I don’t really think that Stonehenge requires much of an introduction and I have written about my first visit to the site here. This time I made the return because my brother had never been and wanted to go and we happened to be holidaying fairly nearby.
This was my first visit since the new visitor centre and shuttle were put in place and it is definitely a big improvement. The advice these days is to book in advance, which we did; although you can buy tickets on the day the advanced tickets queue certainly moved a lot faster. I’d also advise getting there early if you can – we didn’t have to wait for the shuttle bus but when we were leaving the queues to get to the stones were snaking all around the building.
We didn’t have the best weather on our visit, it was overcast pretty much the whole time and at one point the heavens opened and we were completely soaked; still, it made for some atmospheric photographs.
Just outside the visitor centre there are now five Neolithic houses with replica artefacts inside such as pottery, used to demonstrate how the people who built Stonehenge may have lived.
I liked the fact that you could walk inside them and get a feel for their homes; I’m not sure the beds looked terribly comfortable!
They were built by English Heritage volunteers using authentic local materials. We were particularly impressed by the thatching on the roofs; three tonnes of wheat straw were used to accomplish this.
The other new additions I really liked were the “Standing in the Stones” 360º video from inside the stones that cycles through the different seasons, and the exhibition that features prehistoric objects from the site, on loan from several local museums.
Particularly fascinating was the skeleton and facial reconstruction of a man buried near the monument over 5,000 years ago. Forensic analysis has shown that he travelled a lot during his childhood, and that he had an injury to his right leg.
The special exhibition when we visited was called “Wish You Were Here” and focused on the different souvenirs and adverts that have been produced to celebrate Stonehenge – exactly the kind of thing I like looking at. Some of my favourites were the old admission tickets and the pottery produced which included a First World War tank and, rather oddly, a chicken.
Always a delight to visit the work English Heritage have done to improve the visitor experience has paid off very well.
You can find more photos of this, and my previous visit, here.