Being one of the most dinstictive landmarks in the UK and the most well known ancient site, Stonehenge begs you to visit but so many who pay for the privilege feel like it wasn’t worth it and are put off by stories of it just being so busy.
It doesn’t have to be that way and actually there’s a way to see the stones for free. Not only is this great for budget travelers but also for those who have a dog with them (like we did) and anyone who is nearby but not around in the opening times of the official site. If you struggle with big crowds it could also help there too.
I visited the stones this way in the last few days of 2022 (just after the winter solstice) and was actually really surprised by how good a view you can get of Stonehenge without paying. We walked with our dog and were almost as close as the paying visitors! I was shocked, so much so that I decided I had to write up this post. I wouldn’t have done it if all you could see was some small dots in the distance! You’ll get a fab view!
So if you’re looking to get a view of the stones, tick off that bucket list item and want to see if there’s an alternative to buying the tickets read on to see how to see Stonehenge for free.
See my other post if you want to learn more about visiting Stonehenge, what you can see and some of the history behind.
How to see Stonehenge for free
If you can, and you have time, I do advise getting yourself tickets to visit Stonehenge – you’ll get to see it from other angles and enjoy the audio guide as you go round. The new visitor centre can help get your head around the story of the stones! It’s a really nice day out.
Visiting the official site also helps to look after the place for future visitors. However I know that not everyone can do that due to budget, time or situational pressures so if that’s you I have you covered!
Stonehenge view from the road
The easiest way to see Stonehenge without paying is just taking in the view from the road.
In 2023 you’re still able to view Stonehenge from the main road that runs past the site. The road name is the A303 and you can see the stones from both sides. (There’s always some talk about rerouting the road to protect Stonehenge from emissions – so far you’re still able to see it)
Driving from east to west gives a really stunning view I thought. You drive past the roundabout and all of a sudden to your left, once the trees disappear, comes into view these huge looking stones – they almost looked bigger to me when I first saw them than further down the road. Perhaps a trick of the light? I don’t have a picture of this – anyone else who’s done the trip drop me a comment and let me know if you though the same.
You’ll then get a further 5 mins or so of driving with them in view – you can’t miss them!
Safety warning – this is a busy road, many people slow down to see the stones and it can cause accidents, slow spots in the traffic and queues. Be aware of the traffic, don’t take your eyes off the people driving in front of you and definitely don’t slow down for a better view.
If you want to actually get out and stretch your legs to see a better view of Stonehenge then read on for the next option.
How to visit Stonehenge for free (and get fairly close!)
This tip is good all year round *except* for around Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice when the area around the stone circle that you park on is closed off.
If you want to be able to get out, see the stones a little closer than from the road then these are the instructions you’ll need. They are best if you have your own car.
Access and parking
There’s a small road next to Stonehenge that is a public byway called The Drove. You can see it on Google Maps above marked with the ‘parking’ symbol.
This road is frequently peppered with camper vans of people who have stayed overnight and through the day many people will also drive down to park up and take the short walk to the stones.
You can only access The Drove from the A303 driving east, you cannot turn into it from the westbound side. Don’t worry though, there’s a roundabout just a short distance where you can double back on yourself.
I must warn you that the road itself is in very poor condition and there were lots of pot holes and deep puddles when we were there (late 2022). It was winter and just after the winter solstice so it might not be too bad at other times of the year. Just be aware, especially if you’re in a rental car and the light is fading! We saw *a lot* of people taking the road so it definitely didn’t put many off!
(If you have time and don’t want to navigate the potholes then it’s just a small walk from the beginning of the byway)
As you drive down the road you’ll see the area where the buses drop the paying visitors off. Park near here at the edge of the road and walk towards the other side of the bus area. There’s a small gate that allows you access the footpath – marked on the map above with the ‘walker’ symbol.
You can also park at the north end of this byway in a small village called Larkhill. We haven’t done it this way but it could be another option for you. It will be a little further to walk from this point.
Footpath to see Stonehenge
You’ll now be able to see Stonehenge quite well but the path will also take you up along the side of the stones as well and you can get fairly close. Plenty of opportunities to get selfies and photos of the stone circle.
At some points the footpath you’re taking is directly next to the one that the paying visitors are walking on! I was actually so surprised by this but this is a perfectly acceptable and legal way!
The footpath can be quite muddy if there’s been rain. I recommend taking sturdy shoes and be prepared to have to take them off afterwards when you return to your car to avoid dragging mud everywhere.
While you can’t see Stonehenge from a number of angles this way it’s more than adequate for many people to say they’ve been. You can’t get much closer unless you pay for specialist tours of the stones anyway!
Dogs are also allowed on this footpath so if you’re want to visit Stonehenge with dogs this is the way I would recommend. We had our dog Annie with us and I really thought we’d not be able to get anywhere near as close with her.
Which is the better way to view Stonehenge?
So now you know the options available to you which one is better?
I took this footpath the day before I went in and saw it ‘properly’ so have both experiences side by side to compare.
The free option is perfect if you’re really not that interested in the history of the site, the questions around the stones and any of the other information. If you purely want a picture this is absolutely adequate. You can see from my images here, on a late winters afternoon, that you can get a great view.
The paid option is great if you want to get more views of the stone circle. You can walk all around it this way, learning as you go from the information boards and the audio guide. There’s also a lot more to see with the visitors centre, the reconstructed village houses and the temporary exhibitions too. You can spend a good few hours doing it this way.
You might not have a choice due to time that you’re nearby or not being able to get tickets due to it being high season. Thankfully you won’t need to miss out!
Staying overnight at the Drove near Stonehenge in a camper
Just a quick note on this option – we’ve now stayed overnight at Stonehenge twice in a camper van and it’s a really nice way to see the stones, breathe in the mystical air and get a free night’s camping.
Overnight parking is tolerated on The Drove as it’s a public byway and many people do it temporarily and some more permanently (only being moved off for the Solstice celebrations).
If you do decide to come down then show the place a lot of respect, take any rubbish away with you and keep it low key!
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