Saturday, 1 August 2015

Stonehenge; yes or no?

As we drove along the A303 to the London a couple of weekends ago, we pointed Stonehenge out to DC. We've driven past plenty of times, but on this occasion something must have made his brain cells touch together and he actually took an interest and asked whether we could visit. Well, it's the summer holidays and we're always looking for things to keep the dear child occupied, so what better than to go somewhere he actually wants to go. And so I give you


Since hubby and I last visited (2012), a road has been blocked off, a swanky new visitor centre (of which I completely forgot to take any photos) has been constructed, and buses now take you to the stone circle. DC was pleased to be there, although slightly disappointed to find that you can't get up close and personal to the stones.
DC with Granny and George Bear

We were lucky enough to visit on a dry day (there have been few enough of those so far this 'summer'), but it was still a bit chilly and fairly blustery. It's quite an exposed spot in the middle of the plain, and the sky and clouds seemed mighty big.

 DC asked if he could take some photos with my phone and I think it's fair to say he did a good job (much better than my mum who managed to chop our heads off and not get any of Stonehenge in the background, so I deleted her efforts...)

There's a glimpse of the visitor centre in the background of this shot. DC is testing his strength trying to move a sarcen stone. There's also a small group of reconstructed houses from the time that Stonehenge was built, each containing a few items such as pots, skins, tools, etc, but with absolutely no information on what anything was, who might have lived in the houses, how the space would have been used, etc. The visitor centre contains an exhibition space with a display of items found at Stonehenge - bones, pots, weapons - plus information on how the stone circle was built, how it was used, etc, a very nice cafe and a large shop. We probably spent more time in there than up at the stones, but then we are rather partial to a nice cafe.

Luckily we are National Trust members which means we can visit for free. English Heritage members get the same privileges; the stones are managed by EH while the NT manages the surrounding land. Otherwise it costs £15.50 for an adult and £9.30 for a child, which strikes me as being quite pricey. On top of that there's an extra charge of £2 for an audio tour and more again for a guide book. I'm pretty sure the audio tour used to be included in the ticket price. You can, however, download the audio tour for free via an app onto your mobile photo (although it's quite awkward to use if you also want to take photos with your phone as you have to keep coming out of the app and then going back into it - I gave up listening to it quite quickly because of this.) I'm glad we didn't have to pay the entrance fee as I do feel it is quite high, especially when you consider that really all you're looking at is a bunch of old stones (call me a heathen); comparing the entrance fee to say, Hampton Court where for £16.50 (£8.25 child) you get to see the palace, maze and gardens plus the audio guide is included, there are costumed historical re-enactments, children's activities and more. Stonehenge could do with offering more interactive 'stuff', alongside the sarcen stone and the reconstructed houses and perhaps a few members of staff around and about who could answer questions or demonstrate things. And the other thing to consider is the timing of your visit; in the summer Stonehenge is open from 9am til 8pm (last entry is at 6pm) and you have to book tickets in advance for a timed slot, although some walk-up tickets are also available. We got there just after 10am and there were no queues AT ALL (our timed tickets were actually for 10.30am but we were allowed through early with no issues). When we got back to the visitor centre at about 11.30am after visiting the stones, the queues were VERY LONG - I would estimate at least 100 people/groups in each queue, and they stayed that way right up until we left at 2pm.

Don't let me put you off visiting Stonehenge as it probably is one of those 'Bucket List' kind of places, but it's definitely worth considering the cost, the timing of your visit, and also the weather!

1 comment:

  1. First visited Stonehenge many years ago before they roped it off. We had a picnic among the stones. Have visited it since, but it's just not the same. I prefer Avebury.


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