock village is a firm favourite with film and TV producers. The village’s historic buildings have starred in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Cranford and in screen in the Harry Potter film, The Half-Blood Prince and Wolfman.

4. Take the family on a day trip to the Iron Age settlement of Old Sarum. Just two miles from Salisbury, it marks the site of the original cathedral and the Romans, Normans and Saxons have all left their mark on the fort. The gift shop even sells wooden bows and arrow too to take you back in time. english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/old-sarum

5. Shop in Kate Middleton’s former neighbourhood. Marlborough is where she went to school and the market centre boasts great tea shops and an interesting selection of independent and interesting upmarket shops.

6. Go back in time to see the oldest working steam engines in the world at Crofton Beam Engines where the 200-year-old engines pump water to the highest point of the Kennet and Avon Canal. Marvel at the historic architecture and picnic in the grounds. croftonbeamengines.org/index.html

7. Discover the walled garden or take the kids to learn to climb a tree and be amazed by the world-famous Stourhead gardens which have been stunning visitors since they first opened in the 1740s. nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead

8. Enjoy a cruise along the canal at Bradford on Avon. Barge trips leave from the lock, just outside the town centre, all year round. visitwiltshire.co.uk/explore/towns-and-villages/bradford-on-avon-and-trowbridge

9. Tuck into pheasant, smoked salmon and traditional desserts of rhubarb or sticky toffee pudding at the recently revamped Methuen Arms in Corsham, just eight miles from Bath.

10. Walk the footpath up to Chernhill Down to come face to face with the giant white horse carved on the edge of the hill. The chalk horse was cut in 1780 and you’ll find it off the A4 just east of the village of Cherhill.

Full article By: Anne Gorringe:  http://www.express.co.uk/travel/shortbreaks/473383/10-things-to-do-in-Wiltshire

Link: www.VisitWiltshire.co.uk

Join us on a guided tour from Salisbury and explore historic Wiltshire

The Stonehenge Travel Company
Mystical Landscape, magical Tours

 

 

New Stonehenge centre could bring boost to Devizes museum

Wiltshire Museum boss David Dawson believes the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre will benefit the museum and vice-versa.

The museum, based in Devizes, recently opened new Prehistoric Wiltshire galleries which have helped to draw more visitors, but is also making sure Devizes has a high profile at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre.

David Dawson, Devizes Museum

David Dawson, Devizes Museum

The museum is lending some 50 objects, including gold treasures, to the centre and they will be seen by the million visitors that go to Stonehenge each year.

English Heritage is encouraging people to visit the rest of Wiltshire, and especially to see the Prehistoric galleries at Wiltshire Museum.

Museum director Mr Dawson said: “Since our new galleries opened we have more than tripled the number of visitors, and we look forward to welcoming more people who are visiting Stonehenge to come and see the gold treasures that we have just put on display from the time of Stonehenge.”

Wiltshire Museum, Telling Wiltshire’s Story
500,000 years of Wiltshire’s story told in a brand new £750,000 gallery featuring high quality graphics and leading-edge reconstructions: http://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/

Reported in the Gazette and Herald:
http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/headlines/10912099.New_Stonehenge_centre_could_bring_boost_to_Devizes_museum/

Our guided tours from Salisbury can include a visit to the excellent Wiltshire Museum?

The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury, England
www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk

 

Stonehenge: no more going round in circles

After decades of delay, Stonehenge’s new visitor centre finally opens to tourists today. So has it been worth the wait? Simon Calder takes a tour round this gateway to the Neolithic past

Stonehenge 2013

Stonehenge 2013


The ancients might be amused that the problem of “What shall we do with Stonehenge?” has lasted about as long as Neolithic man took to construct England’s emblem in the first place. Conflict between the preservation of this astonishing temple to the sun and the demands of tourists, motorists and the military is as old as the Wiltshire downs. But from this morning, the struggle may be over.

“Standing here now it is hard to describe the feeling of relief, excitement and elation that I feel,” says Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage.

“Here” is the new visitor centre, gateway to the nation’s most significant ancient site. Late Neolithic man bequeathed us the only lintelled prehistoric stone circle in the world – and the lintels are responsible for the allure. While Scotland has more impressive stone circles, at Callanish on Lewis and Brodgar on Orkney, the structure here resembles a series of doors that invites the onlooker to gaze in on the past. But how to make sense of it all? Interpretation for the million-plus annual visitors to Stonehenge has, up to now, been dismal.

