Stonehenge is probably one of the most recognizable and mysterious structures in the world. It has stood, in some form or another, for over 5000 years. For the thousands (millions?) of photographs, books and documentaries available, there is nothing like standing aside Stonehenge and viewing it in person. There is something magical about it.
The last time we were in London, we wanted to see Stonehenge, but our visit was too short. This trip we were able to take a full day and tour the south of England; Bath, Lacock and Stonehenge. Stonehenge is only about 75 minutes outside downtown London by car. Usually we are not fans of organized tours, however after some research we chose a package from 'Premium Tours'. The main reason for this was the unique access they provide to Stonehenge itself.
Since 1978, direct access to the stones has been extremely limited. The fence surrounding the property sits a good 50 yards from the stones at its closest point, so viewing Stonehenge for free from the road is not very fulfilling. If you pay (around £8) to get inside the fence, you get an unobstructed 360° view but you're still outside the roped-off area, about 5-10 yards away at best and with the masses of other visitors. Premium Tours offers a tour of Stonehenge before and after opening hours (sunrise or sunset). Moreover, you are allowed inside the circle! Our tour group was about 50 people, but we had Stonehenge totally to ourselves, unrestricted, for about an hour... worth every pence.
So much has been written on Stonehenge and its history that anything I add here would be redundant. I guess we will never truly know who built it or its original purpose, but it is history... human history and when the main challenge of daily survival is finding food and water, one can only assume that the motivation and extreme effort behind building Stonehenge had to be for something extraordinary. Even with all of the mystery surrounding Stonehenge, my only question is how it is not one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Best estimates date it 500+ years before the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Before arriving for our sunset tour of Stonehenge we stopped in the towns of Bath and Lacock. Bath is beautiful English city and home of the natural hot springs (still flowing today) around which the Romans built a public Bath House in the 2nd Century AD. The Baths are open for viewing only... no bathing, not that you would want to. The Bath Abbey is situated next door to the Roman Baths and worth a peek inside. Today the city is filled with stores (many chains), cafes and pubs. The architecture of Bath is beautiful, but monotonous. John Wood and his son, John Wood designed the city that still stands today and while absolutely worth seeing, I cannot imagine one needing more than a few hours (perhaps a day) to see it.
Our tour also included a short trip to the town of Lacock. One of the oldest cities in England, it has been untouched by time. All of the buildings are original and from the 1300's. There are no street lights or visible electrical/telephone wires in this town. A quick trip through the cemetery one finds no names on the grave markers. In a town this small, the residents simply know who is buried where. Lacock's claim to modern fame is the Harry Potter films with several scenes filmed on location. We had a wonderful late lunch (Steak and Ale Pie/Fish and Chips) at The George Inn before the drive to Stonehenge.
For organized tours, this one ranks up there as one of the best we've experienced.