Stonehenge. We have a mission: to follow the route of an old 1940s board game around Great Britain, sticking to the instructions as closely as we possibly can. Along the way we will look at the history of the places we visit, with a particular focus on how things have changed since the tour was created around 70 years ago.
The next square on the board was for Salisbury, but the instructions told us to visit Stonehenge as part of this location, so it made sense to do that first and then head south-east to Salisbury, what with the destinations from then on being all along the coast for a while.
Surrounded by hundreds of burial mounds, Stonehenge was constructed at some point during the 3rd Millennium BC. The sheer quantity of human remains found at the site would tend to suggest that it was basically a massive monument in the middle of a graveyard. The methods by which the stone was transported and raised are a matter of conjecture.
Part of my remit when writing this account of our tour is to look at how things might have changed since the Tour of Great Britain game was created, circa 1948. Although the site is basically the same, the visitor’s experience has changed beyond all recognition. While my parents used to be able to visit the stones for free and have a picnic amongst them, now a visitor must pay around £15 to £18 per adult at the time of writing, depending on gift aid / pre-booking etc. We decided not to pre-book as it involves choosing a specific time slot, and we did not want to be rushed to get there. I felt quite sorry for a small group of South Korean tourists in front of us in the queue, who had to part with about £160 between them to get in. Upon entry there is a small museum and then a bus takes you to the stones, which are fenced off but can be viewed from a reasonable distance. One side was closed off due to ground conditions when we visited, necessitating a photograph with the sun behind the stones – atmospheric but a little dark.
Others may disagree strongly with this view, but having visited Egypt and seen what was being built elsewhere around the time of Stonehenge’s construction, this little ring of stones did not quite impress me as much as I had hoped. In fact, I much preferred Avebury. Next stop Salisbury!
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The photos that accompany this post were taken during our visit. Please do not reuse them without permission.