24th March 2019
Last time I went to Stonehenge you could still walk right up to the stones, so it must have been in the 1970s. I vaguely remember the old visitor centre and car park. Of course back then the A344 still passed to the north of the monument, since then it has been closed and partly obliterated, the remaining part being used for shuttle buses to ferry the less able bodied or the lazy from the new visitor centre to the stones.
The new visitor centre contains an exhibition about the site, a ticket office, toilets, and of course a gift shop and cafeteria.
Entry is by timed ticket. I got in for "free" as an English Heritage member as do National Trust members but you do need to download a timed ticket and present this at the ticket office where an entry ticket will be issued. I was a bit early but was told not to take any notice of the time on the ticket and just go in anyway via the exhibition where my ticket was examined and ticked with a marker pen. The exhibition would be worth spending some time studying if you weren't at all familiar with Stonehenge. I gave it a brief tour and then headed outside, past the replica neolithic houses, and walked up the former A344 to the monument.
On arrival at the end of the access road where the shuttle buses stop my ticket was checked again and I was allowed to join the crowds around the stones. The majority of whom seemed to be busloads of European teenagers, presumably on school trips. Along with them were the obligatory Oriental tourists and the occasional New Age pagan type. What they all had in common was an obsession with taking selfies.
There are plenty of theories and many of them have evidence to support them. I don't propose to go not them here though.
One thing is certain though, they had bugger all to do with the Druids. Not the original ones anyway. There were one or two modern ones amongst the crowds though.
The closest point that the fenced path gets is to the back of the monument where many of the stones are missing, affording a better view into the interior.
It's here that the press of selfie takers is thickest. In fact some visitors don't seem to bother looking any further. Stonehenge ✅
Walking back to the visitor centre I went the quiet way, up across the chalk to the Cursus Barrows and then behind the wooded area of the Fargo Plantation.
That A303 of course may not be there in future if the plans go ahead to put it in a tunnel, depriving passing travellers of a free view of the stones. It might or might not also end the long traffic jams at busy times although more likely will just move them elsewhere.
So did I enjoy my second visit to Stonehenge? Yes, up to a point. Over the last couple of years I have driven past it many times on the way to work somewhere or other so it made a change to turn off at the Winterbourne Stoke roundabout instead. Would I have visited if I'd had to stump up the £20 rather than got in "free" as a member?
Probably not if I'm honest. As with many of our heritage sites there's a certain amount of "disneyfication" that puts me off.
Anyway, Flickr Album of photographs of the stones and surroundings here.