Top Picks For You
England Travel Guide

Stonehenge Might Be in Trouble

It could soon be added to an embarrassing list.

Stonehenge, the centuries-old stone monument in southern England, could be placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger after a meeting later this month.

Short for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO has designated World Heritage Sites since 1978. The organization judges World Heritage sites to have “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.”

When sites are listed as World Heritage in Danger, UNESCO has determined that immediate conservation efforts are necessary to preserve them and their World Heritage designation. Sites that are ultimately not preserved can be delisted, as happened to the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City in 2021. 

Other World Heritage Sites that have made the “danger” list have been subsequently rehabilitated and removed after significant conservation efforts were undertaken. The Galápagos Islands in Ecuador and Yellowstone National Park in the United States are two examples of former “danger” list sites that have since been elevated and removed from the list.

In the U.K., the concern with Stonehenge is a controversial plan to build a highway tunnel underneath the site. This plan will help alleviate traffic in the area but will also make some changes to the area immediately surrounding the monument because of the placement of entry and exit ramps to the tunnel. The tunnel scheme has been in the planning stages for decades, with both supporters and opponents taking positions. 

Continue Reading Article After Our Video

Recommended Fodor’s Video

There are 56 sites currently on the “danger” list—many of them in Syria, Ukraine, and Libya, which are threatened because of ongoing warfare. Sites in other countries on the danger list may be threatened by climate change, human development that would change the character of the sites, neglect, or mismanagement. 

First listed as a World Heritage Site in 1986, listing Stonehenge as a World Heritage in Danger site could complicate efforts to complete the tunnel project or could lead to restrictions on visitor numbers. The Crown owns Stonehenge, and the U.K. government has assigned the site’s management to the charity English Heritage, which manages several hundred historic cultural sites across the U.K. 

One of the most famous landmarks in Britain, Stonehenge is estimated to have been constructed between 3100 BCE and 1600 BCE. The site’s exact construction methods and uses have not been definitively determined. Some evidence points to religious rituals such as burial, while other evidence suggests the site was used for astronomy. 

Stonehenge has been designated a national monument since the 1880s, and it attracts just over a million visitors each year—many of whom arrive in large buses, which can lead to traffic jams on the surrounding roadways in the county of Wiltshire.

The UNESCO Committee that designates World Heritage and World Heritage in Danger sites will meet in New Delhi to vote on several proposals, including the one concerning Stonehenge. The impact of World Heritage Site designation can vary, drawing attention to lesser-known sites as countries can use it in their tourism marketing efforts. 

Stonehenge, however, has long been a popular attraction for visitors to the U.K.—significant visitation predated the site’s World Heritage designation. It is already one of the better-known World Heritage Sites and would likely continue to draw significant visitor numbers, even if added to the “danger” list or even delisted. 

There are 33 World Heritage sites designated in the United Kingdom, ranking it eighth in the world in the number of sites. There are currently no World Heritage Sites in Danger in the U.K.

toxicrebel9356 July 11, 2024

The Statutory Instrument order made by the Transport Secretary is illegal and void. Because as part of the order it gives is to "remove human remains" from around and between the Avebury, Stonehenge and Barrows.   This is "Illegal" against the law of MAGNA CARTA (The Great Charter) that has in force the Charter of Liberties and Laws of Edward the Confessor. In the Tome of Rochester (part of these laws) the "Wealreaf"  protects the buried bodies in the ground and in the tombs and religious grounds of temples.   So the tunnel cannot be dug there.  And if you are saying.. well the Government made the order and passed it.....,       one of the major legal points in statute law, is that any Judgment or order made that goes against the Great Charter is "Void" and of no effect. Including any orders made in parliament.  So the actual instrument that approves the tunnel is void and of no effect. Of course i have all the law documented for this. So its all 100% fact.     It is a shame that the only threat to Stonehenge is our Government. Who are acting unlawfully. Thus self harm.  I dont want to see it on the "At Risk" list. Because it is not at risk. Our government are corrupt and breaking the law.

archsimpson6515 July 7, 2024

I've been there like many others and the first view of it from the motorway is unforgettable and mesmerizing. It must be protected at all costs.

renni July 2, 2024

I was stunned when I first saw STONEHENGE many years ago by the highway being so close.
Both Great Britian and Ireland have done positively stupid things regarding ancient monuments, and beautiful country roads - progress?  I don't think so, I believe it's all about the almighty euro/lb and making life easy for the tourists they will someday realize they no longer want.
Putting roads so close by, widening roads - all to make life easier for tourist and (secondly) residents.  None of it was necessary - it was just easier than finding an alternative.

jeffkey5229 July 1, 2024

It's going to be 200m south of stonehenge, not under it. Two football pioches long and up to 40m underground.