Wiltshire: Land of mystery and home to Stonehenge

1 04 2013

Home to Stonehenge and packed with active opportunities for all ages, Wiltshire is a beautiful county

The Unesco world heritage site of Stonehenge was erected more than 4,000 years ago and is open to the public Photograph: Frank Lukasseck

The Unesco world heritage site of Stonehenge was erected more than 4,000 years ago and is open to the public Photograph: Frank Lukasseck

Best known for its myths and legends, Wiltshire offers the setting for a perfect break – a mixture of ancient history and outdoor pursuits. It is home to Stonehenge and Avebury, two breathtaking sites erected more than 4,000 years ago. But mysterious artefacts aside, you can also cycle, skydive, canoe, golf and horse-ride your way around this part of the world.

Speculation on the reason Stonehenge was built ranges from human sacrifice to astronomy, and the world heritage site is a must-see. Unless you visit on the summer or winter solstice there’s a charge to walk around the magnificent stones. However you can visit the world’s largest stone circle at Avebury for free. If you want to see Stonehenge from a unique vantage point, Heritage Cycle Tours’ accompanied ride from Salisbury arrives over the crest of a hill, for a stunning view of the stones, before passing through the iron age settlement of Old Sarum.

For an even bigger thrill, see Stonehenge from 3,500ft with Skydive Netheravon, located between Salisbury and Marlborough. Beginners can experience freefall in tandem, jump with an automatic parachute or take a learners’ skydive course.

You don’t have to head skywards to experience Wiltshire in a special way. Situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Pewsey Vale Riding Centre provides a horse ride to remember. And at Peddles and Paddles you can hire kayaks or Canadian canoes to travel down the canal to Devizes Wharf, where you’ll find the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust Museum.

Alternatively, experience this fine region at a slower pace. Climb the 332 steps to the base of Britain’s tallest spire at the gothic Salisbury Cathedral. You’ll be treated to views of the medieval scaffold of the spire and across the Wiltshire countryside. Don’t leave without visiting the cathedral’s Chapter House: it’s home to one of the four original Magna Cartas.

And if you judge an area by its golfing opportunities, Wiltshire may be your dream destination: Cumberwell Park Golf Club offers rolling countryside, lakes and woodland; North Wilts Golf Club encourages players of all abilities with no tee booking required; and Tidworth Garrison Golf Club, a tree-lined, downland course for private members, was described by golfing legend Peter Alliss as “a gem of a course on the edge of Salisbury Plain”.

So whether you spend your Wiltshire trip investigating the ancient past, or trying an exciting activity or two, a break in this outstanding part of the country will make an unforgettable impression.

Where to revive

Eat: The Harrow at Little Bedwyn boasts accolades including AA Restaurant of the Year (2011) and a Michelin star. The focus is on food from artisan growers, fishermen and farmers.

Drink: Savour a pint in atmospheric surroundings at the charming Cloisters, an “olde worlde” pub minutes from Salisbury Cathedral. Or, for a more rural experience, head to the village of Market Lavington for a real ale at the Green Dragon.

Sleep: Extend your Stonehenge experience by spending the night in a luxurious “glamping pod” at Stonehenge Campsite in Salisbury (and enjoy eight real ale and foodie pubs within a four mile radius), or chill out at Whatley Manor, a beautifully restored Cotswold manor house hotel and lavish spa.

visitwiltshire.co.uk

Full article and soure: guardian.co.uk





Stonehenge transformation work well on schedule

20 02 2013

Work to transform Stonehenge, which officially started on site in July last year, is progressing well.

This year, the centenary of the 1913 Ancient Monuments Act, will culminate in the opening of English Heritage’s new Stonehenge exhibition galleries and visitor centre at the end of the year.

Work on the Stonehenge site is due to be completed by the end of this year

Work on the Stonehenge site is due to be completed by the end of this year

Building work is currently taking shape at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles to the west and out of view of the stones, where the new galleries and facilities will be located.

