Bath, Stonehenge, and a Secret Place - Part 3
This is the final post in my blog series about our tour to Bath, Stonehenge, and a Secret Place. To get caught up, read Part 1 and Part 2.
It was hard to leave Bath and its stunning Georgian architecture behind, but our tour group had places to go and big rocks to see. Yep, that’s right, our final stop was Stonehenge!
Lucky for us, the rain that had dampened our entry into Bath had let up completely by the time we found ourselves in Wiltshire.
The sun was shining and the day had warmed up beautifully, but let me just stop you right there – this is Stonehenge we’re talking about, a very exposed Neolithic structure. Prior to our tour, The English Bus had sent out an email with specifics about our trip, and it emphasized just how exposed the monument is and how unpredictable the weather can be, so we were to come prepared. Although the day was gorgeous, I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for the sheer amount of wind at Stonehenge!
But more on that later . . .
Arriving at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre
Our tour guide Chris pulled the minibus into the group parking lot where we had to remain on the bus until he procured our tickets and handheld audio tour devices. When he came back, he told us of a rumor everyone was talking about – that Stonehenge had shut down for a few hours that day, which never happens, and that the authorities had to be called in.
As he’d later find out and tell us as we were headed back to London, some "hippies" had crossed the barriers and entered the center circle to protest. Apparently they used to camp out at Stonehenge and party, using pagan ceremonial days at the site as an excuse to let loose, but that incensed both the tourists and the pagans practicing there, so they were kicked out. These hippies had apparently come back to protest being kicked out so many years ago. It was their We-Got-Kicked-Out-of-Stonehenge Anniversary, or something like that.
But Stonehenge had reopened by the time we arrived, and with our tickets and audio guide devices in hand, we headed down to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre to catch a shuttle to take us to the site.
At this point we hadn’t seen Stonehenge yet. The new Visitor Centre is no longer next to the monument, but about a mile and a half away. I’m not sure what the old Stonehenge welcome center was like, but I appreciated not seeing the stones until we were on the shuttle headed toward them. It made for a more dramatic first impression.
The Stone Circle
Once off the shuttle, Chris gathered us around for a quick lowdown on what we needed to know while visiting the site, and then we were free to walk to the stones. If you’re planning a visit to Stonehenge and are bummed by the fact that you can’t walk between the stones, it’s actually a good thing that the monument is roped off. We wouldn’t have been able to get such awesome pictures if everyone was able to hang out amidst the circle. Plus, and this is a sad fact, people used to write on the stones and chip away bits to take home as souvenirs. I much prefer to see them preserving it.
The walk around Stonehenge is nice. You get quite close to the stones at the start of the walk (if you’ve headed to the right), and as it circles around, the ropes take you further from the monument so you can take wider angle photographs. It’s a clever setup. There aren’t many places to sit, however, as I only recall three or four benches scattered about. After you’ve been walking around London for a week and your feet have painfully swollen to twice their size, you tend to notice these things. But that’s a story for another day.
After experiencing how standoffish people in London can be, Stonehenge was quite a treat. Everyone is taking pictures, so everyone is either asking someone to take their picture or they’re offering to take a picture of you and your significant other. Two Asian girls saw Ty trying to take my picture, and one of them – in cute broken English – offered to photograph us together. She made us squat down a bit since she was much shorter than us, which made me laugh initially but also made me feel a bit awkward, so I was forcing a smile for that one. But it just goes to show how Stonehenge draws out the best in people. Perhaps that’s part of its magic. :)
So, About That Wind!
I mentioned the wind, but no words can describe how windy it was at Stonehenge. We literally saw two people lose their hats during our walk around the stones (they had to jump the ropes to retrieve them). The landscape surrounding Stonehenge is flat with little more than sheep residing in the open fields, so there’s nothing there to break up the elements. I got a wind burn, if that helps paint a better picture of the situation.
If you’d prefer to see visuals, here are what I’m calling my Stonehenge Outtakes:
The crazy wind seemed to work for Brandon, though. Look at that hipster hair!
Even with the wind, Stonehenge was amazing. Some people say they feel different there, like they sense a change in the atmosphere or can feel the Earth’s vibrations. I felt none of that, unless Earth was trying to get my attention with all that wind, but the history of that sacred place alone is most impressive.
The Perfect End to a Perfect Day
After a quick trip to the Stonehenge gift shop back at the Visitor Centre, we boarded the tour bus for the last time and headed back to London. Chris took a quick assessment of where we were all staying and figured out the best places to drop us off. It was a quick goodbye – he jumped off the bus at the stop to stand outside and shake our hands before hopping back in to take the rest of our group to their stops. We ended up getting off at Notting Hill Gate, and it was an easy Tube ride from there back to Paddington. We finished up the day with supper at our familiar Sussex Fish Bar (yes, Ty had fish and chips twice that day).
The whole day seemed to go by entirely too fast, but we experienced so much, and I’d love to book the same tour with The English Bus if we’re ever fortunate enough to go back to London. If you’re planning a trip anytime soon, I can’t recommend this tour company enough. They’re absolutely wonderful!
Just hold on to your hat at Stonehenge. ;-)