Although we have been in Bristol for 10 months now and Salisbury is only 32 miles down the road we hadn’t been too focused on going to Stonehenge. I guess we figured that a pile of stones in a field couldn’t be that exciting so we didn’t bother.
As we had a spare day at the end of our Scottish holiday and the weather was a bit on the dismal side we decided to do a roadtrip down there. After about an hours drive as we motored up the road we crested the hill to suddenly see the stones laid out before us literally in a paddock complete with sheep (although the sheep are well fenced off from the stones) as are the tourists that haven’t paid to get inside to see them up close. It was quite an amazing sight.
We paid our 6.20 each (a lot cheaper than I was expecting) picked up our audio guides and went through the tunnel that takes you under the road to Stonehenge. If you really don’t want to pay the entry fee you can see the stones through the hurricane fencing but I figure for 6 quid just pay it. As we were there quite early the number of tourist buses were minimal so I would advise an early start there.
I already knew that you couldn’t walk right up to the stones so was prepared to be seeing them from a distance, but actually I felt we got close enough to understand the size and weight of them. The audio guide was quite useful although I didn’t listen to it all. I was interested to learn though that the whole area used to be covered in forest and very unlike the wide open bare plains that make up the area now. Nearby to Stonehenge is a military base so while we were doing the touristy thing we could hear explosions coming from over the hill from what sounded like a cannon, probably tank fire as we saw a number of tank signs at a later point in the day. It was rather exciting to be in the area.
Moving on from Stonehenge we decided to search for the White Horse in Westbury. It is called the Westbury or Bratton Horse as it is located near Bratton Camp which was an Iron Age hilltop fort. I didn’t realise this but there are 7 white horses carved in the hillside around the Wiltshire county. They are carved into the chalky hills (hence why they are white) and were something of a tradition at one point. There has been a white horse on this site for the past 300 years with different renditions of it being made over this time. The current one was re-designed in 1873 with the original horse apparantly facing in the opposite direction. In the last 1950’s it was thought that concreting the horse and painting it white would be cheaper and easier to manage. It was re-concreted in 1995.