The sensitively designed building will comprise two “pods” which will house museum-quality exhibitions, a spacious café with indoor and outdoor seating, a bigger shop and dedicated education space

Main contractor Vinci Construction is about to erect a ’bird-cage’ scaffold which will be used to install the undulating canopy roof, a distinctive feature of the building’s design, while a visitor car park and coach park, with capacity for 500 and 30 vehicles respectively, have been laid out and are clearly visible.

Precious objects on loan from the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes and the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum are currently being conserved by English Heritage staff ready for display.

They will form the centrepiece of the permanent exhibition at the new building, helping to tell the story of Stonehenge in vivid detail.

Next month volunteers will help with an archaeological experiment at Old Sarum Castle near Salisbury where prototypes of Neolithic houses excavated at Durrington Walls will be built. The lessons learned from this experiment will inform the reconstruction of three Neolithic houses at the outdoor gallery of the new visitor centre in Spring 2014, offering visitors a glimpse of the lives of prehistoric people.

The A344 road between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12 will be closed at the end of June, once the new roundabout at Airman’s Corner is operational. Work will follow to remove the fences along this section of road and the road surface itself will be removed and grassed over.

No part of the Stonehenge operation will close while the works are being carried out, and the switchover to the new visitor centre will happen overnight. Until then, access to the existing Stonehenge car park will continue along the A344 but from the west via the A360 and Airman’s Corner.

The date of the opening at the end of 2013 will be announced later in the year.

Full article in the Wiltshire Times: http://www.wiltshiretimes.co.uk/news/10237112.Stonehenge_transformation_work_well_on_schedule/

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Row over Stonehenge visitor centre continues

15 01 2013

A TOUR operator has waded into the row over the £27million improvement project at Stonehenge, saying that while some operators may bypass the stones the “vast majority” are welcoming the transformation.
Stonehenge-Private -Viewing-Access-Tours-2012 (25)

The new development – involving a ten-minute shuttle from the new visitor centre being built 2km from the stones – will require a significantly extended visit time for tour operators.

Some guides fear the plans have been ill-thought out and that the two-hour stop recommended by English Heritage will put tourists off as many have limited time and want to “see as much as possible” in their packed daily itineraries.

But Ralph Bennett, director of Tours International, who has brought visitors to the iconic site for the last 25 years, said they only spend a short while at the site because the current facilities are inadequate.

He said: “Parking is problematic, our clients have to queue and there is nowhere to sit and eat under cover. Yes, we currently fit two or three destinations into a one-day tour, but Stonehenge is most definitely the star attraction.

“The transformation being made by English Heritage will address these problems and enable us to offer Stonehenge either as a day out in its own right or as part of a two-stop tour; and a two-hour visit will be about right.

“The vast majority of us are embracing the future, which will at long last mean we can properly showcase one of our most iconic and fascinating visitor attractions to tourists from around the world.”

Article by our local experts: http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk

Merlin @ Stonehenge





Stonehenge project under fire

10 01 2013

TOUR guides who bring thousands of visitors to Stonehenge every year have blasted the £27million improvement project currently under way. (Salisbury Journal)

Stonehenge They predict it will mean some tours will bypass the stones in favour of visiting elsewhere.

The new development will see tourists arriving at the visitor centre, 2km away, and either taking a ten-minute shuttle to the stones or walking there.

English Heritage says visitors will enjoy a “much quieter and greener experience”

and are recommending tour operators plan a “dwell time” of at least two hours for groups to “fully appreciate and enjoy the enhanced experience”.

But tour guides say they only allow for an hour at the site, and extending this would prevent them from offering tours that take in visits to three or four places, such as Windsor, Bath and Salisbury, on the same day.

Don Cross, managing director of Wessexplore, said: “Tourists from all over the world often have limited time on their expensive programmes and wish to see as much as possible in their visit.

“This system with ‘landtrains’ will physically not be able to deliver this kind of service.”

Other concerns include the lack of shelter by the stones and the “escape back to the coach” option no longer being available if the weather is bad.

Chief executive of VisitWiltshire, David Andrews, said that while visitor numbers may drop in the short term, there was a “fantastic opportunity” for Wiltshire and Salisbury to encourage people to stay in the county for longer.

