I realise that if you are a frequent traveller it is all too easy to underestimate the attractions of your own country and to take many things for granted. Familiarity can certainly breed contempt and so I am always careful to try to appreciate what Britain has to offer and always attempt to experience every destination through the eyes of a visitor who is unfamiliar with our history, architecture and countryside. Despite this there is one supremely famous and revered place that I simply cannot get excited about – Stonehenge.
The First Visit
I first visited the site back in the 1980’s but I was not there to see the stones. I was attending the legendary rock festival in the adjacent fields on the occasion of my 21st birthday. Even in the midst of the music I was keen to see the stones for the first time and took the opportunity to wander up there between performances. These were the days when you could walk right up to and around the stones and there were plenty of revellers up there admiring the historic site. Several folksy sorts and rather bohemian looking groups were sitting around playing their instruments and looking a little spaced out which was all very amusing but I found the stones themselves to be underwhelming.
I don’t know what I had been expecting to see but the monument was much smaller than I had imagined and didn’t impress me at all. I returned to the festival and was not to see Stonehenge again for many years. Subsequent visits escorting friends have done nothing to change my mind about the place which seems even less impressive when you have to admire it from a greater distance as you cannot now enter the circle.
Millions of tourists head for Stonehenge every year I often wonder what they really think. If I had travelled for hours to see the circle of stones I know how I would be feeling! I note that the average time spent at the site is a mere 30 minutes and as most of that would be swallowed up walking to and from the circle from the parking area I would suggest that I am not alone in my thoughts about the place.
New Visitor Centre
This week a new visitor centre opens and it is predicted that the average stay will lengthen to 2 hours. This basically suggests that people will be spending three times as long in the centre as actually viewing Stonehenge making a trip to the site yet more pointless. The visitor centre is over a mile from the stones and guests will be transported all or part of the way by bus. Naturally all this has to be paid for and the entrance fees are to rise from £8 to £14.90. This is an enormous amount to pay to see very little of note and I won’t be bothering. Trust me you can see Stonehenge quite clearly from the main road as you drive to somewhere more exciting and interesting elsewhere.
Article by Sally Stacey