Stonehenge with a Toddler
Stonehenge might be one of the most iconic historic sites in the United Kingdom and a very popular World Heritage Site. Whether you’ve lived in the UK your whole life like me, or whether you’re visiting from abroad, it’s likely that a visit to Stonehenge is on the bucket list. We visited Stonehenge as a three generational family, my husband, our two year old and I, as well as my parents-in-law and sister-in-law who were visiting from the United States.
This prehistoric monument from around 2800BC is awe-inspiring to look at and to imagine how it was constructed and how many lives it has affected over thousands and thousands of years. It’s older than the pyramids and with the stones being brought from West Wales by unknown means, it’s a mystery and I suspect will always remain so. We don’t even know what Stonehenge was used for! They think that it was ceremonial, and used for large gatherings and feasts, but of course there are all sorts of theories and unless time travel becomes possible, something no one will ever have an answer for.
Wherever you are visiting from and whatever your family makeup – or if you’re visiting solo – then I highly recommend spending half a day here. Of course traveling with a baby or a toddler can pose some extra challenges, so I’m also covering in depth the things you need to know about bringing babies, toddlers and children to the monument if you’re coming as a family.
How do I get to Stonehenge?
By Car – Stonehenge is very easy to get to via car, with a large car park outside the visitor centre. It’s located in Wiltshire, near Salisbury (well worth a visit to Salisbury Cathedral afterwards!) If you’re driving down the A303 you can see Stonehenge from the road – which is why the traffic here always moves at a snails pace as everyone is looking at it. If driving by car, the Sat Nav postcode is SP4 7DE and it’s well signposted.
By Organized Coach Trip – You can easily get coach trips from London, Bath, Cruise Port terminals in the south (such as Southampton, Bristol and Cardiff), or you can get a day tour from Salisbury as well. You are likely to find day trips available from most major cities / towns in the South East or South West of England.
By Bus / Train – From Salisbury Train Station which has connections across most of the south of England, you can hop on the Stonehenge Tour Bus which leaves every 30 minutes in peak times. This is the easiest way to get to Stonehenge via public transport, without being on a pre-booked tour. You can also buy a ticket that includes entry into Stonehenge on the bus which is handy.
What is there to see at Stonehenge? How does it work? How close can you get? How long will I spend there?
I think these are the top questions for visiting Stonehenge so I’ll answer them first! Stonehenge includes a visit to the prehistoric monument itself, and you can get fairly close – about 10 to 20 ft away. It is roped off and you will not be able to get near enough to touch the stones or walk amongst them. As you can imagine, with tens of thousands of people visiting every day, it would be impossible for them to preserve this site if everyone was up close. You park in the free car park and then you must take a dedicated bus to the site. The bus journey takes about 5 minutes, or you can walk it if you want, either along the road, or along the off-road trail which is very scenic and a great way to experience the countryside. You cannot drive to the site itself, you must either walk or take the bus.
As well as seeing the main stones at Stonehenge and having an opportunity to walk across the countryside to see it if you decide to, there’s also a brand new visitor centre which includes educational information and some historical artifacts. There are also historical stone houses that you can walk around. I would allow at least 45 – 60 minutes to see Stonehenge, enough time to walk there or catch the bus (bearing in mind there may be queues), and then 15 minutes for the prehistoric houses and perhaps 15 – 30 minutes for the visitor centre. Overall I’d say a visit at a quiet time would not exceed two hours, but perhaps three hours if you are visiting at busier times. If you’re in a rush and are on a tightly packed itinerary, you could see the stones and come back in an hour at quieter times.
When to Visit Stonehenge and do I need to buy tickets in advance?
Even on a bright and sunny day, the area around Stonehenge can be very windy. It will be much quieter on cold and wet days, but your experience and visibility will also be affected. So it’s up to you what time of year you visit, but we chose a cloudy, yet mild day. There were heavy winds around Stonehenge itself, and you’ll be out in the open for at least 30-45 minutes or more. So I’d recommend wrapping up warm and bringing an extra layer to what you would usually expect, and this is especially important for babies, toddlers and children.
