I’ve seen all sorts of commentary on travel sites around the Web, sandwiched in between positive comments about Stonehenge, rating the site poorly. Some of the comments basically said “It’s just a bunch of rocks,” a few were based on sheer ignorance (I’ll quote a couple of them below), quite a few were hate mail for the new Visitors Center, and others thought the site is too expensive to visit (that it ought to be free like it used to be), so let me address all of those.
It’s Just a Bunch of Rocks:
Stonehenge can be a magical place if you are in the right frame of mind. Yes, they are just rocks, but they were shaped thousands of years ago (possibly even before the oldest pyramid in Egypt), by some unknown process (some of the stones in the inner circle are smoothly worked, and others in the outer circle are more roughly worked), and were moved to the site from elsewhere (some from quarries about 25 miles away, and others possibly as much as 250 miles away in Wales). These are rocks that weigh between two and four tons each. If you look at a terrain map of the UK, the area around Stonehenge is fairly hilly, not flat and smooth, but the terrain in Wales is mountainous, and the River Severn and the Bristol Channel do a thorough job of splitting England from Southern Wales. How did they get the rocks to the Salisbury Plain 5,000 years ago, over mountains and rivers and streams? How did they raise them upright once they were there, and how did they lift some of them on top of others, securing them to each other with tongue and groove construction? There are mysteries to be solved here with the construction alone.
Stupid comments by stupid people:
People comment on websites for various reasons, but not always for helpful ones. For example, on a popular review site, on the section for Stonehenge, it is possible to give a rating of five stars (one star for bad, five for best, you can’t give it a rating of zero). As of June, 2014, when this post was written, Stonehenge had a rating at this site of 4.3 out of 5.0 stars (not perfect, but not bad). Some people who rated it lower than five had legitimate (although I think sometimes unfounded) concerns about the cost of seeing it, but had a skewed sense of how to rate the site, like the person who said “The site is nice, worth a visit,” then complained about being charged to get in, and gave it a rating of one star. Why not three or four stars? They liked it. It was worth a visit. Those single stars drag the overall rating down unfairly. Other comments I’m at a loss to explain.
One person (I’m being kind by calling him a person) gave it one star and said, “Terrible it was so stupid I kicked one of the stones and the it fell over and I was put in a jail in England for 3 years huge waste of time.” Did he think he was being clever? If he had kicked one of the stones, he would probably have just broken his toe. Knocking it over is an impossibility. It seems more likely he was just a troll trying to screw up someone’s website (the worst of the worst, IMHO).
Some other comments:
“Dis poopland is a portal to foodland!”
“Never heard of it”
“Upon arriving at the attraction we were stunned to find there were NO HINGES! Some of my group were most distraught as it dawned on us, the Door Hanging Association, that it is pronounced Stone HEnge.”
A complete waste of words, IMHO.
The new Visitors Center:
We haven’t seen it because we visited in 2010, and the new center opened in December 2013. According to what I’ve read, it’s located around two kilometers west of the monument, just off the A360. Apparently, after you park and get your entrance ticket, a shuttle bus drives you to the site and drops you off. I might have a different opinion of the center if I saw it in person, but (from the pictures I’ve seen) the exterior looks cheap and unfinished. Here’s a shot, taken by Ashley Columbus, and posted on Wikipedia.
From what I’ve read, the new Visitors Centre is supposed to enhance the experience of being at Stonehenge with a number of displays about the site and the era in which it was constructed. Some of the surrounding roads, the A344 in particular, will be closed to traffic and grassed over to try to remove the distraction of cars visible from the stones. Some of the public has said it was just to keep tourists from not paying a fee to get in.
In this satellite shot of the area, the yellow bordered area is (I believe) where the new Visitors Centre is located, although it might not take up all that space. The shuttle bus (which I’ve heard they call a land train) drives people along A344 (the red line) to the stones. I read that all the security fencing has been taken down, and the bus will also drop visitors off about halfway if they want to explore another small circle located about where the red lettered A344 is on the picture
A344 ran so close to the stones that anyone on the road would be only about twenty feet farther from the stones than people who had paid to get in. People would get out of their cars, walk up to the wire fence, and take pictures. Here’s a shot of the Heelstone (not part of the stone circle) at the fenceline, with A344 and a parked car in the background.
Here’s a post about the new center by Professor Howard Williams, archaeologist at the University of Chester.
The Fate of A303:
With cars on A344 (and part of the roadway itself) disappearing from the site, there has also been a great deal of talk about removing A303 from the landscape. Easier said than done, though. A303 is a major traffic thoroughfare. Some people are proposing putting the roadway underground, but conservation groups are opposed to the idea. Here’s a link to a Wikipedia article about it.
Do you have a thought about Stonehenge, or other famous sites or ruins? How should they be made accessible to the public? Does the public care?
Next up, Minay’s version of the day, Sunday, May 9, 2010.