On our way into London from Bath, Mr. P and I detoured at the last minute to Stonehenge. It’s pretty close to London but we’d never gotten around to visiting before. Since it wasn’t raining, we went for it!
We figured this all out on the fly from our hotel in Bath. You can get yourself there pretty easily without a tour!
This posts assumes you don’t have a car. If you have a car, you can drive yourself to the visitor’s center and even see Stonehenge itself from the freeway.
Stonehenge is just outside Salisbury, which is about 1.5 hours by train from London.
You have to get yourself to Salisbury, then to the visitor’s center, which is outside the town. From there, there is a free shuttle from the visitor’s center to the stones.
Despite what we read online, mud wasn’t an issue. The paths around the stones were covered and even though it was damp outside (is it ever not?), we had no trouble walking around.
Train to Salisbury
Trains leave London’s Waterloo station fairly regularly and serve Salisbury directly. You can buy tickets online ahead of time or simply wait until you get to the station. Waterloo station is also on the tube line and easily accessible from other parts of London.
Play around with the train website to understand times and costs. Costs vary depending on whether you are traveling during a peak commute time. It’s not cheap. A one-way ticket from Salisbury back to London on a weekend (off-peak) cost Mr. P and I £40 each.
To the Visitor’s Center
The visitor’s center is outside of Salisbury. Annoyingly, there is no public transportation from the train station to the center. Here are your options:
Take a cab. This can be more cost effective if you have a group of 4. We considered this so we could make our visit quick, but we were worried about finding a cab for the way back. We have heard of groups of 4 negotiating a flat rate with the taxi to drop them off and take them back after the visit.
Uber or Lyft? We also considered this but did not see any cars available when we arrived in Salisbury. We were there in January, so this may be an option if you are visiting at a peak time.
Take the Stonehenge Tour Bus. We ended up going this route and were honestly a bit annoyed that the tour bus has a bit of a monopoly on getting to the visitor’s center. It leaves from the train station and makes several stops on the way. If you are interested in seeing other sites including the Salisbury Cathedral, this is a great option.
More on the Stonehenge Tour Bus and Buying Your Stonehenge Tickets
Buy bus tickets online or the day of. We were able to buy our tickets with a credit card from the driver upon boarding.
The Tour Bus sells Stonehenge tickets as well as tickets to other sites. See their website here for a complete listing of what’s offered.
Should you buy your Stonehenge tickets on the bus or through the official site? If you’re traveling in the low season like we were, it’s easy and cost effective to just buy your bus ticket and Stonehenge ticket from the bus driver. If you’re going during a busy time, you should consider buying your ticket early from the official site to make sure they don’t run out.
The bus comes with an audio guide for the ride and great views of the town. Even though we were trying to keep our visit short and were a bit annoyed about having to stop at sites we weren’t visiting (I was pregnant and tired), the views from the top of the bus were great and I’m glad we got to see the town.
When You Get to the Visitor’s Center
Collect your tickets if you didn’t buy from the bus. We bought our tickets ahead of time along with a guidebook and pickup was really easy.
The visitor’s center is really nice. Bathrooms are new and plentiful and there’s a cafe serving locally sourced food. We had lunch there and really enjoyed it.
A free shuttle takes you from the center to the stones. It leaves every few minutes from right outside the cafe.
Free Wifi. The visitor’s center has free wifi!
Free downloadable audio guide. Instead of checking out an audio guide, we used the wifi to download the official Stonehenge free audio app. Find it here on the Play Store for Android and here on the App Store for iPhones. Download before you get on the shuttle bus and listen using your own device.
What if you have luggage?
There are no left luggage facilities at the Salisbury train station or at the Stonehenge visitor’s center. There are no luggage restrictions at Stonehenge as of this writing so theoretically you could take your suitcase. However, dragging a suitcase around sucks.
We left our luggage at the Cat Tavern near the train station. We read about this online and decided to go for it.
The Cat Tavern is a pub that will store luggage for £4 per piece (cash only) per day. They will not store luggage overnight. It’s a bit unconventional but it worked. Keep the handwritten receipt to claim your luggage! We stored two suitcases and carried a backpack with our electronics to Stonehenge.
Here’s a map. Exit the station and turn left. The tavern is just down the road on the right side of the street.
Other Sites in Salisbury
There are other noteworthy sites in the area that are worth a wander if you have a day. I don’t necessarily think an overnight is necessary, but if we had more time, we probably would have poked around town and visited the cathedral. Salisbury wasn’t bombed during World War II (the Luftwaffe used the cathedral as a way point), so a lot of the buildings in the town are really old and interesting to look at!