You can buy pre-booked tickets online for a specific time slot. It’s worth noting this time slot doesn’t actually seem to matter much. You can still get access to the site for the entire day. We booked, and arrived at 10am, with the site opening at 9:30am. The earlier you get here the quieter it is. There were perhaps a few hundred people maximum around Stonehenge when we arrived, and we got straight on the first bus up there. It is possible for time slots to completely sell out as there is a maximum capacity, so that’s a big advantage of pre-booking online (and it’s cheaper too).
Coming back we had to queue for 15 minutes for a return bus, and then the queue to go up there was 30 minutes+, with many many hundreds of people queuing for tickets. So my advise if you are traveling alone and not with a tour group is to go as early in the day as you can, as you’ll get in before most of the travelers and big coaches!
Can I bring a stroller / pram?
Yes, absolutely. We took our stroller to visit Stonehenge. The only thing to be aware of us that you can only fit two strollers on each visitor bus, and these take up the spaces for disabled passengers. Therefore at busy times you might have to wait for the next bus if your stroller doesn’t fold down small. The buses are running every couple of minutes so they’re plentiful and the site is extremely well managed, so a staff member will let you know if the stroller fits on and put you at the front of the line for the next bus if it doesn’t. If you are walking to the site instead of taking the visitor bus then you can walk along the road with a stroller, but I personally don’t recommend it. The off-road trail which is the best way of seeing the countryside is not stroller friendly, but you could easily use a baby carrier.
The area around Stonehenge itself is path in some places and maintained grass in others. You can take a stroller around the entire Stonehenge circle without problems. Overall I’d say that logistically this is an excellent site for a stroller.
Will a Toddler enjoy Stonehenge?
Well… no, not really. I can’t imagine babies and toddlers taking much from this experience. It is something different to see but there are a lot of crowds and not really much ability to run around. They can’t climb on anything or touch anything, and there’s no playground or interactive exhibits or anything aimed at children at all.
William did point at it, but he also gave me a face which clearly said “Why are we here mummy?”
If there was one thing I would suggest it would be adding something to allow kids to burn off some energy. At the moment it is certainly practical to bring young children to Stonehenge, but if they’re too young to be interested in the historical and educational aspect, there’s nothing for them here other than accompanying you on a day out. I have no regrets about bringing a two year old with me, as this was the only way we could see Stonehenge and we still got to spend time and enjoy the experience together as a family, but it was definitely more for us than for him!
Other things to know about visiting Stonehenge
Other things to note for a family visiting Stonehenge are that parking is free and there are loads of parent and child spaces that are extra wide. They’re situated in the first row, closest to the building and next to the disabled spaces. There is a cafe and gift shop on site, but it is very expensive. There are not many places to eat a picnic either. The toilets are plentiful and well equipped to deal with crowds, with baby change cubicles located next to the disabled toilets.
Once you get on the bus there are no facilities for using the bathroom, buying drinks or getting a snack, so make sure you pack fully prepared and don’t board that bus until everyone is ready!
There are no child-entertainment or play facilities and children might find the museum and houses quite boring but children under 5 do go free.
For wildlife lovers you will immediately spot the birds at Stonehenge! The most prominent are the rooks – which look like very large crows with a larger and more pointed beak. They are extremely tame and will even take food out of your hand, quite happily posing for photos just inches away from you. You’ll also see jackdaws and crows in the surrounding woodland, but Rooks are territorial and they chase off most birds, including pigeons and seagulls, which I think we’re all quite happy about.
So is it worth visiting Stonehenge with children?
I think you should definitely visit Stonehenge at least once in your life. This is a unique monument and one of the great mysteries of the prehistoric world… but it really is somewhere for adults and older children who can appreciate that. I would only take a baby, toddler or young child if you simply want to spend time together as a family, which I did. We absolutely loved our morning spent as a family at Stonehenge, and the toddler enjoyed spending time with us, so it was a win win!
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