24 hours at Stonehenge
Bang slap in the centre of Wilts with a bunch of ancient stones and uh...not much else. Can you really spend a whole 24 hours there?
‘Course you can, says Joanna over at Muddy Wiltshire….
Camping, glamping, tramping around, plus visits to safari parks, festivals, museums and of course, the pub. Stonehenge isn’t just a pile of old stones (that sadly you can’t climb over or indulge in various other things that I might – might, mind – have done in my youth), this place is super cool, and if centuries-old burial mounds and pre-Roman skeletons aren’t enough for you, there’s plenty else to keep you out of trouble as discovered…
Right, you lovely lot of happy campers, off we go to check it out.
Stonehenge Campsite and Glamping Pods
We started our little jaunt in Fox Pod, a cosy little uh…pod, in this charming, semi-woodland, award-winning glamping site. And when I say award-winning I mean it – Stonehenge Glamping has won a Gold David Bellamy Conservation Award for being eco-friendly, a Trip Advisor Excellence Award and…wait for it…a Platinum Loo of the Year Award. I kid ye not. They were quite smart, too. And very clean. Obvs.
The Fox is one of 6 pods – its neighbours being Moon, Eden, Butterfly, Festival and Hobbit – all varying shapes and sizes, all cool as you like. These funky little babies make you feel like you’re in hobbit-land, and are lots of fun for little campers. They sleep 2-4, are perfectly comfortable, if a little cosy (but we’re camping, right? I’m not expecting Emperor-sized beds), fully heated, and each with its own little garden and picnic table where we played cards and drank wine from the bottle (forgot the bottle openers, obviously) as the sun goes down and we call goodnight to each other like the Waltons.
If you’re a more seasoned camper (not me) there is a lovely field for tents, surrounded by peaceful woodland and open fields. Or bring your own RV or caravan – truly I have never seen such smart hook ups! There is even a single pitch for a VW, so you can bring that pimped-up van. If you’re not great with tents (that’ll be me) and don’t own a caravan (that’s me, too) and the pods are full (they get booked up, you gotta get in there early) then turn to glampanology (yep, it’s a word) with The Bath Bell Tent Company. Offering everything from 2 night basic packages for a straightforward 4m bell tent (they’ll put it up for you on site) to a full luxury package with everything you could wish for included, they make camping a breeze. You pay their prices plus the pitch price at Stonehenge Campsite for the appropriate size tent. Contact them here or call 07503 916910.
Sorry, just had to show you a piccy of the loos. Look at them! On a campsite! Not surprised they won that natty little award.
This campsite is gorgeous – idyllic views across the valley, great facilities including a full kitchen block, woods teaming with wildlife and bird song in the morning and owls and bats at night. You can also check out their Jacob sheep and ponies. Kids can kick a ball about in the meadow and in winter the spare fields are mown by a handful of alpacas making their home like hardy year-round campers. Doubly-cool is they allow open fires (apparently the only campsite in Wiltshire that allows real fixed open campfires), so hire a fire pit for £20 and get toasting those marshmallows. Time your visit right, and you can hang out at the campsite’s Stonehenge Summer Solstice Festival, 18-21 June, an annual 4-day mini-festival with a wonderfully chilled vibe to celebrate the Solstice. They’ve got local and international acts on their way to the biggie that is Glasto, chock-loads of food and the obligatory communal fire pit.
For those less interested in channelling their inner druid and more taken with finding their inner Edwina, why not take on the seven-pub challenge, which basically involves visiting each of the hostelries within walking distance of the site. Perhaps you could be the first to do it in one day.
This is the nearest camping site to Stonehenge, with the stunning new English Heritage Visitor Centre being walkable to from their site. Plus, there are two pubs within walking distance down a footpath direct from the site, one in the pretty village of Berwick itself, which also offers a farm shop too. You know you have a winning campsite when you’re sitting pretty, neighbouring one of England’s most iconic landmarks. Luxury Glamping Pods from £45, RV pitches from £15, camping from £10.
Stonehenge Campsite, Berwick St James, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP3 4TQ, 07786 734732 stonehengecampsite.co.uk
Day 2, and off we go for a bit of culture. I have to say, I was blown away by this place. It’s not as I remember – a pile of old stones, hippies, dodgy substances in badly-rolled rizlas. There is a very smart new visitor centre (with cafe, always need a cuppa and a piece of cake when I go to places like these), with a bus service to Stonehenge proper – you can walk it but it’s a mile and a half and I have a six-year old with me so that’s not going to happen – and a really impressive exhibition to check out afterwards.
The stones themselves are really impressive. Toweringly beautiful and enormously overwhelming, the Stonehenge monument is a definite stellar reason to come to this neck of English woods. Once you get around the tourists and their selfie-sticks you see the majesty of the formation. I mean, it’s one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. What more can I say?
Once we’ve walked in the footsteps of our Neolithic ancestors, done the stoney-things, noted where the ancient burial mounds are and the formation of the Bronze Age ceremonial structures, it’s time to head to the exhibition to have it all explained to us.
The kids loved the Neolithic Houses, and the stone they tried to lift (how did they get them up there 5000 years ago? How?) and then on inside (swerving around the gift shop. I am NOT buying another lolly the size of their heads emblazoned through with the words ‘Stonehenge’) to discover the tools and objects of everyday Neolithic life. We spend hours (well, 20 minutes) staring, fascinated at a 5,500 year old skeleton, fending off questions ‘Is that real?’ ‘A real skeleton?’ ‘Really?’ ‘Is he dead?’
This place is really special. Educational, fun, inspiring even – it’s a truly great family day out. And did you know (I didn’t) that they still don’t know who built it, or when, or why?
Stonehenge, nr Amesbury, Wilts SP4 7DE english-heritage.org.uk
What to do in the area
So, we’ve got about 5 hours left in our 24-hour mini-break. What shall we do? There is loads of great stuff nearby, here are my fave picks.
Longleat House adds to the culture tour – it’s one of the best examples of high Elizabethan architecture in Britain (I am told) and one of the most beautiful stately homes open to the public.
Longleat Safari Park is only a 30-minute drive away if you want to get up close and personal to some seriously scary hairy beasts and get your car scratched to bits by the monkeys. Only joking – I love this place!
Salisbury offers lovely shopping, an impressive cathedral and The Wardrobe, Home of the Infantry Regiments of Berks and Wilts, a museum housing an interesting collection of army thingies.
If you are still in need of more stone, Avebury is the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle, encompassing the whole village.
There is loads more to do in the area, but I reckon that’s enough for now. And here you go – 24 hours in Stonehenge!