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Stonehenge Visitor Guide + Inner Circle Tour Review

Let’s travel to Stonehenge. This famous stone circle is located in the Salisbury Plain about three hours from London. It’s close enough to visit in a day, and we’re going to show you exactly how.

We chose to take a Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour, which is the only way to go inside the stone circle. We’ll explain exactly what that is and fully review our experience, too.

Let’s get started!

In this Post

Here’s what we’re covering in this post. We invite you to read the full guide or jump ahead to the section you’re most interested in.

What is Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of many ancient stone circles around northwestern Europe. It is not the largest or oldest of these stone circles (nearby Avebury claims both of those titles), but Stonehenge is the most architecturally impressive.

Stonehenge is made up of an outer ring of tall sarsen stones, topped by horizontal lintel stones and an inside ring of smaller bluestones. Inside the rings is an alter made of two sarsen stones and a connecting lintel stone.

Some of these stones are believed to have been transported hundreds of miles from Wales. How exactly the stones were moved and placed remains a mystery to this day.

No one really knows exactly what Stonehenge was used for, though most theories suggest that it was used for astrological or religious purposes.

The stones align with sunrise on the summer solstice and sunset on the winter solstice, suggesting the stones may have been used as a calendar that tracked the solar year. Evidence found at the site suggests people most likely gathered at the site during winter solstice specifically.

Human remains found at the site also suggest it may have been burial ground. The condition of the bones and their origins suggest that Stonehenge was more a place of healing, and not a site of war or fighting.

Construction on Stonehenge began around 3000 BC and took about 1000 years and four different stages. The final notable change to Stonehenge was in roughly 1600 BC. Over thousands of years, the monument slipped into ruin with some rocks shifting, falling and aging.

Stonehenge Today

Today, Stonehenge is owned by the Crown, maintained by the National Trust and protected as English Heritage and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The area around Stonehenge has been developed into a modern tourist attraction. The site has been constructed in a way that allows tourists to conveniently visit the stone circle without damaging the stones or the surrounding land.

The Stonehenge Visitor Centre and parking lot is located about 1.5 miles from the stone circle itself. Here you’ll find the ticket office, bathrooms, restaurant, gift shop and museum exhibit. There’s also an outdoor area with reconstructed neolithic houses.

There is a shuttle bus that runs between the visitor center and the stones every few minutes. This shuttle is included in the ticket price. There’s also a walking path between the visitor center and the stones. The path is just over a mile and the walk takes about 20 minutes.

Both the shuttle bus and walking path will lead you to a paved walkway that encircles Stonehenge. Guests must stay on the pathway and observe Stonehenge from a short distance away. This is to protect the stones and surrounding land from the 800,000 guests who visit Stonehenge each year.

The only way to cross the ropes and enter the stone circle at Stonehenge is to take an inner circle tour. We cover more on that later in this post.

How to Get to Stonehenge from London

Stonehenge is located in the Salisbury Plain in southern England about 85 miles from London. There are three main ways to get from London to Stonehenge. Depending on your mode of transit, it can take 2.5 to 3 hours to make the journey.

Option 1: Tour to Stonehenge

The easiest and often cheapest way to get from London to Stonehenge is to take a tour that includes transportation. Some tours will pick you up at your accommodation and others will start from a central meeting point. Most tours will include stops at one or more additional attractions in the area, like Windsor or Bath.

There are several tour providers, but we suggest booking through Get Your Guide. They have a great selection of tour options to Stonehenge with transportation from London. You can also cancel up to 24 hours in advance and get a full refund if your plans change.

Option 2: Public Transportation to Stonehenge

You can also take public transportation from London to Stonehenge. There is not a train station at Stonehenge,  so you have to take the train and a bus.

Take the South Western Railway from London Victoria station to Salisbury. Then, there are a few different bus options that go from Salisbury to Stonehenge, including Salisbury Reds and The Stonehenge Tour. Buses typically run every hour and take about 30 minutes.

Taking the train and bus from London to Stonehenge will take about 2.5-3 hours. Depending on how your timing works out, this can be the fastest option because you skip London traffic. However, public transit to Stonehenge is expensive.

Train tickets run between £28 – £47 per person, each way. Bus fare is an additional £17 per person. That means it can cost £73 or more per person round trip. That’s more expensive than some tours which include transportation.

Option 3: Car to Stonehenge

You can also reach Stonehenge by car. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive to Stonehenge from London, but that can vary based on traffic.

