The Stonehenge landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage site containing not just Stonehenge but Woodhenge, the Durrington Walls Superhenge, Neolithic barrows, the Cuckoo Stone and a 3km Avenue created 4000 years ago which connected Stonehenge to the River Avon.
This 5 mile circular walk includes all of the above and is entirely legal and free, with not even parking costs. Woodhenge is free anyway, but Stonehenge costs about £20 per adult and parking can be £5 per car there, making it an expensive place to visit. The walk does not include access to the visitor centre, but it does get you close to the stones. It is well worth doing if you don't want to be herded around the stones with the thousands of other visitors, and if you want to see the site in its wider landscape.
Many visitors to Stonehenge regard it as an isolated place, a circle of stones that they visit and check off their bucket list before they drive on to the next place. Most remain entirely unaware of its place within the wider landscape - acres of windswept chalk grassland which was once home to a prehistoric community who altered and sculpted this landscape to a place of deep significance and ritual.
You will understand far more about Stonehenge by walking through those same grasslands, seeing the barrows where they buried their dead, the places where the builders of the stones lived, walking on the same ceremonial path they did to approach the stones over 4000 years ago, than you ever will from a bus ride from the visitor centre to the stones.
The swarms of tourists flocking around the stones, being pushed along by the will of the crowd, will look like colourful, scuttling ants as you approach from afar, unenlightened followers of the conventional, who exit through the gift shop clutching their Stonehenge branded souvenirs with their blinkers still firmly in place.
Visit Stonehenge the Slow Travel way to get a deeper understanding of the landscape, enjoy the fresh air and exercise, and to avoid giving your money to English Heritage - an NGO who made £112 million from Stonehenge in 2019, and who support the creation of a road tunnel under this ancient site - an act of horrific archaeological vandalism.
Directions for the Woodhenge - Stonehenge walk
If you drive to Woodhenge, you can park for free in the layby in Fargo Road. This is often full, but people park all along Fargo Road and so long as you ensure you are not in any ones way or restricting traffic, it is fine to leave your car there.
(Points refer to markers on the map above. what3words co-ordinates are also given)
Point 1 - Woodhenge
Point 2 - Once you've looked round Woodhenge, exit by the gate you came in and turn left, going through the gate right next to it at w3w: jobs.carefully.defeat
Point 3 - Walk through the field until you reach the Cuckoo Stone at w3w: zapped.ironclad.roofer
Point 4 - Continue on to the end of the field, where you will find a gate at w3w: airliners.writers.basin
Point 5 - follow the path due west. You will pass the officers quarters and fields with ponies until you reach a gate at w3w: dove.doghouse.showrooms. There is also an information board all about the cursus which is ahead of you.
Head across the fields - you should be able to see Stonehenge in the distance.
Point 6 - you will need to walk through this gate to get to the path next to the stones. Turn left out of the gate.
Point 7 - turn left into a green area next to the official visitor entrance. (This is the old car park for those of you who have visited before the changes).
Point 8 - continue along the path. Point 8 is the location of the heel stone and the closest you can get to the stone circle.
Point 9 - continue down the path. At point 9 you will pass a small barrow.
Point 10 - Once you are near the end of the field you can turn left (there are several places to do this) and walk up King Barrow Ridge
Point 11 - head north - you can chose to walk inside the field or up the path, past Old Kings Barrow until you reach the gate you entered the field on your way to Stonehenge. Head back the way you came until you reach Woodhenge
Point 12 - in the fields opposite Woodhenge are the Durrington Walls Superhenge, which you can walk around if you wish to.
Point 13 - Just off the layby where you may have parked, you will find information boards about the Stonehenge landscape and the Southern Circle ahead of you.
The walk takes about two hours, depending on how long you stay to look at things. It can be chilly as a lot of the land is exposed, so wear something warm, and definitely wear walking boots as there is a lot of sheep poo around. Don't take dogs as they are not allowed in the fields with the sheep - there are signs everywhere making this very clear.
N.B. - My photos of the stones were taken during Lockdown 3, so there were no crowds getting in the way. You can replicate this by doing the walk before or after the stones are open to the general public (9.30am - 5pm). You may see small groups who have paid to access the stones when it is closed, but they have a maximum of 26 people so will not get in the way of your photos. Or if you want to see how busy the site is before you set out, look at the live camera in the centre of the stones - you will be able to see how big the crowds are.