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I was in the UK near Christmas and was planning on going to Stonehenge, but it was apparently closed. I figured that Stonehenge was a natural destination and anyone could basically just drive up to it. So what does it mean when it's "closed?"

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    Worth noting that Stonehenge isn't exactly "natural" - it was erected by civilized humans, and the current arrangement of the stones is a Victorian-era reconstruction. – CMaster Jan 3 at 10:55
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    @CMaster "Restoration" would probably be more accurate, there was some work done on straightening one of the stones to stop it from falling over during Victorian times, during which time it was moved by around half a metre. The others were not moved. Reconstruction implies the entire site was rebuilt, but that simply isn't the case. – AdzzzUK Jan 3 at 12:28
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    @AdzzzUK it goes beyond straightening - numerous of the lintel pieces were lifted back in to place, and considerable amounts of concrete were poured. Reconstruction probably exaggerates things, but then "restoration" probably gives excessive credit to the archaeology used in the various moved stones. In fact, major changes contined through the 1950s also blog.english-heritage.org.uk/… – CMaster Jan 3 at 13:30
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    This is the footpath you can take any time bbc.com/news/uk-england-wiltshire-41567878 When I came by bike in 2016 it was not bad either, just a little bit farther. – Vladimir F Jan 3 at 13:58
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    For those surprised by claims of it being a reconstruction, see skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/32583/… – Andrew Grimm Jan 5 at 1:29
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Stonehenge is situated on the edge of Salisbury Plain and as such is clearly visible from the A303 and a minor road that passes it. Yes, you can just 'drive up to it'. Viewing it from the road is somewhat hazardous, however, there being no pedestrian footpaths along those roads.

The actual site is managed by English Heritage who control access, operate the visitor shop, cafe, museum and car park. If the Stonehenge is 'closed' it means that none of those facilities are available, and access to the space surrounding the stones won't be possible.

Note that the public are no longer allowed access to the stones themselves. The nearest one can get is about 10m away along a marked path. This is a sad reflection on the demands placed on such sites by visitors. (As a child in the Sixties I remember climbing on the stones!)

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    I believe its probably things like your experience from the sixties that has contributed to it being restricted to viewing from a small distance.. – Trotski94 Jan 3 at 9:19
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    Incidentally, I think they fenced off the stones after some kid climbed on them in the sixties. – Strawberry Jan 3 at 10:20
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    Whatever, this doesn't answer is it possible (and legal) to view the stones when it's closed? "access to the space surrounding the stones won't be possible" That's pretty vague. How close can you actually get when it's closed? Can you get to the path? neighbouring fence? – smci Jan 3 at 12:04
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    @smci -- I'll decide on my own whether this answers my question or not. (And it does.) – Voldemort's Wrath Jan 3 at 15:29
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    Fun fact: in the nineteenth century it was considered acceptable for visitors to chip off a little bit of the Stonehenge stones as a souvenir. They even rented you a chisel. – DJClayworth Jan 3 at 15:34
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Stonehenge the tourist attraction is not just a natural destination. Like many sites that attract large numbers of visitors, there are timed tickets, admission fees, parking areas, a visitor center/exhibit, restroom, cafe, paved paths, shuttle buses, ropes to tell you where you can and can't stand, staff to oversee all this, etc... When the site is closed, that's all shut down. You can see this on a map of the site, which shows the pathways and areas for ticket holders.

However, it is possible to access the area without a ticket, and you can still see the stones from outside the ticketed area on a nearby road (though as noted in that article, parking on the road is not permitted) or if you hike in. This blog post provides further details and illustrates the view from outside the fence and its proximity to the paid area (which is also some distance away from the stones, except for special tours and the solstices).

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    ... They turned it to a stone museum, and now they charge you a sterling and a half just to see 'em... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 4 at 16:59
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    That last link is accurate. The others are out of date. in particular there is no public access to that dirt road. Additionally, while the paid area does not allow you to touch any stones, the path does cross the inner ditch and passes very close to the heel stone: map – OrangeDog Jan 5 at 14:43

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