The prehistoric site of Stonehenge is one of the world’s oldest man-made monuments still in existence. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, it’s among the most loved and widely-visited landmarks in Europe, let alone England.
Located on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, the mysterious monolithic ruins of Stonehenge attracts millions of visitors a year. Thankfully the site hasn’t become a tourist trap like many other famous landmarks are, but the surge in excursions and tours means most people think you can’t enjoy a trip here without paying for a pricey ticket.
While its true that you can no longer touch the stones on a normal public opening day, it’s possible to walk among the stones of the inner circle of the monument during the summer solstice that occurs once a year.
In this post, I show you exactly how you can enjoy a trip to Stonehenge for FREE, with no hassle, no disappointments, and no breaking any laws. Scroll on to read the options available to plan the perfect Stonehenge trip for free.
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Visit Stonehenge the normal (paying) way
A visit to Stonehenge the regular way (via tours, guides, tourist centres) may be a costly trip for some. A standard adult ticket costs £17.50 whilst a child ticket is £10.50. Included in the admission is the Visitor Exhibition Centre, the shuttle bus, and access to Stonehenge itself. I strongly recommend booking your tickets online and well in advance, due to the popularity of the site.
When you book your tickets, you’ll be given the option of different time slots, which indicate the time you are required to be at the ticket desk in the Visitor Centre. My advice is to avoid booking between 10:30am-12pm, as that’s when the hoards of buses arrive at the site from London.
The best time to visit the site is during the golden hours (the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset).
The tour begins at the Visitor Centre, where a shuttle will take you to the Stonehenge site. The paid option allows you to be closer to the stones, but not that much closer than the free option. And even with the paid option – you will still not be allowed to stand in the inner circle, and the closest you can get to the stones is about 10 yards.
How to visit Stonehenge for Free
The best way to visit Stonehenge for free is by simply walking to the site, and there are a number of options available.
Option #1: Walk to Stonehenge from Woodhenge
Believe it or not, Stonehenge is not the only ancient monument in the area.
Woodhenge is another monolithic henge monument, not far from Stonehenge. The site itself is a reconstruction made with concrete pillars that replace the wooden posts, as the original wooden monument eroded away a long time ago. Still, its an interesting site to visit.
On arrival at Stonehenge, you’ll need to enter via the farmer’s gate for the free views of the site, which are only a few metres back from the views you’d have with a ticket.
However, if you wish to purchase a ticket instead, you can get closer to the stones, and you’ll also have access to the exhibition at the visitors centre. You can book your Stonehenge admission tickets here. (link)
- How to get to Woodhenge by car: Simply enter “Woodhenge” into your navigation, and upon arrival you’ll find free parking and a clearly-marked walking path.
- How long to get to Stonehenge: The distance to Stonehenge from Woodhenge is 3 miles and takes about 90 minutes on foot. The path is slightly longer than the one from Fargo Road, but you’ll be able to enjoy a nice stroll with lovely countryside views on a sunny day.
Option #2: Walk to Stonehenge from one of the side roads
Another great option to see the iconic monument without paying a penny is to walk there from one of the side roads off the A303.
Fargo Road is the most common option – it’s more of a dirt track, nevertheless it is a public road, and you’ll find cars parked up on the side.
Word of warning: some visitors have reported the side roads being blocked off on a few occasions over the last few years. If that’s the case, simply divert and drive to the visitors car park, where you can park for free anyway. As far as I know, the road is not currently blocked off (as of July 2020).
Something to bear in mind – the paid option allows ticket holders to access the path that’s closest to the stones and allows them to walk around the perimeter of the monument, thus being able to see the stones from more angles, whereas the free public footpath only runs along one side of the monument. At least you’ll save money!
- How to get to Fargo Road: type ‘Fargo Road, Amesbury’ into your navigation and park up on the side of the road when you arrive. Once there, type ‘Stonehenge’ into your maps and switch it from the car setting to the walk setting.
- How long to get to Stonehenge: depending on where you park your car, you should be able to see the monument within 30 minutes of walking the footpath.
The view from the ‘free path’. We were able to get some clearer shots with no tourists around, when walking up and down the path.
Option #3: Walk to Stonehenge from the Visitors Centre
Not many people know this, but you can actually visit Stonehenge for free from the Visitors Centre. How?
