If you ask people who have been to Stonehenge what they thought of it, they will most like tell you one of two things: that it was overrated or that it was a bucket list dream come true. I am one of few who say the latter, but I am also one of few who experienced Stonehenge from the inner circle.
What tourists often forget is that Stonehenge is a 5,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site—seeing the mysterious rock circle even from far away is a privilege in itself. The free option is to drive by on the highway and see the formation in the distance, a decent option for those who want to say they saw it, but aren’t too interested in much else. If you’re willing to pay, the cheaper option is to pay about £20 (about $25) per adult to have a shuttle take you from the visitor centre to a paved path leading around Stonehenge. The path is close enough to get the perfect Instagram, but for me, £20 sounds like a lot just to walk around some rocks.
Stonehenge has been at the top of my bucket list since I moved to Europe, so I knew if we were going to go we had to go all-in. Our only option to get to walk among the stones was booking a tour for a special sunrise or sunset viewing. The tour left from London and cost about $130 per person but also included stops in Oxford and Windsor Castle, two destinations I was interested in anyway. Unfortunately, there is no tour that only goes to Stonehenge that allows you into the inner circle.
It could not have been more worth the price tag or 3:30 a.m. wake-up call. The only spots available were on the sunrise tour, and although there wasn’t much of a sunrise at all, it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There were about 30 people on the tour, but when we arrived around 6 a.m. and for the whole hour we were allowed to explore, we were the only ones there. The lack of crowds really enhanced the experience. It was peaceful in the early morning, and the silence definitely contributed to the eeriness. An audio guide explained the various theories of how the stones got there, but standing right next to them as they towered over me proved just how much of a feat this was considering the lack of technology in ancient times. I was honestly shocked by the scale of these rocks because some of them were three times taller than me! I was not expecting that at all and that’s something I could really only understand as I was walking right next to them, off the path.
The rest of the day was surprisingly nice, too, so I really didn’t mind that we had to do the other two stops. We had a walking tour through the campus of Oxford and an audio-guided tour through Windsor Castle where the Royal Wedding of Harry and Meghan exhibit was still on display.
I’m someone who’s not only fascinated by icons, but by mysteries of the world (Easter Island, The Bermuda Triangle, etc.) which makes Stonehenge the ideal attraction for me. If I had seen it from the outside or only from the surrounding path, I too would have been a member of the majority saying that it’s overrated. But if your interests are similar to mine, I could not recommend one of these tours enough!