Among the many planning outrages that were being perpetrated in the Sixties, Stonehenge escaped relatively lightly. While Euston station was being demolished and Plymouth city centre was being constructed, the 4,500-year-old circle of English “sarsen” stones and Welsh bluestone was given a 1968 upgrade of its own. The quasi-military bunker has served, for 45 years, as a visitor centre in the loosest sense of the term. Hemmed in by car and coach parks, it felt like a suburban muddle rather than a gateway to the past – more Penge than henge. Its doors closed yesterday, thank goodness, and from this morning the site will be treated with more dignity.

The elegant new visitor centre is a post-modern solution to a prehistoric problem. It is the heart of a much-delayed £27m package of improvements designed to rescue the temple complex from centuries of abuse. The director pronounces herself “hugely pleased” with the results. “It’s such a beautiful building that sits so well in the landscape,” says Loraine Knowles.

Were I called upon to sum up the design in three words, they would be “Nordic airport terminal”. Which suggests either that the needle-thin columns soaring to perforated eaves like a deconstructed Rubik’s Cube are a touch adventurous for Wiltshire, or that I have spent too long hanging around Tromso and Turku. The materials, though, are strictly local.

The platform upon which the new tourist temple sits has travelled far less distance than the stones – it is a limestone raft quarried near Salisbury. And the wooden benches in the light, spacious café look as though they may have been purloined from the branch of Wagamama in the same city. But high-spec furnishings are the least you’d expect after paying £14.90 to get in – up from £8 since yesterday.

After experiencing the breathtaking new exhibits on the south side of the terminal – sorry, visitor centre – however, you will probably judge the 86 per cent admission hike to be fair. Expertise, electronics and hard cash have combined to explain the Stonehenge saga eloquently.

Over a few centuries, archaeologists’ understanding of the “what”, “when”, “how” and “why” of Stonehenge has steadily refined – but until the 21st century the notion of “who” has been as opaque as the morning mist.

“In the past 10 years, our understanding of Stonehenge has been revolutionised,” says Simon Thurley.

Today, the visitor gets to stand amid a virtual stone circle at the start of the exhibition area, as projectors play a continuous cycle through the seasons of Stonehenge, catching the rising sun on the summer solstice and the setting sun of midwinter. Then the scale of the sacred engineering is explained: 35-ton lumps of ultra-hard sandstone – known as sarsen – were dragged south from the Marlborough Downs, while smaller slabs of bluestone were fetched from the Preseli Hills in west Wales, 150 miles away.

The building of a temple, initially for cremation ceremonies, was carried out with only the most rudimentary of tools; antlers were a favourite for earthworks.

But what did the builders of Stonehenge look like? English Heritage has commissioned a best guess. A Swedish expert in forensic reconstruction has created a handsome, bearded head from studying a skull found on the site.

The final element of the visitor centre is an area for temporary exhibitions – the first of which is an enchanting account of how Stonehenge has been interpreted over the centuries. Medieval man believed it to be a marvel brought by Merlin from Ireland. The circle was also attributed over the centuries to Romans and Druids, before finally being marked down as the work of good-natured ancient Britons.

The visitor centre is opening just in time for this Saturday’s winter solstice – and not a moment too soon for anyone, such as Dr Thurley, who agrees that the presentation of Stonehenge has been “a national disgrace”. That was the term used by the Public Account Committee 20 years ago. Since then, successive governments have come up with a range of proposals that typically involve doing to the A303 what Neolithic man did to the deceased: bury it in the downland.

The main road between London and the South-West still rumbles above ground, 200 yards south of the stone circle, but at least the A344 has closed. Previously, the short-cut from Amesbury to Warminster tore along the northern flank, but now the two-mile highway is no more. The busy junction with the A303 has been grassed over, a mere 29 years after Lord Montagu, the first chairman of English Heritage, called for its closure.

The former roadway has been put to use to provide access to the stones. Tourists are towed to the periphery aboard the sort of sightseeing shuttle normally found at the seaside.

If you book an early-morning or after-hours tour with English Heritage, you can enjoy a gratifying close-up of ancient Britain. Daytime visitors are kept at much more than arm’s length. But that distant encounter is at last properly poignant. “It allows us to reunite the stones with the grass downland,” says Dr Thurley.