He said: “At present, coach tours stay for as little as a couple of minutes at Stonehenge but with the much bigger and richer experience being offered by English Heritage, there’s a much greater chance that people will visit Wiltshire and Salisbury and stay. Stonehenge is iconic enough that coach operators have to include it and they will have to change their programme.”

Full article in the Salisbury Journal:  http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/

Merlin says ” I have many tour guides across the country making the same comments”

Merlin @ Stonehenge





Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2012

11 12 2012

English Heritage will once again allow people access to Stonehenge for the celebration of the Winter Solstice, the first day of the winter season. Sunrise is at 8.09am on Friday 21 December and visitors will be able to access the monument as soon as it is light enough to do so safely. Entrance is free and will be available from roughly 7.30am until 9am, when the site will close – before re-opening as per usual to paying visitors at 9.30am.

Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2012

Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2011

The exact time of the Solstice this year, when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, is at 11.11am on 21 December, however it is generally accepted that the celebration of this special event takes place at dawn and therefore access is permitted at Stonehenge earlier that morning.

Over the last few years, the popularity of Winter Solstice has grown considerably, with many families and young people joining the druid and pagan community in the celebrations. Two years ago, 2,000 people attended Winter Solstice and in 2011 that figure more than doubled to a record 5,000 people.

Peter Carson, Head of Stonehenge, said: “We are delighted to offer people a warm welcome to Stonehenge this Winter Solstice but as facilities are limited, we are not able to accommodate any more people than last year. We don’t have the luxury of using nearby fields in winter for parking and encourage people to make use of the special bus service running from Salisbury. We are working very closely with the local authorities and agencies plus the druid and pagan community to ensure that access to Stonehenge will once again be a success.”

Additional notes
Access may not be possible if the ground conditions are considered poor or if it is felt that access might result in severe damage to the monument.
Public have in previous years used byway 12 for parking on the morning of 21st December. Additional car parking for approximately 800 cars will be available on the A344 (which will be closed to through traffic), plus the Stonehenge Visitor Centre Car Park.

Connected:
New theory of a Winter Solstice Sunrise Alignment –Solstice and the Winter Solstice leaflet (ISBN 9780957093010)
(Background on the Winter Solstice Sunrise Alignment theory is here)
Countdown to doomsday. Stonehenge Winter Solstice 2012

Link source: http://www.sarsen.org/2012/11/winter-solstice-at-stonehenge-2012.html

Winter Solstice updates: Follow Stonhenge on Twitter –  https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

Merlin says “Respect the Stones”

Merlin @ Stonehenge





Stonehenge Project Update. December 2012

8 12 2012

As Stonehenge gears up for winter, we wanted to let you know we’re making good progress with the new visitor centre at Airman’s Corner. This time next year, work will have been completed and we’ll be busy preparing for the opening.

As you can see from the photo below, the visitor centre and the car park are  taking shape behind the hoardings. The building should be water-tight by Christmas and a ‘bird cage’ scaffold will be used in the New Year to help install the delicate canopy roof.

Aerial view of Airman's Corner

Aerial view of Airman’s Corner

We’ve taken great care with the design and construction of the building – disruption to the ground has been kept to a minimum and we have used locally sourced materials wherever possible.

The new visitor centre taking shape

The new visitor centre taking shape

At Last, a Proper Place to Tell Stonehenge’s Story

A visit to the stones will, for the first time, be enhanced by special exhibition galleries curated by English Heritage experts which will tell the story of Stonehenge and its relationship with the wider landscape. They will feature important objects excavated near Stonehenge kindly loaned by the Wiltshire Heritage Museum and the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

Curators discussing the objects on loan from the two local museums

Curators discussing the objects on loan from the two local museums

Neolithic Builders Needed

One exciting feature of the outdoor gallery is the reconstruction of three Neolithic houses based on rare evidence of buildings unearthed near Stonehenge. We need volunteers to help us build three prototype houses at Old Sarum Castle in spring 2013 and then build the actual houses at the new visitor centre in autumn 2013. To find out more or to register your interest, please go to Stonehenge volunteering.

