Stonehenge - 4th April 2016
It was an overcast day today, but we still decided to head on down to Stonehenge as the Easter holidays draw to a close. It was spitting with rain when we got there, but everyone was up for the visit.
We decided to go straight to the stones to see how the new layout looked. The visitor centre is now a fair distance from the remains so a hopper bus is laid on to transport everyone to the monument if so required. The mini-bus runs to within a few hundred metres of the monument but the rest of the way can be walked quite easily. The old road that used to run beside the stones has been removed and the landscape is looking a lot better now that the surroundings have been returned to "native" plains/grass/scrubland. The main road, the A303, is still there in the background but now seems to be a lot less intrusive. Visitors are still not allowed to enter the henge or stone circles contained within, but the outer-rim grass walkway is just the right distance away to still get some decent shots of the monument.
The old visitor path still crosses the henge's ditch and bank like it used to so one can get a little closer to the stones at that point, and the entry way to the monument now has a new environmentally friendly path that runs past the Heel Stone. There are some new visitor information points with lots of text and pictures to explain what one is looking at.
After spending a good half-an-hour walking around the monument, we decided to head back to the Exhibition Centre. We hopped back on the courtesy bus and had a quick look in the hall. There is not a great deal in there but just enough to pass half-an-hour comfortably without getting too bored or snowed under by umpteen musty display cabinets. Everything is now high-tech and displayed in a coherent and east to understand way. The two shows in the main auditorium and hall are short enough to keep the kids enthralled without the chance to get bored.
We then spent a little time in the gift shop where all sorts of goodies are on offer; there is the usual cheap tat, but also some very interesting books, clothing and ornaments. The gift shop is laid out in a way that they are bound to make loads of money (that is now required more than ever as English Heritage is now a charity and not a government run department). We bought a few items; the ubiquitous guide book, activity and pop-up books for the kids, and a t-shirt for our youngest.
Finally, we headed to the restaurant/canteen to grab a coffee for Mrs. Odo and a sandwich for our eldest daughter (she didn't fancy what we had brought for her in the packed lunch). This is where the attraction makes a lot of its money - the food and drink is very expensive. I am so glad we brought a packed lunch. We retired to the car to eat it and then headed on home.
All in all, it was a pleasant few hours to spend at an awe-inspiring monument that I have great affinity for.