Driving might be the best option for London locals, but travelers arriving to the UK by air may not find this as convenient. Central London traffic can be brutal — BRUTAL. They also drive on the opposite side of the road in England compared to many other countries. This can be stressful at best and dangerous at worst.

Unless you already have a car or are very comfortable driving in the UK, we don’t recommend driving to Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Ticket Options

Visitors to Stonehenge will have the chance to see this famous stone circle up close — just maybe not as close as you think.

During regular operating hours, guests must remain on a roped-off path that encircles the ancient monument. At its closest, the path is about 50 feet from the actual stones, but it is further away on different sides.

The only way to get up close to Stonehenge is to splurge on an inner circle tour. During this exclusive experience, you can actually enter the stone circle itself. No guests are ever allowed to touch or climb the stones.

Let’s break down the these two very different ticket options.

General Admission at Stonehenge

The only ticket option during regular operating hours at Stonehenge is general admission. Tickets to Stonehenge include access to the indoor and outdoor museum exhibits, visitor center amenities, free shuttle service to the stones and access to the walking path around the stone circle.

During standard operating hours, all guests must remain on this paved sidewalk. There is 24-hour security on site making sure that no one crosses the roped-off boundary into the area immediately around stones. This is to protect the stones and surrounding land.

You can purchase Stonehenge General Admission tickets online in advance (up to 9 AM on the day of your visit) or on-site at the ticket office at the visitor center.

Tickets purchased online are slightly cheaper and also guarantee entry in the instance that tickets sell out. In most cases, you don’t need to purchase tickets more than 24 hours in advance. Even during peak travel season, selection for the following day is usually pretty good.

Adult General Admission tickets to Stonehenge purchased online cost £23.60 during peak days, £21.80 during standard days and £20 during off-peak days. You can check peak dates on the calendar here.

If you purchase your tickets at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, adult tickets cost £24.20 everyday. Discounts are available for students, children and families. There’s also the option to purchase a more expensive ticket which includes a voluntary donation.

Each ticket is for a specific time. Guests must arrive within 30 minutes of that time, but can stay as long as they like. The last ticket time is for 2 hours prior to closing time.

Inner Circle Tour

Guests who want to see Stonehenge as close as possible and walk through the stone circle will need to splurge on a special tour. There are a few different names for this special experience, but most are called “Inner Circle Tours.”

An inner circle tour of Stonehenge means you will quite literally get to enter the inner circle of the stones. These tours allow a small number of guests to cross the rope barrier, walk right up to stones and get all the photos #forthegram.

Inner circle tours at Stonehenge only take place in the early morning before the site opens to public and in the evening after the site closes. These tours are extremely limited and only offered on select days. Tickets for these tours can be hard to come by and tend to book up early in advance.

How to Book a Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour

You can book an inner circle tour of Stonehenge two ways. The first option is to book the Stonehenge Stone Circle Experience directly through the English Heritage site. This option is the cheapest (Adult £48, Child £29), but it does not include transportation from London.

If you need transportation to Stonehenge from London, your best bet is to join a private tour. There are a few different tour providers that offer these tours, and they typically include additional stops at other nearby attractions. We booked the Stonehenge Inner Circle and Windsor Day Trip through Get Your Guide, which we review in full later in this post.

If you’re booking a private tour, be sure to verify that the tour includes “inner circle” access in the description. A true inner circle tour will be very early in the morning or run late in the evening. There are many Stonehenge tours that don’t include inner circle access, so be sure you’re booking the right one.

The private tour option is more expensive. This is because it includes more stops, a private guide sharing information the whole way and transportation. Our tour cost $160 per person, which we know is not cheap.

Plan Your Visit

There are a few things you should know in advance as you start to add Stonehenge to your London travel plans. Consider the timing of your visit and how long you want to stay in the area, among other things. If you’re taking a tour, you should review some of the nearby attractions and select the tour itinerary that is best for your group.

Here are a few items to keep in mind.

Best Time to Visit Stonehenge

More than once during our June visit to Stonehenge, our tour guide told us that the best time to visit Stonehenge was in the winter. He said there are always fewer people on the tour, the site is much less crowded during the day and the ancient people who built Stonehenge were actually there in the wintertime.

While this is all certainly true, the fact of the matter is that England is freaking cold in the winter. I’ve never been to London later than October, but even then I was bundled up in a North Face jacket or drinking tea from inside a cozy hotel.

If you’re not interested in standing in an open field in the middle of winter, may I suggest shoulder season? Plan your Stonehenge visit in the Spring (April/May) or fall (September/October) to benefit from off-peak pricing, lower crowds and moderate temperatures.