The low roar from the A303 may still be too close for comfort, but no longer is the ancient stone circle trapped in the headlights of progress.

Travel essentials

Getting there

By road, the new visitor centre is a mile north of the A303 on the A360; the postcode is SP3 4DX.

The nearest station is Salisbury, on the London-Exeter and Bristol-Southampton lines. Buses run to Stonehenge.

Getting in

The site opens 9.30am-5pm daily, though over Christmas and the New Year there are some shorter hours and closures; see bit.ly/GoStone. That is also the place to make advance bookings, which English Heritage says will be mandatory from 1 February. The advance adult admission is £13.90, or £14.90 for walk-up arrivals.

Aricle by Simon Calder : http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/stonehenge-no-more-going-round-in-circles-9011327.html

Join us on a private access tour of Stonehenge from Salisbury

The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury, Wiltshre
The Stonehenge Experts

 

Stonehenge Myths and Mysteries – Some New Theories

Latest Research and Theories About the World’s Most Famous Standing Stones.

Stonehenge. It stands on Salisbury Plain, massive, isolated and mysterious. People have been trying to fathom the meaning and history of the UK’s – and probably the world’s – most impressive and important standing stones for at least 800 years.

Stonehenge close up.

According to English Heritage, which manages the site about 90 miles southwest of London, early references have been found in the mid 12th century writings of  Henry of Huntingdon, a Lincoln clergyman who wrote a history of England. Calling the site Stanenges, he wrote of stones of “wonderful size…erected after the manner of doorways, so that doorway appears to have been raised upon doorway; and no one can conceive how such great stones have been so raised aloft, or why they were built there.”

His questions – how was Stonehenge built, why was its location chosen and by whom – have puzzled generations of writers, researchers and visitors. Now, in the first decades of the 21st century, archaeologists are beginning to come up with some new answers – as well as a lot of new questions.

How Was Stonehenge Built and By Whom?

One of the great mysteries of Stonehenge is its actual creation. Some of its heaviest stones, the blue stones that make up the lintels, come from hundreds of miles away in the Preseli Hills of Wales. How were they transported by a society that did not use the wheel? And calling the monument  “the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world,” English Heritage points out that while other Neolithic stone monuments were essentially piles of natural stones and boulders, Stonehenge is made of dressed stones, fitted together with precise mortise and tenon joints. When all the lintel stones of the outer circle were in place, they formed a perfectly horizontal, interlocking circle, even though the monument stands on sloping ground.

Early writers have theorized the monument was built by Romans – Inigo Jones thought no earlier people had enough engineering skill. In about 1136, Geoffrey of Monmouth in his history of Britain placed it in the heart of Arthurian legends and suggested that Merlin had a hand in building it. There are stories of Merlin flying the bluestones from Wales and levitating them to the top of the monument. And of course, there are plenty of stories of alien involvement.

Current theories are equally impressive though more down to earth. For ten years, in the Stonehenge Riverside Project, teams of archaeologists from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton and Bournemouth, along with University College London, have been studying the monument and the surrounding landscape. They suggest that it was built as a unification project between farming tribes of East and West Britons who, between 3,000 BC and 2,500 BC, shared a common culture.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, author of Stonehenge: A New Understanding,  explains, “there was a growing island-wide culture – the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast…Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands… Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.” (Buy Prof. Pearson’s Book Direct).

In fact, a settlement being excavated about two miles northeast of the monument, Durrington Walls, indicates as many as 1,000 houses and 4,000 people from all over Britain took part in the building of Stonehenge. And this was at a time when the estimated population of the entire country was about 10,000. The village of builders was probably the largest Neolithic village in Europe.

So the manpower to undertake so much plain hard work was there. The stones were moved from Wales, via sledges and by boat, not by dark arts or secret sciences. Though the level of organization required at such an early period, is rather amazing.

Of course, that’s just the latest theory about the origin of the stones. Another idea is that the Preseli bluestones were carried to the Salisbury landscape by Ice Age glaciers and were found naturally littering the plain when Stonehenge’s builders walked the earth.

How Old is Stonehenge?

The common wisdom has been that the monument is about 5,000 years old and was built in several stages over a period of 500 years. In fact, much of the main building of Stonehenge, visible today, was probably built within that time frame.

