I didn’t plan to visit Stonehenge in February, but the stars aligned this way 🙂 I had a business trip to London, and my dear boss, who knew I wanted to go to Stonehenge, said: ‘Why don’t we go to Salisbury for a day then?’ What it meant was that we didn’t have much choice, so rain-no rain, we had one day only for visiting Stonehenge.
Salisbury seemed to be a perfect place to use as a base as it is easy to get there from London, and it is relatively close to Stonehenge. We booked Milford Hall Hotel and Spa, a nice hotel with friendly staff, comfortable beds and excellent shower 🙂 It is close to the city center and to the bus taking to Stonehenge.
We visited Stonehenge in the second half of February, so here is everything you should know about the place and weather to make a decision.
Stonehenge and its surroundings
Before I talk about the weather, I have to introduce the place itself 🙂
Stonehenge is a prehistoric site erected about 5,000-4,000 years ago. Its purpose is still not clear: some claim it was used for astronomical observations, others think it was a healing site, another theory claims that it was a ritual place. Nevertheless, Stonehenge became an iconic monument, and thousands of people visit it every year.
Nowadays there is a visitor center about 2,5 kilometers away from the stone circle. This is the place where buses from nearby cities arrive and people start here their journey to Stonehenge. Buses to the stone circle itself depart from the visitor center, so you will have to queue here to catch one. In short, the whole process is the following: first you take the bus from Salisbury or any other city to the visitor center, cross the visitor center and get on another bus which takes you to Stonehenge.
If you don’t get tickets online, you can buy them here, but keep in mind that there will be a line. In addition to the ticket office, the center offers different facilities like a cafe, toilets, a shop with Stonehenge-themed items, a small museum with artifacts from Stonehenge area and neolithic homes to see how people lived in those ancient times.
Stonehenge is not the only interesting site in the area. There are numerous barrows around, like Stonehenge Cursus Barrows and Old Kings Barrow, and other places like Cuckoo stone and Woodhenge. If you have time and the weather is nice, check the area. If you want to see some of the barrows, the bus makes a stop somewhere mid-way between the visitor center and Stonehenge.
FYI: visitors are not allowed to get very close to the stones and there are designated paths to follow. But visitors can walk inside the stone circle on specific dates: here is more info about it. It is more expensive, but, I think, totally worth it.
Something interesting: do you want to see the sky above Stonehenge? There is a web page where you can do it 🙂
Weather in Stonehenge in February
We arrived in Salisbury late in the evening and there were puddles everywhere. It was clear that it rained, but I hoped we would be lucky with the weather the next day. Spoiler alert: we weren’t.
It was cloudy and drizzling when we went to catch the bus, and when we arrived at Stonehenge Visitor Center, the weather didn’t change.
After waiting a bit in the cold, we got to the bus that took us to Stonehenge itself. It stopped drizzling, but was extremely windy and cold. Mind you, Stonehenge is in an open space, where winds blow without meeting any obstacles.
I wasn’t dressed appropriately, so we just made a circle around Stonehenge and went back to the bus. Just in time, actually, because it started raining, so we hid in the museum of the visitor center.
But the real thing started when we took the bus back to Salisbury. It was raining cats and dogs! We wanted to visit Old Sarum (the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury) as well, but seeing this wall of rain we decided to go to Salisbury Cathedral instead.
And do you want to know the best part? The rain stopped and the sun came up about an hour after we arrived in Salisbury! And the next day, when we had to leave for London, the weather was perfect! It was warm and sunny! I could hear my teeth gritting 🙂
Crowds at Stonehenge in February
Somewhere deep in my heart I hoped there would not be many people at Stonehenge 🙂 After all, it was February and the weather was dreadful. The bus that took us there was almost empty, so I was surprised to see all these people.
Yes, the place was bustling. The visitor center was full of people: part were in the museum, others in the cafe and the shop, some were queuing to buy tickets, others were waiting for the shuttle bus to take them to Stonehenge. We joined the latter, and the following bus got full before it was our turn, so we had to wait for the next.
Around Stonehenge itself, which is quite huge, the crowd didn’t seem so big, and it was easy to take pictures of stones without people in the frame 🙂
Frankly, I don’t even want to imagine the number of people who come here during the high season 🙂
How to buy tickets and how to get to Stonehenge from Salisbury
Buying tickets for Stonehenge is easy: just go to their official website, select the date of your visit and pay. According to the rules, visitors have to select a time slot for a visit: you will be prompted to do that. Better don’t be late 🙂 Online tickets cost 19 GBP, or 20,90 GBP with gift aid, but you can say ‘no’ to it and pay 19 GBP. Keep in mind there is a discounted fee for children and families. If you decide to buy them on site, the cost is 21,10 GBP and 23,30 GBP respectively. More info on fares and opening times is here.
Now, about getting to Stonehenge from Salisbury. No matter how much I googled and searched for buses, the most cost effective way of getting there was to take the Stonehenge tour bus. As far as I know, it is the only bus that goes right to the Stonehenge Visitor Center (that is if you don’t opt for an organised tour, where everything will be taken care of). The cost of return tickets is 10 GBP per person.
There are some other buses that go from Salisbury to Amesbury, town close to Stonehenge, but it is my understanding that there is no bus from Amesbury to Stonehenge, so you will have to get there on foot or a bike: iI think the distance is more than 3 kilometers to the stone circle and about 5-6 kilometers to the visitor center. The return ticket for these buses is 6,60 GBP. There is more info on buses and fares.
As the Stonehenge tour bus is the official partner of Stonehenge, they offer combined tickets on their website. For example, a ticket for the bus ride and visits to Stonehenge and Old Sarum costs 31,50 GBP. This is what we opted for as there is no big difference in price and it is convenient: the bus takes right to the Stonehenge Visitor Center and there is no need to wait in line to buy tickets. We bought ours online and I had them printed with us. Our ticket included the bus ride to/from Stonehenge, entrance to the museum at the visitor center and access to Stonehenge itself.
It would be fair to mention that it wasn’t strictly necessary to buy tickets in advance in February. I was under the impression that a day before the actual visit is good as well. I saw a couple of people just paying for tickets directly in the bus, but I am not sure whether they paid for the ride only, or for Stonehenge access as well.
So, should you visit Stonehenge in February?
There is a very important advantage of visiting Stonehenge in February: the crowds are definitely smaller than during the high season. And you will get to see Stonehenge without anyone obstructing the way, and you will not have to push anyone to get closer. Queues are definitely shorter, so you will not have to wait long for the bus. I liked this very much.
My only complaint was the weather, but this wouldn’t have been a problem if we had stayed longer in Salisbury and could choose another day to go to Stonehenge. For example, the next day, when it was warm and sunny 🙂
My verdict: I do not see anything wrong with visiting Stonehenge in February, unless you can choose a day with nice weather 🙂