History buff on the hunt for a budget-friendly stone formation? Or simply curious? If the gift shop, fences and entry fees at Stonehenge leave you stone cold, explore these free-to-see rock stars from our new title, The Best Things in Life are Free, instead.
Poulnabrone Dolmen – Ireland
Balanced on the breathtakingly bleak Burren on Ireland’s western flank, this elegantly poised dolmen (portal tomb) is 5000 to 6000 years old. Although there are half-hearted ropes (to discourage half-hearted climbers) you can walk freely around it.
County Clare, Ireland; 24hr; free.
Ring of Brodgar – Scotland
Probably Britain’s best-preserved stone circle, 27 of the original 60 megaliths at this 4000-year-old site still stand. Measuring 104m across, the ring remains an enigma – used for astronomy possibly, or religious rituals.
Historic-scotland.gov.uk; Mainland, Orkney, Scotland; 24hr; free tours daily Jun-Aug, Thu rest of year.
Trethevy Quoit – England
Perched on a promontory overlooking the confluence of two streams, this quoit (portal dolmen/tomb) was built between 3700 BC and 3300 BC, probably to house bones – although the acidity in the earth has long since eaten the evidence.
Dolmen de Menga – Spain
A behemoth burial mound, the chamber of this 25m-long tumulus – built around 3000 BC with 32 megaliths – was found to contain hundreds of skeletons when it was opened in the 19th century.
Grimspound and Drizzlecombe – England
Beautiful, desolate Dartmoor is littered with Neolithic and Bronze Age cairns and stone circles, all free for hikers to discover. Notable sites include Grimspound near Widecombe-in-the-Moor and Drizzlecombe’s towering menhirs.
English-heritage.org.uk; Dartmoor, England; 24hr; free.
Dolmen de Mané Kerioned – France
Carnac is covered with hundreds of standing stones and dolmens. The main site charges €6 for tours (except in winter, when access is free), but nearby Dolmen de Mané Kerioned (three dolmens and small menhirs, all dating to c 3500 BC) is free year-round.
Poskær Stenhus – Denmark
Denmark’s largest surviving round barrow / henge boasts 23 stones, including an 11.5-tonne capstone, which has stood on its neighbours’ shoulders since it was balanced there c 3300 BC. Look through the Poskær burial chamber at dawn on the spring equinox to see the sunrise.
Visitdjursland.com; Porskærvej 10, Denmark; 24hr; free.
Bryn Celli Ddu – Wales
The ‘Mound in the Dark Grove’ is a 5000-year-old Neolithic chambered tomb and henge, designed to precisely align with the rising sun during the summer solstice, when a shaft of light penetrates the passageway and illuminates the inner burial chamber.