Stonehenge is one place that many visitors to the UK want to cross off their British Bucket List. It is the sixth most visited site in the UK, and received over 1.6 million visitors in 2019. Located in the middle of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, it is not easy to get to, and there are several different ways to visit it. Many people include it as a tour from other cities, although you can also get there under your own steam, and even visit it for free.
Illustration by Clem Ali
The costs of a visit to the stones can be prohibitive. Tickets to Stonehenge cost about £20 per adult - more at peak times, which can really add up if you are taking a family or a group of people. It can also be a rather unhappy experience as you jostle against huge crowds of other visitors and pay excessive charges for food, drink and souvenirs. There are alternatives out there which mean you can see the stones for free or at a reduced cost.
Most visitors arrive by car, park in the new car park and catch the shuttle bus or walk to the stones from there - its about a mile and is along a closed road so its an easy walk. Parking in the car park costs £5, which is taken off your entrance price. The ticket price includes a walk around the outside of the stones, entrance to the visitor centre, gift shop and reproduction Neolithic houses. There is a café and picnic facilities.
Visits last about two hours depending on how crowded the site is. The land around the stones is open to the public, although few tend to explore any further than the actual stones.
The Stonehenge Tour runs hop on-hop off buses which you can get from outside Salisbury train station or in the centre of town. You can buy a ticket which includes entry to the stones, or just transportation there and back.
Stonehenge Ticket Prices for 2023
Peak season is every weekend from end of May - end of August, the rest of the weekends are standard
Off-peak is weekdays for every month except June, July and August, which are standard
The inflated prices to get into Stonehenge can put many off visiting the site. It is essentially a pile of old rocks in a field, and when you bear in mind that you can step inside the Pyramids of Giza for about half the price, it can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially as you don't actually get to go into the stone circle.
Is it worth paying for Skip-the-line tickets to Stonehenge?
Particularly during the summer months/weekends it could be a good idea if you are short of time, but most of the time it is not necessary.
That being said, if you book your tickets through a company such as Get Your Guide, you can pay less than a standard ticket direct from English Heritage, get Skip the Line included, and get free cancellation up to 24 hours before your visit, which really makes it worthwhile.
Is it worth doing a Stonehenge tour from London?
This is only a good idea if you want to do one of those whistle-stop tours that include Stonehenge as part of a day trip that includes Bath or somewhere else. Even then, I wouldn't recommend it. You will spend hours sitting in a coach or minibus in traffic jams, racing around the sites you stop at and getting back to your accommodation exhausted at the end of a long day. It's not great for you, the environment or your understanding of the places you are seeing.
Visiting Stonehenge from London
Instead of one of the expensive tours, take a train from London Waterloo to Salisbury which is about 90 minutes and can cost as little as £18 for a day return if you book in advance. Walk about 10 steps out of Salisbury Train station and find the Stonehenge Tours bus which will take you there and back at your own pace. You can stay as long as you like at the stones, get a bus back to Salisbury and visit Salisbury Cathedral or Old Sarum, have a leisurely meal in a medieval pub - whatever you fancy, before getting the train back to London when it suits.
The Stonehenge inner circle tour
For people who want to actually get inside the stones, you can pay for an inner circle visit. This is an hours visit outside of the normal opening times, often covering dawn or dusk. You still can't touch the stones, but you can at least wander amongst them with a maximum group size of about 30. Tickets must be booked in advance and they can sell out quickly, so it is a good idea to book far ahead.
It costs £47 per adult, £28.20 for a child. English Heritage members get the price reduced by £9 and £6 respectively. Find out more about this and book tickets here >>
How to see Stonehenge for free
There are several ways to see Stonehenge for free. There is a public footpath which runs along one side of the stones, just a couple of metres away from the one that paying visitors use. You are not able to access the visitor centre, but you do still get to see the stones.
1. There are two walking routes you can take to the stones - a 5 mile one which takes in the wider Stonehenge landscape, and a shorter one of 0.8 miles.
i) The 5 mile circular walk is the best way to see Stonehenge as part of its wider landscape, rather than just an isolated site by the side of a main road. It also includes Woodhenge, several Neolithic barrows, the Avenue, the Durrington Walls Superhenge and the Cuckoo Stone. You can park for free near Woodhenge. Full walking directions and a detailed map are provided in this Woodhenge to Stonehenge walk >>
ii) The shorter walk takes about 30 minutes. You park at the junction of Fargo Road and Willoughby Road, if you can find somewhere to park, and walk south down the public footpath until you reach the viewing area. From there, you can access the public footpath which runs next to the stones.
2. Stonehenge is free to all members of English Heritage, as is access to the car park. You will still need to book your ticket online, but at least it won't cost you anything. Make sure you take your membership card with you for the visit.
3. If you are a member of National Trust, or have a National Trust Touring Pass, you get free entry, as well as free parking in the car park near the Visitors Centre. Make sure you have your membership card with you or they won't let you in. Bear in mind that this does not include people with memberships to National Trust Scotland or any other affiliated National Trusts.
4. Try your luck parking in the visitor centre. The car park attendants only charge £5 to park there during busy times, so in quieter times you can park there for free and then walk on the free footpath to see the stones. As with the other free methods, you won't get access to the Visitor Centre, but you still get to see the stones.
5. You can just pay for the bus journey on the buses from Salisbury train station and then walk to the free footpath from the car park. It's not free, but still cheaper than paying the entrance fee.