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Stonehenge is a truly magical place. While I’ve checked it off my bucket list, it’s a place I’d like to visit again and again, and you should too!

I heard about Stonehenge as a young kid and I always wanted to visit, yet I didn’t truly understand what it was. Then about 10 years ago, I read the book Tales of the RiganteMy Visit to Stonehenge Was All About the Magic 1 by David Gemmell. It’s an alternate history of Scotland during the time of Roman and other invasions into the country. This story weaves magic in to the timeline, which in my opinion is far more accurate than what’s taught in schools. At one point in the story, the stone circles come into play. Ever since, I knew I had to see them in person.

Standing stones exist all over the UK, with Stonehenge as the most famous. My first visit to standing stones was at the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis and Harris with Haggis Adventures. I loved walking among the monoliths and feeling the magic in the air there. At the time, I was told they were far better than Stonehedge, simply because they were free to visit and there wasn’t a barrier preventing access to them. That advice didn’t take into account just how remote the Isle of Lewis and Harris is, and how much it costs to get to the island.

Callanish Standing Stones

Finally on December 2nd, I had my chance to visit Stonehenge. With a car from Easirent, I arrived rather late in the afternoon after putting the wrong destination into Google Maps. Luckily, with sunset approaching, this turned out to be the perfect time to visit.

While travelers have been coming to visit Stonehenge for millennia, the original tourist attraction opened up in 1968. At that time, the visitor center was a simple hut next to the stones, and people could walk among the stones as they wished. Then in 2013, a new visitor center was opened a short distance away with a full information center and a shuttle to the stones. The stones were also cordoned off to preserve the site. While I can’t compare the new tours with the old, I was very happy with the current experience. The bus arrived shortly after I arrived to take me to the stones, and there were information displays all over the place.

But enough about the organization. For me it was all about the magic.

As I got off the shuttle bus and walked up the final path to the stones, I immediately felt something distinctly mystical. As the stones came into view, it seemed as if the people disappeared and I was in the setting of a Fantasy novel. That was surprising, considering the amount of tourists surrounding me.

The stones are cordoned off. At the closest point, the stones is about 10m (30 feet) away. That’s a big difference to one article I read months ago which stated you had to stand much further away than that. True, the cordon is elliptical and the apsis (furthest point) is more like 40m away from the closest stone. As it happens, that side is a great angle to see the stones without any civilization (the highway) in the picture. Another great angle is from the bridge, which shows the most intact portion of the circle. Personally I considered every angle to be fantastic.

Stonehenge from the Bridge
Stonehenge from the Bridge

As I continued to walk around the stones, I had the feeling I was visiting a bygone age of magic and druids, using the stones for their true purpose. Goosebumps stood out on my skin as I felt a fey breeze. It was sunset and the colorful clouds made the sky a surreal backdrop. I could distinctly see a group of ancient warriors riding over a far hill on their way to where I was at the stones….

Finally I pulled myself out of my reverie and found a guide who was keen in providing me with all kinds of facts about the stones and visitor center. The current layout is certainly a lot different than the pre-2013 arrangement, which you can still see if you go to Google Maps and look at the satellite imagery for the location. The highway used to pass right next to the stones, spoiling the hallowed setting.

The truth is, no one really knows the true history of the stones. There are plenty of theories, but no empirical proof. I have my own ideas, which definitely lean toward the supernatural. You’ll have to form your own opinions when you arrive.

Selfie at Stonehenge

Once again, this was one of those experiences which the words of a blog fail miserably to depict. Words just fall short in conveying the true sensations experienced, which transcend anything physical. As such, you’ll just have to visit yourself to see what I’m talking about. If you’ve already been there, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. And if you went before 2013, it’s time for another visit.

Resources

  • Transportation

Find the best flights to England on Skyscanner. Read my tips on how to find the cheapest flights.

Easirent is the cheapest car company to rent from within the UK (but perhaps not the best).

  • Lodging

Find great deals on hotels and hostels with Agoda. Read my guide on whether you should book ahead at a hostel.

If you’re traveling with more than one person, I’d recommend using Airbnb. Some locations can be fantastic.

Please note: Skyscanner, Agoda and Airbnb are affiliate links, and using them here will help to support me financially in my travels. I want to thank English Heritage for inviting me to this wonderful location.