But the use of the Stonehenge site for important, and probably ritual purposes goes back much further – perhaps as long ago as 8,000 to 10,000 years. Excavations around the monument’s parking area in the 1960s and then again in the 1980s found pits that held wooden posts planted between 8500BC and 7000BC.

It’s not clear whether these are directly related to Stonehenge but what is becoming more evident is that the landscape of Salisbury Plain was important to early Britons for many thousands of years.

Why Salisbury Plain?

Nice big landing place for spaceships perhaps? Not very likely. What is more probable is that the landscape chose itself. Ancient Britain was covered by forests. A large open space, thousand of acres of chalk grassland, would have been rare and special. I can tell you myself, that even today, driving across Salisbury plain at in the dark, its mysterious earthworks looming blank against a starry sky, can be a transcendant, almost supernatural experience.

Then, there is the matter of the lines. No not ley lines. Aerial photography, excavations and geophysical surveys have revealed grooves – known as periglacial stripes – that run parallel to the Avenue at the Stonehenge site and coincidentally line up with the axis of the solstice. It is possible that the farming people who settled the area and who closely observed seasonal signs noticed the alignment of these natural geological features and chose the site and position of Stonehenge because of them.

That certainly was the conclusion reached by Prof. Pearson’s group. He said, “When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun’s path being marked in the land, we realized that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance…Perhaps they saw this place as the centre of the world”.

Was the Summer Solstice Important to Ancient People?

Every year, Wiccans, Neo Pagans, New Agers and curious tourists flock to Stonehenge for the summer solstice. It is the only time that visitors are allowed to camp out around the site and spend all night waiting for dawn.

But findings at Durrington Walls suggest that midwinter, not midsummer was the most important and the time for rituals and feasting. Scientists have been able to date pigs teeth found at the site and say that they were slaughtered and consumed in winter, not summer. Most of the other monuments in the Stonehenge area are aligned to midwinter sunrise and sunset. That theory makes even more sense when you consider the fire festivals and observances of midwinter all over Northern Europe.

What Was Stonehenge Used For?

Take your pick: Druid worship, burials, harvest festivals, animal sacrifices, solstice celebrations, communal rituals, a healing center, a farming calendar, a defensive earthwork, a signal to the gods, an alien landing strip.  There are dozens of theories about what Stonehenge was used for. And over the years, archaeological excavations have found evidence of most of theses activities (except aliens – so far). The discovery of at least 150 burials in the area is a relatively recent finding, for example.

The fact is, the ritual landscape that Stonehenge is a part of was in use by different human societies for thousands of years. It’s likely that it, and the other monuments in the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites UNESCO World Heritage site, had a variety of different uses over the millennia. We may never fully understand this mysterious place, but archaeologists and historians are getting closer all the time. Article by By : http://gouk.about.com

Visit Salisbury, Stonehenge and its landscape with a local expert guide and hear all the latest theories about this mysterious monument.

The Stonehenge Travel Company, Salisbury.
www.StonehengTravel.co.uk

Opening date announced for new Stonehenge facilities

English Heritage has announced that new visitor facilities at Stonehenge will open to the public on 18th December 2013, accompanied by a host of group travel benefits.  

Stonehenge in all its glory

New exhibitions and a visitor centre

Highlights of the attraction include a new visitor centre housing permanent and temporary exhibitions featuring a ‘Stone Circle’ which visitors can stand inside to experience a virtual solstice. You can also discover some of the theories around the origins of the monument and see some of its archaeological finds displayed on site for the first time.

There is a shop, café with seating for up to 260 people, plus an external exhibition featuring a cluster of Neolithic houses which will be built from January 2014 and completed by Easter.

Frequent visitor shuttle service, able to carry 850 visitors an hour to the Stone Circle, is available, and there is also one stop en route so that visitors can opt to walk part of the way if they wish through the ancient archaeological landscape surrounding the monument.

Group booking information

A Stonehenge-only booking line (exclusively for group travel organisers and tour operators to use) will open on 1st October. Pre-booked timed tickets will be required for all groups of 11 or more, with a ten per cent discount plus free entry for organisers.

Organisers will find dedicated parking for up to 30 coaches, with a drop-off bay outside a group’s reception building, where you can collect pre-printed tickets and free audio tours in ten languages.

For further group travel information contact:

0870-333 0604 http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

The Stonehenge Travel Company
Salisbury, Wiltshre

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