United Kingdom: Stonehenge

In September 2012, I was in the United Kingdom for the 2012 Global Finance Meeting with my company. The phrase “global finance meeting” is perhaps a bit grandiose since it was really just me and a few coworkers from our U.S. accounting team traveling to discuss the wondrous world of accounting. Honestly, it really wasn’t that bad and it also provided me with the opportunity to explore a little around England. I will be writing about Oxford and touring around London in future posts, but today’s subject is Stonehenge.

Well, let’s jump right into it…It was cool to see Stonehenge and I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to see the famous site in person. Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so declaring it to be a disappointment feels a bit snooty or disrespectful. However, I just didn’t feel the sense of wonder that I had hoped and expected would be present. The A303 & A344 highways are pretty close to the site, so I was unable to quietly ponder the site as I would have liked. It was odd to look out only a small distance and see modern motorized traffic. Also, the site had a significant perimeter roped off around itself which did not permit the close-up access I desired. I was given a headset upon entering the site which detailed many of the theories regarding the origin of Stonehenge, but for whatever reason I just wasn’t able to connect with any of the stories. In part this was my own shortcoming though; I visited Stonehenge with only a cursory or eroded knowledge of its history, which no doubt minimized the potency of the experience. Many of the theories and the history of Stonehenge is actually very interesting, so I definitely suggest you investigate (even if you only make it as far as Wikipedia).

Another primary factor shaping my opinion was the way we visited Stonehenge. We decided to take a bus tour out to Stonehenge for the day from central London. The drive out was interesting (by no means spectacular) and the tour worked out fine. However, our ratio of bus time to our time spent at Stonehenge itself was very high (we spent less than an hour at Stonehenge). I don’t recall how long our bus ride was exactly, but I’d venture to say it was at least 2.5 hours one way. At the least, I can say that we left one of the main London stations at around 10am and did not return until about dinner time. I’ve never been to Bath, but I would strongly encourage adding the extra hour or two of driving time to visit it.

The same tour company we used had a bus tour which included an afternoon in Bath on the journey, so it was a real shame that we elected not to choose that one. I believe the tour including Bath started very early, which in my opinion is an awful reason not to do something while traveling; waking up early for the chance to experience something grand on vacation (or everyday life) is always the proper choice! My grandparents have a saying about travel which seems applicable to this situation; “you’ll always remember what you see, and forget what you don’t.” However, I fear this day may be a rare exception to that rule for me. Of course, the Bath tour was slightly more expensive as well, but it would’ve made all the bus travel far more worthwhile in retrospect.

After researching Bath briefly, I believe that spending a night in Bath would be the most ideal way to go about your trip if you have time and the foresight to plan ahead. The all-day bus tour including Bath seems like a reasonable option as well. As you’ve no doubt already gathered, I don’t recommend visiting Stonehenge only as a day trip from London. This is especially true if you only have a few days to spend in London as we did on our trip. We enjoyed a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of London the day before, but we may have been better served to spend another day in London instead. Well, that is quite enough complaining now isn’t it.

Here is a look at some photos from my visit to Stonehenge:

A trench or ditch also encircles the stones.
The Heel Stone outside of the main ring is also somewhat of a mystery, but is believed to be connected to the Summer Solstice most closely.
Stonehenge is deep in the English countryside. A lot of the bus ride out to the site looked like this as I recall.
The crowd level wasn’t too high or distracting on the day we were there.
According to UNESCO, the heaviest stone is over 40 tons. While I don’t know the weight of the slabs in this photo; I think we can safely assume they amount to a quite impressive tonnage as well.

As I wrote this entry, I realized how truly little I know about Stonehenge still. Given my lack of knowledge, I will direct you to other sources rather than cobble together a fractured summary. Clearly, I lack the construction skills on display at Stonehenge on this matter.


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