Tip: It is not compulsory to buy tickets from the Visitors Centre.
You have the legitimate option to either pay for tickets, or not pay for tickets. If you choose to buy tickets, you’ll be able to take the shuttle bus to the Stonehenge site along with the other tourists, and you’ll also be able to access the Exhibition area in the Visitors Centre.
However, if you choose not to buy tickets, you can just walk to the Stonehenge site, which will take you around 20 minutes. You will have to arrive at the farmers gate for free access the the site.
And don’t worry – its perfectly legal as I checked with a member of staff at the visitors centre.
Whats more, without a ticket you can still access the cafe, gift shop, and the toilet facilities in the visitors centre, for free. Plus, you can even park at the visitors centre for free!
Option #4: Visit Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice
The Summer Solstice marks the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
It’s a celebration dating back thousands of years, and its an astrological phenomenon. Falling on the 21st of June each year, Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, with more hours of sunlight than any other day on the calendar.
The summer solstice has historic, intrinsic links to Stonehenge, as pagan rituals have been held here for millennia, and as such, it’s one of the rare occasions when visitors are allowed to enter the site for free, including access to the inner circle.
What happens at Stonehenge during Summer Solstice?
Thousands of visitors flock to the site, and gather in and around the stones to celebrate the start of summer on 21st June.
The barriers that guard the monument come down and there is no entry fee. Visitors are even permitted to spend the night at the ancient Stone Circle so they can watch sunrise the following morning, and witness the incredible phenomenon of the sun rising directly above the Heel Stone and projecting sun rays right into the centre of the monument.
Over recent years the event has become more of an outdoor festival, with attendance reaching as high as 10,000!
Stonehenge General Information
How much is entry to Stonehenge?
Below is the admission fees for the paid option, if you purchase in advance: (link) Members of the National Trust and English Heritage can acquire admission free of charge.
Stonehenge Admission Fees:
Students or over 60s
Family ticket (2 adults and 1-3 children)
National Trust and English Heritage members
If you choose to pay on the day, there is a small increase in the price. However, it’s best to buy in advance if you want to be guaranteed entry.
When can you visit Stonehenge?
The best time to visit Stonehenge is outside of peak tourist hours, during the golden hours (an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset). This is also the perfect time to take excellent photos.
Bear in mind that sunrise and sunset changes throughout the year here – in the summer, the sun doesn’t set until after 9pm, whereas in the winter months the sun sets before 5pm. Plus, if you choose to visit during the winter, be sure to wrap up warm and wet a raincoat, as you’ll be exposed to the elements if it starts to rain or sleet. And make sure you wear a decent pair of walking shoes. (link)
Stonehenge Opening Hours:
30th March – 31st May
9.30am – 7pm
1st June – 31st August
9am – 8pm
1st September – 15th October
9.30am – 7pm
16th October – 29th March
9.30am – 5pm
Where to park when visiting Stonehenge
Park at Fargo Road to See Stonehenge (Free)
As mentioned above, Fargo Road is a side road off the A303 near the site that you can just pull into and park up on the side, before walking a short distance on foot to the monument.
Park on the Dirt Track Side Road (Free)
The other side road nearer to the site is found on the first left turn after the A360 that takes you to the visitors centre. You can pull up on either side and walk a short way to the monument.
Park at the Visitors Centre (Free)
Not many people realise this but the car park on the site is free, apart form during the school holidays. However, if you do need to pay – you’ll be refunded via your admission tickets. If you purchased tickets online, show it at the car park entrance and you charge will be waived.
The photo above is the view of Stonehenge from the ‘free path’ via the dirt track route. The cloudy weather doesn’t do the photo justice, but as you can see, I had a pretty clear view of the monument.
Facilities at Stonehenge
The Visitors Centre at Stonehenge is just a short distance away from the monument, and has a range of facilities, including free WiFi, and there’s accessible facilities for families with young children, people with disabilities and elderly people, there’s baby-changing facilities, and toilets free to use for all. Plus, there’s a museum with over 300 archaeological items.
The last thing you want to be doing is dragging your luggage around the countryside while exploring the ancient stones of Stonehenge, especially if the weather is unpredictable.
