Live in Bath ? Now is the time to visit Stonehenge – Yes, really!
When we have world famous monuments on our doorstep, it’s amazing how we can somehow blank them out from our field of vision. When it comes to planning a day out with family or friends we somehow feel we know all Stonehenge has to offer because we’ve driven past it a dozen times on our way to the coast.
Cast aside your cynicism and book a visit, it really is worth it. If you have National Trust membership it’s free and the same if you have English Heritage membership too. A family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children is under £40.
I visited last Friday and a few things really stand out in my memory. First, I’d forgotten how beautiful Salisbury plain can be. Low winter light across an open rolling landscape, glimpses of flint clad churches and appealing country pubs that I was committing to memory for future visits. And as you draw closer there are burial chambers peeping into view on the higher ground.
Yes, you have to dress for chilly winds and showers, but when this is all sorted you have the benefit of a world heritage site without the crowds. It’s such a wonderful way to see the stones and to wander round the exhibition area without feeling rushed.
Once inside the visitor centre you can stand at the centre of a projected image of the stone circle, watching it evolve, watching the seasons change, observing the dawn on a summer solstice and the sun setting on the midwinter solstice.
Outside are the beautifully reconstructed Neolithic dwellings, with different styles of thatch. You can wander into the houses, see the hearths and pots and allow yourself to imagine the life on Salsbury plain 4500 years ago. There’s also a copy of a sarsen stone on a sledge that you can attempt to drag on its wooden rollers- something that might be achieved with another 95 friends in tow!
A few minutes bus ride and you arrive at the stones. Time your visit right and you have the sun setting behind the monument as you approach it. With the winter sunrays scattering around the stones it felt like viewing light through a cathedral window. Is this the way it was viewed around the time of the winter solstice in the Bronze Age? It’s fun to try and imagine what the locals did here 4500 years ago, but actually it’s just as wonderful to appreciate it as it is – a special landscape where people lived, gathered and feasted over hundreds of years, travelling from across Europe and drawn together by something that we still don’t understand.