London was the first city I traveled to when I set out on my never-ending journey from the USA. Within six months, I had visited four times and seen many of the landmarks. Unfortunately, London is one of the biggest cities I’ve been to in my travels. After those four visits, I’d hardly scratched the surface. This week I returned for the fifth time to check some more places off my bucket list, notably Greenwich.

Greenwich Village

Greenwich and the Prime Meridian have been on my bucket list since I was a small child. I’d always imagined it as a simple line on the ground. Well, it kinda is. but the rest of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich Village and surrounding area were nice to tour through as well.

Walking around the Royal Observatory museum, I found some really interesting facts. One is that the Prime Meridian wasn’t always in its current location. In 1816, the prime meridian was unofficially located a few feet to the west where the Troughton Transit was located. It was in 1884 when the Airy Transit was voted for the official Prime Meridian. However, even that wasn’t true 0°. In 2015, based on sat-nav equipment and by official decree, the Prime Meridian was moved 335 feet to the east. Visit the museum to find out all the details behind that.

Prime Meridian

The rest of the museum contains a full exhibit on navigation throughout the ages, the history of the marine chronometer and other interesting maritime facts. One such fact has to do with the large meter-wide red ball on the roof, which has been lowered each day at 1 PM so that ships can set their clocks accurately. Currently, the ball looks heavily dented. That’s because it was once used as a football. Seriously! When the Royal Observatory was being renovated a few years ago, the construction workers who didn’t know any better were literally using it as a football around the courtyard! Umm…

Royal Observatory in Greenwich

I also really liked the laser shining along the meridian. In the day you can see it along the ceiling of the Meridian building, but then at night it shines out the window and is visible up to 40 miles away! I recalled having seen the green line on previous visits to London but had no idea what the purpose was.

Prime Meridian Laser

Cutty Sark

Then there was Cutty Sark. I felt a little awkward when I arrived at the museum to see it announced as the most famous ship in the world, yet I’d never heard of it. The museum reminded me of the Vasa in Stockholm, but the story of this ship is considerably different than the fateful Swedish one.

The Cutty Sark was originally built 1869 as one of the fastest sailing ships on the seven seas. Originally used to bring tea from China, it was almost immediately replaced by steamships which were able to navigate the Suez Canal (which opened a week before the Cutty Sark was launched). Instead of retiring the ship, it was commissioned to transport wool from Australia. I was impressed by the size of the cargo hold. It might be small compared to modern standards, but 150 years ago it was massive, able to hold 10,000 tea chests (enough to make 200 million cups of tea)!

Cutty Sark at Night

Although the facts are fascinating, my favorite part of the ship was the sheer beauty of it. Not the extravagant beauty of the Vasa, but just the natural marvel of seeing the sailing ship against the London backdrop at night.

Cutty Sark

Summary

I did a little exploring of Greenwich Village, but it was evening and most places were closing up. What I didn’t do were the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House. Those are still on the bucket list, exactly per the Law of the Traveler, along with many more places in London.

Greenwich Village

One other place I did get to see that day was Harrods. Buying anything there was definitely out of my budget, but it was nice to explore the store. Or rather one floor of the store. The place is absolutely massive. I could probably have spent a couple full days there without seeing everything.

Selfie at Harrods

I will be sure to get back to London next year when I return to the UK and get some more things checked off the bucket list. As to present time, the day after my visit to London, I went to Bath to enjoy the hot springs at the Thermae Bath Spa, and the next day I visited Stonehenge, both stories coming soon. I write this now at Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight to Abu Dhabi, where I will spend the next week soaking up the sun.

Pro Tip: Consider buying the London City Pass if you plan to visit Greenwich Village and the Cutty Sark. Both are included in the pass.

References

  • Transportation

Find the best flights to London on Skyscanner. Read my tips on how to find the cheapest flights.

Easirent is the cheapest car company to rent from within the UK (but perhaps not the best).

  • Lodging

Find great deals on hotels and hostels with Agoda. Read my guide on whether you should book ahead at a hostel.

If you’re traveling with more than one person, I’d recommend using Airbnb. Some locations can be fantastic.

Couchsurfing is my favorite way to stay in a city. London can be extremely difficult to find hosts, depending on the season, but not impossible. I’ve gotten lucky and had some amazing hosts there.

You could also find a hostel or other volunteer job to work at via Workaway.

Please note: Skyscanner, Agoda and Airbnb are affiliate links, and using them here will help to support me financially in my travels.