Stonehenge…wonder of ancient world. It seems to be on the list of must-sees for Americans when they go on vacation to England. The U.K. has done a wonderful job of building up the hype and mystique to the point where we have to go because “The stones have an interesting history! They’re connected to the Druids or something.”
I am here to tell you not to go. Don’t do it. You are not going to get anything out of it. You are going to be let down. You may as well just watch This is Spinal Tap.
Here is why:
1. The A303 is the road leading to Stonehenge. Around the site, it is one of the most congested roads in England during the summer. Prepare to die a thousand deaths while waiting to get to the exalted zone. I wouldn’t be surprised if they found a burial ground of ancient people stuck in traffic preserved in their carts. It is also one of the most contested roads, as far as planning, because people are constantly arguing about how to alleviate traffic versus historic conservation, and there are no signs of the fight letting up.
2. Unless you know something substantial about the history of Stonehenge and keep up with the latest findings beforehand, you really cannot appreciate what is there before you. There are plenty of resources out there from PBS documentaries, library books, and articles in the British papers. The story is fascinating and well worth a study. You can read all the huge walls of information beforehand as you approach the viewing area, but that is too much to take in when you really just want to get to the main event.
3. Even if you did know the history of Stonehenge, you would know that it is just the epicenter of a vast ancient complex. You would want to see the rest of the land which would involve having to navigate the wiggly roads of Wiltshire that are either inaccessible or confusing. Meanwhile, you are driving on the left side of the road. Not even GPS would save you.
4. Once you get there, you are not allowed anywhere near the stones. Yes, morons decided to practice their graffiti skills and ruined it for the rest of us.
5. The stones have all fallen down and been put back up at one point or another during the 20th century. This does not take away from the achievement of the stones existing on that spot. Kudos to the ancient people who pulled off that feat. But this says more of a national propensity to have to arrange things just so to make history look the way the nation wants it. We are guilty of it over here too.
6. There really isn’t much else to do around Stonehenge unless you know Wiltshire or people in Wiltshire. Just going to Stonehenge is not a great day out. Well, you will be stuck on the A303, so that is neither here nor there.
7. My mother-in-law lives close by. It’s bad enough that I married into the family. She doesn’t need more Americans milling around.
So for the pleasure of all of this, you would pay, at the current rate, $22.50 for an adult and $13.50 for children 5-15. Of course you can get a family pass for 2 adults and up to three children for $58.50. Just so you can gain bragging rights because you ogled a pile of rocks. The choice is yours. I’d rather eat fish and chips.