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Stonehenge Stone Circle access still worth it?

Stonehenge Stone Circle access still worth it?

Old Feb 24th, 2014, 05:52 AM
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Stonehenge Stone Circle access still worth it?

Oops--forgot to tag for UK...

Our family (w/2 young adult daughters) visiting mid-August and want to see Stonehenge. Have read that the new visitor center and removal of fence etc. will improve the visitor experience but am wondering if the Stone Circle access is still enough better that it's worth making plans around. They only have the early morning access left (6:15 and 7:30 am). We'll be staying in Bath (with a car), so we'd have to get up really early and miss our B&B's scrummy breakfast to get there in time. The alternative would be to do it the morning we leave from London on our way to Bath, but I assume that would be even harder (longer drive) to get there in time. How much cooler is it to be there before the crowds arrive? I've heard from several people that the old touristy experience seeing the stones from a distance through a fence was pretty disappointing, but maybe the new way is good enough. Thoughts welcome.
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 07:28 AM
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I thought the view of Stonehenge from the hill above (on the road) was better than viewing it from the site. I didn't have access to the stones but viewed from outside the fence.
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 07:34 AM
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I was thrilled with "the old touristy experience."

If people were disappointed in that, its hard to know what would be cool enough for them.
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 07:58 AM
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First of all it was never a 'fence'. ( Except from outside the site like adrienne mentions - that view is no longer possible BTW since the road is gone). It was just a single cable at knee level, which in some places was only a few feet from the stones.

I haven't been since the new visitors center, tram system opened. But I cannot imagine getting up at 4:30 in the AM to do the inside access. If you were staying in Salisbury - sure. (I'm not 100% sure the non-fence fence isn't still there - but the experience will still be better than previously)
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 08:56 AM
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I am amazed anyone would even consider a 6.15 or 7.30am visit. I would guess those are a tour bus leaving Bath times since the site itself is never open before 9 or 9.30am depending on time of year. But then why are you also talking about a car? Something isn't adding up.

It is not mandatory to pre-book by the way, it just guarantees you entry for a specific time. You can in fact just show up and hope to get in if it isn't over their number limit at the time. All depends on if you are a risk taker or not. LOL
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 09:14 AM
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No, those are not times for a tour bus. English Heritage offers special limited inner access to the site very early in the AM and in the evenings after the site is closed to the public.

So, yes - the site IS open that early - w the inner access. Which MUST be pre-booked.
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 09:18 AM
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Thanks for the responses. dulciusexasperis, the Stone Circle access is to actually go into the stone area before (or after, but those slots are already taken) regular hours. Access is very limited, so I gather you feel like you have the site to yourself. But the down side is the early time. If anyone has actually done this, I'd love to hear what you think, but janisj, at least, agrees with my husband that getting up that early wouldn't be worth it.
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 11:49 AM
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I've done it several times, always reminding me of when I was a child and anyone could walk among the stones. The last time we turned our car around and went back to where we were staying a few miles down the road as it was very cold and drizzily that morning.

It is interesting, and touching them and standing right next to them one does realize the height and weight of the stones, which one doesn't get even from just a few feet away behind the cable, and begin to understand what an accomplishment it was with what they had to work with.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't recommend it if it means getting leaving your B&B around 6 in the morning for the 7:30 appointment and missing a scrumptious breakfast. It's nice, but that's about it, and even at 6:15 you'd be too late to get sunrise photos (if the sun was shining!)
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 12:14 PM
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I've visited the stones since the new visitor center has opened.

Inside the new visitor center there is a large circular theatre screen that shows the evolution of Stonehenge. You can stand in the middle and watch as the outer ring of small stones appear, then the larger stones, etc. Then you get to see the stones in all different types of weather and different times of day. I was extremely impressed.

Yes, you have to share the space with others and it is just a film but I think it was wonderful.

Also, outside the center there is a funny little exhibit. There is a replica of one of the large stones on its side and attached to it is a rope. You pull on the rope and it tells you how many of you you would need to pull the stones!

I've never done the inner circle access but I was quite happy with my experience.
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 12:48 PM
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We did an evening inner access experience and my family loved it. The kids speak of it as one of the highlights of our trip. However, if we had rousted them early in the morning, I'm not sure they would have been as enthused.

I haven't been there since all of the new changes have been implemented, so can't compare the experiences.
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 02:15 PM
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BKP, thank you for describing the new visitor center at STONEHENGE. No doubt, the older facility was inadequate.

Question – how did you proceed from the Center to the site itself and back? Merci.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 12:19 PM
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The train/tram system wasn't working that day. We were taken by coach (bus) from the center to the stones. One was waiting just as we arrived and another was ready to take us back when we were finished. No waiting at all.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 02:39 PM
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I really enjoyed Avebury even more than Stonehenge, where the stones are all around the town and even in the town. It was a nice town, too, or at least it was about ten years ago.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 03:43 PM
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It sounds like they've tried real hard to turn it into a typical tacky tourist attraction. How many to pull a stone indeed.

I visited once, several decades ago, when you could just walk among the stones at will. I wasn't that impressed to be honest. Standing stanes can be found throughout the UK, often in the middle of a farmer's field. Stonehenge is of course the most famous but really, I can't and didn't see anything to get enthused about. It's a 'been there, done that' kinda thing.

In any case, no way would I be getting up for a pre-dawn appointment.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 03:48 PM
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Just so folks are misled - Avebury is hardly a 'town'. It is a small village. Probably fewer than 500 people live there.

Avebury has alway been a great place to visit. But with the new visitors center at Stonehenge and restoration of the surrounding landscape it will be a much improved experience. My guess is anyone who has visited Stonehenge in the last 40 or 50 years won't recognize the place.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 06:12 PM
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That should say >>Just so folks aren't misled . . .
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 06:39 PM
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BKP, thank you for your explanation. Sounds better than the previous arrangements.

Bvlenci – I agree “I really enjoyed Avebury even more than Stonehenge, where the stones are all around the town and even in the town.”

Loved those lovely cottages and drowsy cattle lumbering around amidst the prehistoric stones.
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Old Feb 26th, 2014, 05:46 AM
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Thanks, everyone, for your advice. Looks like we'll stick to a regular daytime visit, which we'll probably enjoy more with a good night's sleep and breakfast. I'll be back with more questions about the rest of our trip.
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Old Feb 26th, 2014, 07:02 AM
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>>It sounds like they've tried real hard to turn it into a typical tacky tourist attraction
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