If you’re visiting during peak summer months, there are still ways to beat the crowds. Try to plan a visit on a weekday and schedule your visit for early in the morning (right at open) or late in the afternoon (the last admission is 2 hours before close).

When is Stonehenge Open

Stonehenge is open almost every day of the year. The site closes on Christmas day (December 25) and has adjusted/limited hours during the semi-annual solstice (June 20-21 and December 21-22).

Opening hours vary by season. Stonehenge opens daily at 9:30 AM.  From late May to early September, the site is open till 7 PM. It closes at 5 PM the rest of the year.

How Long Does it Take to Visit Stonehenge

We suggest spending about 3 hours at Stonehenge.

Plan for 30 minutes each way to get between the visitor center and the stones. You can take the walking path, which is just over a mile and takes 20-25 minutes to walk. Or you can take the shuttle bus that runs continually throughout the day. It’s a short drive, but you’ll want to account for the queue and load times.

Then plan to spend about an hour at the stones themselves and another hour at the visitor center. The visitor center has a small, nice indoor museum exhibit and some outdoor replicas of neolithic houses. There’s also a food court and gift shop, which you’ll likely want to stop at.

This estimate does not include transit time. Depending on how you get to Stonehenge, this will likely be another 3 hours or so each way.

Where to Stay Near Stonehenge

Stonehenge is a popular day trip from London. There is no need to tack on added nights near Stonehenge if you are already planning to stay in central London.

However, if you do choose to stay overnight near Stonehenge, there are a couple good options.

The best place to stay near Stonehenge is in the nearby town of Salisbury. It is a small town, but has a few reasonably priced hotels. You might consider The Merchant’s House,  Mercure Salisbury White Hart Hotel or even the local Best Western.

Another fun option if you happen to be in the UK with a camper van is wild camping. It’s free to park on one of the nearby streets overnight for almost as long as you want. They do clear out the space during the solstice events, but otherwise it’s a great free place to stay. Again, assuming you have a camper van. For more information on wild camping at Stonehenge, check out this helpful guide.

Things to do Near Stonehenge

If you’re visiting Stonehenge, there are a few other popular attractions in the area that might be worth visiting as well. Most tours to Stonehenge from London will include stops at one or more of these attractions.

  • Windsor: This charming town is home to Windsor Castle, which is the primary residence of the Queen. The town itself is filled with classic English pubs, gorgeous gardens, pedestrian shopping streets and more.
  • Bath: This English city is famous for its Roman history. Popular attractions include the Roman baths, gothic Bath Abbey and impressive Georgian architecture.
  • Oxford: Home to one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, the city of Oxford is bursting with history, scholarship and beautiful buildings and squares.
  • Salisbury: A small town near Stonehenge with a charming city center. You can also visit fellow National Trust site, Mompesson House, or see one of the original copies of the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral.

Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour Review

For our visit to Stonehenge, we chose to visit with a tour group. We selected the “Stonehenge Inner Circle and Windsor Day Trip” tour which we purchased through Get Your Guide.

We selected the evening tour, which departs London later in the morning, stops at Windsor first, and then goes to Stonehenge for the inner circle tour after the site has closed to general admission guests.

In this section, we’ll breakdown the details of our experience on this specific tour.

Why We Chose This Tour

We chose this tour for two reasons: transportation and inner circle access.

Transportation from London to Stonehenge was really important for us. Since we were visiting with a young child, we didn’t want to deal with the hassle and time delays that come with taking public transit. (If it were just us adults, we likely would have tried that though.)

We weren’t traveling with a car seat, so we needed a transportation option that wouldn’t require one. I reached out to the provider for this specific Stonehenge tour, Evans Evans Tours, and they confirmed that they typically operate a 53-seater coach. This particular vehicle type allows children to sit on their parents lap safely without a car seat.

Another reason we chose this specific tour was because we really wanted Inner Circle Access. We only anticipated visiting Stonehenge one time, so we figured we’d just go all in and see it the best way we could.

Booking Our Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour

By the time I was booking our tour a month in advance, there were very limited inner circle tour options available. Our trip was also over the summer solstice, which further limited our options. This Stonehenge tour from Get Your Guide was the only one that had space available during our trip dates.

We booked the tour titled “From London: Stonehenge Inner Circle and Windsor Day Trip.” If you click “Book Now,” you will be prompted to selected the number of guests and the date. This tour is only offered on select Mondays and Saturdays.

