Slender rods support the roof of the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Rain clouds gathered as Trust members arrived at the entrance to the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre this morning. After decades of wrangling, and millions of pounds spent trying to decide what the Centre should be, what it should look like and where it should be sited, the big day had at last arrived – the first day that the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre opened its doors to the public. We can only say that the atmosphere there this morning was electric. The smiles and pride on the faces of the English Heritage staff, as well as on the faces of the windswept guides and security folk we saw and spoke to were infectious. There are still a few minor problems to sort out but English Heritage, and everyone else involved in the project, seem to have pulled it off in a way that will satisfy all but a few.
 
 
Entrance to the new Visitor Centre, with cafeteria and shop on the left, conveniences and exhibition hall on the right
©
moss
 
The Centre itself could easily be mistaken for a large farm building, even from quite close up, and it sits comfortably in the surrounding landscape; light and airy but totally functional. The building is actually two quite plain buildings (exhibition hall in one and the cafeteria/shop in the other) both sitting under a floating, undulating roof; and it’s the roof that pulls the two together. We took the land train up to Fargo Plantation where it stops and where one can walk the remaining 15 minutes or so; Bronze Age round barrows on one’s left and the monument itself slowly appearing in the distance.
 
 
The final walk from Fargo Plantation to the monument
©
The Heritage Trust
 
The old ‘facilities’ are in the process of being demolished. The road that once ran past (and very close to) the Heelstone no longer does so and the stone has now regained much of its rightful place in the Stonehenge landscape. A new innovation is that visitors are now directed to walk round the monument clockwise from the Heelstone, not anticlockwise as was previously the case. The visual impact of this is that one sees the monument from ever increasing points of closeness – ending in a very close and stunning view at the end of the walk.
  
 
The Heelstone returning to its rightful place in the Stonehenge landscape
©
The Heritage Trust
 
The new Stonehenge Visitor Centre offers world-class facilities and an information/exhibition area second to none. We never thought we’d see some of the earliest literature and illustrations on Stonehenge, let alone see them gathered together in one exhibition room (it was worth the admission fee just for that!) though there is so much more to see and enjoy there now.
 
 
The closest point to the monument at the end of the clockwise walk one can get. Stonehenge revealed in all its majesty, but note the truck visible through the stones on the right as it travels along the A303 (click on image to enlarge). Next step, a tunnel or bypass to complete English Heritage’s excellent work so far?
©
The Heritage Trust