I am always looking for alternatives to service stations to stop and this time we decided to stop at Bolsover Castle near Chesterfield for lunch. We spent a good few hours here and left feeling rested and ready to continue our journey,
Unfortunately, the next part of our journey to YHA Cholderton hit rush hour and the motorways were at a standstill on more than one occasion. We survived though and checked into YHA Cholderton at around 8pm before heading to a local pub for dinner and enjoying an early night.
We woke early the next morning and spent some time exploring Cholderton Charlie's farm and watching the animals as they woke for breakfast. Admission to the farm park is free if you are staying at the Youth Hostel which was a huge plus point for us.
We headed to a local farm shop a few miles up the road for a hearty breakfast before making our way to Stonehenge. Tickets to Stonehenge are time allocated (pre-book online here) and we had booked to visit at 10am. The journey was straight forward and took less than 10 minutes from YHA Cholderton. I think it pays to visit earlier in the morning as after lunch the queues did seem to be considerably longer as we were leaving at around 1pm.
It is free to enter Stonehenge if you are an English Heritage member as we are (if not - it is soooo worth signing up). Or you can pay £41.60 per family including gift aid. It also costs £5 to park if you haven't pre-booked although this will be reimbursed when you buy your tickets.
The actual Stonehenge site is about 2 miles from the entrance - you can walk this which is recommended to gain perspective. It was raining though and we had three kids with us so we opted to take the free shuttle bus which leave every 10 minutes or so.
I knew there would be crowds and I didn't expect to be able to take any photographs without people in them - the pathways around the henge have been cleverly designed though and this is perfectly possible. There were lots of people with selfie sticks (erm us included) and stopping to take photos but there was room for everyone.
Stonehenge was really spiritual and definitely had some magic about it. It was definitely worth the journey. I would visit again if I was in the area - it really is special.
Below is an example of how busy it was at around 10:30am in the school holidays in August.
I just LOVE this shot of an impromptu hug between H&H
Although you cannot walk amongst the stones (unless you book on a special event) as the path snakes around you do actually get quite close.
After our leisurely stroll around the stones, stopping to read the information signs that were dotted about and looking at points of interest we hopped back on the bus towards the visitor centre.
We wandered around the Neolithic houses and imagined what life was like 4500 years ago.
We imagined how the stones would have been transported.
And even had a go at moving one ourself (we needed 95 more men).
Then it was into the indoor exhibition which is small but full of information. We loved this immersive cinema screen which showed us the history of Stonehenge through time and different seasons.
Of course we exited through the gift shop which wasn't too extortionate (fridge magnet £3.50 and mousemat £8). Harry had been learning about Stonehenge at school and knew that Woodhenge was close by so we decided to pop in - after all we had travelled this far! Woodhenge is only 2 miles away from Stonehenge and considering how busy Stonehenge was we couldn't believe it when we found Woodhenge to be deserted! Woodhenge is completely free to visit and is said to date back to 2300 BC. The original markers are no longer in place but have been replaced with wooden markers so you can get a sense of what it was like. There are information posts for you to read too and we were amazed to learn that originally the wooden posts were 9 metres tall! Amazing! After not being able to walk amongst the stones at Stonehenge (without sounding too crazy) it was wonderful to be able to run around Woodhenge - if you visit Stonehenge, don't forget about this gem too!
After our morning at Stonehenge we had built up an appetite so decided to drive an hour North to Oxford and stop for lunch. I had high hopes for Oxford and in my head I expected it to be like gorgeous York. Unfortunately, I was left un-impressed. It was just like any other high street and didn't have any of the charm I was expecting at all. Boooo! We did enjoy our lunch at the museum of modern art though - a nice healthy salad for us and Jack had the biggest cookie known to man for his pudding.
After our late lunch and a rather disappointing trip to Oxford we headed North towards YHA Sherwood forest. We arrived at around 7pm and popped to the local Chinese takeaway for supper which we enjoyed in the communal dining room. We were very lucky that our room had it's own private terrace so we enjoyed sitting outside as the sun went down and the kids practised their cartwheels before settling down for the night.
After a wonderful night's sleep at the YHA Sherwood Forest we enjoyed a cooked and continental breakfast (available at additional cost) before driving back home to Northumberland. Our whole trip took less than 60 hours! I can hand on heart say that it was completely worth it. Stonehenge is unmissable! I would urge everyone to make the trip and see it at least once in their life. If we can survive it with three children in budget accommodation, I'm sure anyone can! In our school, children learn about Stonehenge in year 3 so it was fantastic to be able to take our children and let them see Stonehenge with their own eyes - they loved it too and it was definitely a highlight from our Summer.