Then you can select your time. There’s an early option that goes to Stonehenge first before it’s open to general admission guests, then stops at Windsor before returning to London, or a late option that visits Windsor first and then goes to Stonehenge for the inner circle experience after the site has closed.

After you purchase your tickets, you’ll receive a voucher in your email.

These tours can sell out, especially during peak season in the summer. I recommend planning early and booking through Get Your Get as soon as possible. They offer free cancelations up to 24 hours in advance, so you can easily cancel if your plans change.

This tour was not cheap. This specific Stonehenge inner circle tour cost $160 per person adult. Seniors over 60 and children 3 – 16 are slightly cheaper and children 2 and under are free.

Transportation from London

Our Stonehenge inner circle tour departed from Park Plaza Victoria London hotel. This location is across the street from the tour provider’s office and just a short walk from Victoria Station.

The instructions state to meet in the lobby of the hotel 15 minutes prior to departure. Everyone on our tour was on time and we actually were able to depart early.

London traffic is horrendous. I swear there was a point where we literally did not move for 15 minutes. As we crawled through London traffic, the tour guide provided a slew of fun facts and stories about London, the Queen and neighborhoods we passed through.

The Stonehenge inner circle tour is quite popular and often has a large group. Transportation is typically on a large 53-seat coach bus. During our tour, every seat on the bus was full.

The bus was clean and comfortable, and they ran the AC at an American-approved level. The seats were close together, but only noticeable because we had a child on our lap. There were seatbelts and we were told to keep them on the entire trip.

First Stop: Windsor

Our first stop was Windsor, where we spent about 3 hours. The town is cute and very walkable. The focal point of the town is of course Windsor Castle, the main residence of Queen Elizabeth.

When we got off the bus, we were given a few minutes to use the bathroom and grab a quick drink or snack. Our guide distributed audio headsets and led our group into town. He then offered a 30 minute optional walking tour through town and then we were free to explore for another 2.5 hours.

There was an event at the castle on the day we were there, so it was closed to visitors. Otherwise, you typically have the option to go inside the castle during this tour. Admission is not included in the price of the tour though.

Even if you don’t go inside the castle, there is plenty to do in Windsor. There are several pedestrian shopping streets and lots of pubs and restaurants to get lunch. There’s also a large grassy area called the Long Walk, which offers a great view of the castle and is a nice place to picnic outside.

Eton College — famed school of elites like Prince William, Tom Hiddleston and Ian Flemming — is also located in Windsor. Our guide said that the Eaton campus is one of his favorite places and where he always chooses to spend his time in Windsor during the tour.

Without a toddler, we would have gotten a beer at a cute pub and spent a few hours wondering every inch of town. Instead, we spent two hours on the Long Walk with a napping toddler. #parenting (I kid. It was lovely and we’re happy to do it.)

Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour

It was about an hour drive from Windsor to Stonehenge. We then had about 45 minutes to see the museum exhibits, grab food at the cafe and visit the gift shop.

There was enough time to walk to the stones, but it would have really cut into your museum/eating time. Otherwise, there was one shuttle bus ready to take the group to the stones at a set time.

When we arrived at the stones, we were kept outside the ropes for a short period of time so everyone could take photos of the stones without anyone in the picture. Then we were allowed to pass beyond the rope and enter the inner circle of Stonehenge.

We were allowed to freely walk around and through the stone circle, but we were not allowed to touch or step on any of the stones. There was a security guard with us making sure no one broke these very basic rules.

Our guide was not only incredibly knowledgeable, but was also quite the photographer! He was snapping photos in all the best spots for everyone in our tour group. At one point, nearly half the group was in line for one of his photo spots.

We had about one full hour to wonder around the stones, take photos and experience this ancient stone circle. This was more than enough time for us. We spent the last half of our time sitting in the grass and just soaking it in.

After our inner circle experience, we loaded back into the bus for our return drive to London.

Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour Feedback

We enjoyed this tour. It was a really fun, well run and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we won’t soon forget. If money was no issue and you had the luxury to plan in advance and secure a ticket, we’d recommend it.

First off, I was really impressed by our guide specifically. He was incredibly knowledgeable and flooded us with facts and fun stories from the moment we left London to the moment we returned. He was incredibly knowledgable, answered questions and gave us great suggestions for things to do throughout the trip and back in London.

Windsor was a nice stop on the tour. We probably wouldn’t have otherwise gone to Windsor, so it was a good push to get there. It was a cute, walkable city and it was nice to see the castle, even from a distance.

