Stonehenge is without doubt, one of the most instantly recognisable man made structures on earth. Its breathtaking beauty and sheer complexity of construction have caused mankind to be held in its awe for millennia. Now a World Heritage Site, Stonehenge is for many the very essence of what a stone circle should be. Why then? I hear you ask, has the ultimate achievement of our ancient ancestors been turned into a mini theme park?
A visit to Stonehenge these days is a visit to my own personal Hell. I don't mind the flocks of tourists, and school groups: I expect them at such an impressive site. But the burger bar and tacky souvenir shop, I ask why? Sure there was always that little trailer in the car-park selling mugs and paperweights, but that was quaintly British. This is all out Americana.
There have been plans afoot for years to save Stonehenge from this ignominy but none have born fruit. The last idea was to construct a 1.3 mile tunnel to by-pass the monument and a new visitor centre situated a good distance away from the stones. However, it also involved the destruction of large quantities of archaeology associated with Stonehenge's landscape and the plan was finally scrapped on 6 December 2007. So the entrance debacle remains and large trucks still whiz by.
Located on the A303 in Wiltshire between Amesbury and Winterbourne Stoke, Stonehenge is accessed from the car park via a tunnel under the road, which forces you to pass the tacky shops. The road, it should be noted, misses the Heel Stone by only a few meters. Despite all this nonsense the stones themselves are amazing. Although size and quality may not always go hand-in -hand, in this case they most certainly do. Take a walk round to the far side and you could almost forget about the entrance nonsense. It is here that you are best afforded a chilled moment, but it will probably be brief. Still: at least you will have observed one of ancient man's most wondrous legacies, and you can dream of a day in the not too distant future perhaps, when the stones will be in a field and not a theme park!
Oh! Don't forget Stonehenge is a magnet for hippies and assorted oddballs, so you may wish to take an appropriate protective talisman.
NB: If you want to see Stonehenge in a different light see my Stonehenge Oddysey page!