An attempt at reconstructing a Neolithic house in East Sussex

An attempt at reconstructing a Neolithic house in East Sussex

Business As Usual at Stonehenge

The construction work is not visible from Stonehenge at all; throughout the construction period Stonehenge will continue to welcome visitors at its existing facilities.

An opening date for the new visitor building will be announced in 2013, and the switch-over to the new facilities will be overnight so that there will be no disruption to visitors.

When the new visitor centre and its captivating galleries open in winter 2013, we will start dismantling the existing facilities and restore the landscape around the stones. We look forward to keeping you posted as these exciting developments progress.

Computer-generated image of the new visitor centre when completed

Computer-generated image of the new visitor centre when completed

Road Improvements

We understand the closure of the A344 has raised some concerns – it’s a vital change to help create a more tranquil and dignified setting for Stonehenge, but we are working hard to mitigate the impact. The Highways Agency is carrying out works to improve the capacity of Longbarrow Roundabout to cope with the diverted traffic (see details below) and the section of the A344 between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12 will only close when these improvements are complete in May 2013. The rest of the road will remain open until we move operations to Airman’s Corner.

Work is also underway to improve the Airman’s Corner roundabout. During the construction, we’re keeping the use of traffic lights to a minimum but some are needed to ensure safe traffic flow.

Longbarrow Roundabout Roadworks (A303/A360 Junction)

The Highways Agency has started a six-month scheme to improve the Longbarrow roundabout at the junction of the A360 and A303. The proposed improvements to the northern and eastern approaches to the roundabout will accommodate changes in traffic flows following the planned A344 closure in May 2013. New lanes will be added to the roundabout to take the extra traffic caused by the closure of the A344 and the centre of the roundabout itself will be realigned.

During the works, there will be lane closures on the northern and eastern approaches to Longbarrow roundabout and a temporary 40mph speed limit in place. The A360 south of Longbarrow will be closed for up to eight days and nights on dates to be confirmed in either February or March 2013. Diversion routes will be in operation using the A345 or the A36 depending on journey destinations.

Contact us

If you have any questions regarding the project please email English Heritage atstonehenge.project@english-heritage.org.uk

Link source: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

Stonhenge News Blog sponsored by Stonehenge Guided Tours – www.StonehengeTours.com

Merlin @ Stonehenge





Visit Wiltshire. New look website aims to boost tourism in Wiltshire

19 10 2012

Discover a county rich in heritage

VisitWiltshire has launched a brand new tourism website, http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk  The redesign of the site has focused on building a portal which showcases the best of Wiltshire tourism to give visitors a user-experience that is inspirational, informative, engaging and welcoming.

VisitWiltshire is forecasting that the new website will increase the number of visitors to http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk by 30 per cent.

The new website will be promoted extensively to VisitWiltshire’s target UK and international markets through a number of digital marketing initiatives launching in October – including, for the first time ever, video advertising on the London Underground.

Fiona Errington, marketing manager for VisitWiltshire, said: “Our aim in developing this site has been to raise awareness of Wiltshire’s fantastic tourism offer, inspiring new visitors, and encouraging repeat visitors to stay longer and explore the whole of the county.

Visit Wiltshire Website Extract
Take some time out and escape to Wiltshire this year. Find out more about this mysterious and beautiful part of the UK, let us be your guide for all the information you will need.

Stonehenge & Avebury

Wiltshire is proud to be the home of Stonehenge and Avebury which form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and our mystical landscape.

Take a tour of Stonehenge and discover more about the neolithic man and the landscape they shaped. At Avebury, walk amongst the stones, visit the Alexander Keiller Museum to find out about the arcaeological excavations Keiller did in the 1930s and visit the Avebury Manor and Garden, nearby West Kennet Long Barrow.

Link: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/explore/stonehenge-and-avebury
Link: http://www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/news/9993296.New_look_website_aims_to_boost_tourism_in_Wiltshire/

Merlin says “Great to see Visit Wiltshire have launched a new web site, which will  help tourism in the West”

News blog sponsored by “Stonehenge Guided Tours” – www.StonehengeTours.com

Stonehenge News Blog








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