If you are visiting the site by train, there is a secure luggage holding facility at The Railway Tavern nearby where you can leave your luggage. From the station, simply turn left and walk 100 metres down the road, and there you’ll find The Railway Tavern. It costs £3 per piece of luggage, but is well worth it for the peace of mind while you enjoy your trip at the monument.
Best way to get to Stonehenge
The quickest way to get there, and convenient if you have luggage which you can keep in the boot. Just type in ‘Stonehenge’ on your navigation and follow the route until you arrive at the visitors centre (if you decide to choose the alternative option, type in ‘Fargo Road, Amesbury’ or ‘Woodhenge’, as explained above).
The cheapest and easiest way to get to Stonehenge from London is a package that includes admission ticket and a direct bus to the site. You get to spend 2 hours at the site and buses run daily through the summer and on specific dates in the winter.
If you arrive by train, you’ll have to get a bus from the station to the site, which can be expensive. They run every hour, and be sure to know what time the last bus leaves the site.
Stonehenge Bus Tour from London
The most popular way to visit the site, you can choose either a morning or an afternoon tour. Included is an audio guide available in several languages. Upon arrival, you’ll get the chance to explore the site, take photos, and learn about the fascinating history of Stonehenge.
London: Stonehenge and Bath Full-Day Tour
Alternatively, you might want to book a day trip from London that covers Bath and Stonehenge. This neat combo includes two fantastic English attractions in one day (Bath actually has several great attractions, including the ancient Roman Baths, Bath Abbey, a charming city centre, and you can even book yourself in for luxury spa treatment in an open-air thermal hot pool!)
How to get to Stonehenge from London (by train)
Getting the train is a reliable option if you aren’t driving there. Trains run approximately every half hour during the day, so its pretty flexible.
There isn’t a direct train link to Stonehenge, however. The closest train station is Salisbury, which is 10 miles from Stonehenge.
From London Waterloo station it takes 1.5 hours to Salisbury. A round trip fare from London to Salisbury costs from £29.30 on an open return ticket (depending on times and availability). Once you arrive in Salisbury, you’ll need to hop on a Stonehenge tour bus which takes you straight to the Visitors Centre in 25 minutes. The round-trip bus ticket costs £16.
How to get to Stonehenge from Bath
The ancient Roman city of Bath is just 22 miles away from Stonehenge. Given the close proximity, they’re often combined into one day trip. They are both two of the most iconic attractions in England and therefore an absolute must-visit.
You can drive to Stonehenge from Bath in 1 hour, or you could get a direct train from Bath Spa station to Salisbury which takes just under an hour. Just like the train from London, you’ll need to get the shuttle bus on arrival in Salisbury, which takes you directly to Stonehenge Visitors Centre and it costs £16 for a return ticket.
Commonly Asked Questions
Can I go to Stonehenge for free?
Yes, you can visit Stonehenge for free and its perfectly legal. However, most visitors tend to buy tickets, but with a little knowledge and research, you can avoid paying the fees and enjoy a visit without any problems. The visitors centre has a charge for the exhibition centre also, but the cafe, gift shop and toilet facilities are free.
Can you walk among the stones at Stonehenge?
The closest you will be allowed to get to the stones is about 10 yards. The monument is roped off by a low barrier to protect and maintain the monument from damage and erosion. So you won’t be able to just walk up to the stones during normal opening hours, unfortunately.
Accessing Stonehenge Inner Circle
It is possible to walk up to the stones and within the inner circle at Stonehenge outside of public opening hours, in what’s known as Special Access Visits, which some operators can arrange in advance and on specific time slots. This kind of visit will cost more and you’ll need to be accompanied by a guide.
Alternatively, you can walk among the stones during the Summer Solstice on 21st June each year.
Is it worth it to see Stonehenge?
Although Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, a visit from London to the Stonehenge alone isn’t recommended for a day trip. Instead, pair the visit with Bath or Salisbury, or another place of interest, to make it worthwhile.
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So there you have it, all the available options on how to visit Stonehenge for free.
I hope you find this post an interesting read, and that it inspires you to visit Stonehenge someday!
Check out the following links for more UK travel guide posts with free downloadable resources:
- London Maps: Tourism & Travel Guide (Free PDF Maps)
- Top 10 Things To See & Do in Birmingham (by a Local)
- 10 Best Things to Do in Bath, England
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