Seeing Stonehenge in real life was cool. I won’t say it was life changing. In fact, Stonehenge is exactly what it looks like in photos. I think I expected to be more wowed by the size or organization, but I just didn’t feel that. That said, seeing it up close made me appreciate the difficulty and effort that must have gone into building it.

Overall, the Windsor and Stonehenge inner circle tour was easy and really enjoyable.

Is the Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour Worth It?

At $160 per person, this specific tour is expensive. The most obvious question is, “Was it worth it?”

Let’s start by saying that a basic tour without inner circle access is definitely worth it. It’s the most convenient and cheapest way to get to Stonehenge from London. Inner circle tours are generally about $100 more than general admission tours. So the question is should you spend the extra money for inner circle access?

I think the most important thing is managing your expectations. You don’t necessarily need the inner circle tour to have a great experience at Stonehenge, but you should know that it’s an option.

I think a lot of people expect to get a lot closer with general admission and that’s just not the case. It’s important to understand what you’re getting with both different tour options, and then decide if seeing the stones up close is important to you.

We personally splurged on the expensive inner circle tour because we figured if we were going to make the trek out there, we might as well see it as close as we can. We don’t regret that decision, but we do think we would have likely had a fine time with general admission.

The view from the sidewalk is honestly pretty good. So if you’re looking to save some money or if the timing doesn’t work out for you, we think general admission is just fine.

What you get during the inner circle experience is pretty straight forward. If you want a relaxing, private, up-close look at the stones, this is for you. That might not be important to everyone, and just know that it’s not essential to having a good Stonehenge experience. Just set your expectations accordingly.

Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour with a Baby

We’ve mentioned throughout this post that we brought our almost-two-year-old toddler on this Stonehenge inner circle tour. The tour we took is family-friendly and children of all ages are welcome.

Children ages 3-16 receive a discounted price of $128 and children two and under are free. If you bring a child under 3, they will not get their own seat on the bus and will need to sit on an adult’s lap. Children do not need a carseat on this tour.

I will say the bus is a bit cramped. We did okay with our child who was almost two, but it was hard at times to keep them from banging the seat in front of us. The bus ride with a child closer to 3 would be a bit tough, especially if you have a squirmer.

This tour requires a good amount of travel time. It took about 1.5 hours to get from London to Windsor, 1.5 hours from Windsor to Stonehenge, and then almost 2 hours from Stonehenge back to Victoria Station in London.

It’s a long travel day and either leaves really early or gets back pretty late. We took the later tour and didn’t get back into the city until about 11. This means you’ll have to be flexible with sleep schedules.

If you have a child who can sleep in a carrier, Windsor was a great place for a nap. The Long Walk is pretty, quiet and shaded. Kids who can nap on your lap in the bus will also fare quite well.

Stonehenge is great for kids. The museum has a really cool 360-degree theatre experience and other interactive exhibits to keep them busy. Outside they can explore ancient homes and even try to pull a stone themselves.

The stone circle couldn’t be more ideal for a young child. The monument is outdoors and there’s so much space. Kids can freely roam and even be pretty loud without parents feeling too bad. The hardest part is that you can’t touch the stones, which can be hard for handsy toddlers.

There’s plenty of good food options for children throughout the day. There are several quick-service and sit-down restaurants in Windsor for a late lunch. You get to Stonehenge around dinner time, and the cafe will be open. They have a wide range of meals and snack options that are great for kids, and there’s highchairs available in the dining area.

That said, if you have a picky eater or dietary restrictions, we’d recommend bringing your own meals. We filled a bento box with veggies, fruit and a sandwich that we picked up at a convenience store in London. (We always travel with one of these.) It’s also a good idea to bring snacks for the bus rides.

Our little one loved Stonehenge, just not quite as much as the London Eye. We get it — it’s a tough act to follow.

Closing Thoughts

All things considered, we really enjoyed our visit to Stonehenge. It’s always cool to see ancient places in real life that you usually only see on Instagram. The stone circle was beautiful and impressively built and a true testament to human strength and ingenuity.

We did have a panic moment the day before our tour when we thought the trip was going to be just too much for our little one. Fortunately, they did great. We know they won’t remember it, but we’re glad that we’re taking them on these kinds of adventures so early in life.

While we loved our visit to Stonehenge, we probably wouldn’t recommend it for your first trip to London (unless you’re really interested in stone circles).

A visit to Stonehenge, however you get there, is likely to take an entire day out of your London itinerary. There is just so much to do in central London, that it’s really hard for me to justify spending a full day out of the city. I think Stonehenge is a great activity for a second or third trip to London, though.