Friday 30 May 2008

Stonehenge. Sorry...

Over at Thought Experiments (where I often drop in to borrow a cup of sugar), controversy rages over Stonehenge. Well, I once paid a serious visit to this monument, having rashly volunteered to write a piece about it for a newspaper. Things might have changed since then (I believe the 'visitor centre' has had a makeover - I certainly hope so), but I have to say that I found it among the least atmospheric sites I have ever visited. The dead hand of the Ministry of Works (or whatever department of state it was) had robbed it of all mystery and magic. The approach to the stones was appallingly badly designed, as if to minimise their impact, there were notices and fences everywhere, and of course there's that bloody road, with traffic whooshing past all the time. It's much like one of those similarly done-over and killed stone dead castles that the state looks after (i.e. tidies up, stabilises, turfs and mows, and covers with 'interpretative' notices and safe, H&S approved walkways). Just because Stonehenge is the biggest and best known doesn't make it the most interesting, still less the most atmospheric. For myself, the standing stones that survive in Derbyshire, often barely marked, offer far more magic. I'd recommend Arbor Low any day over Stonehenge - and I'm sure my more northerly readers (Malty?) will have plenty to suggest... Sorry Susan, sorry Frank.


  1. Nige, we used to drive past Stonehenge in the late sixties and it had a sort of mysterious air about it, but not that much of an air, sort of a sneeze really.
    Apologies to Susan but our over the Atlantic friends do tend to OD on Eurosites, frau Malty used to work in Abbey National's HQ in 221 Baker St in the mid sixties, Sherlocks old pad, nearly every day, "is this were Sherlock Holmes used to live" ?, "yes, and no."
    Lots of stoney and irony age stuff up here, boring.
    For places of stark grandeur....
    The view south taking in Bambrough and Dunstanborough castles, (the latter is one of John O'Gaunt's)
    Now spoilt somewhat by the tidy upperer's described by Nige but still a wild lonely place, Hermitage Castle, one of Mary queen of the porridge scoffers stop overs. (That being said so were our garage and 4 council houses in Jedburgh apparently)
    The Romano British / Celtic fort on Trimontium hill north, seen in stark outline in winter snows, from our bedroom window.
    The most brooding site of all, in Glenbrittle, truly wild and lonely,
    the burial area for the fallen after the last pitched battle between the Macdonalds and Mclouds, not a lot of people know of this so it's exact location...
    Taken allround (buildings/ structures, scenery), the most heart stopping sight I know is the view south from the Aiguille Blanch on Mont Blanc's Peuterey ridge in winter looking over the Gran Paradiso, poking their heads above the cloud, a brilliant sun in the distance, nothing ever, anywhere for me matches this, that's my problem.

  2. Great stuff Malty.
    For myself I once worked briefly at a bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road - an address made famous in an American book of that name, which I'd never heard of at the time. An endless procession of awestruck Americans soon put me right...

  3. Malty -- thank you for all those recommendations! Next trip to Jolly Olde, we're gonna visit some of those.

    But, back to topic: I was indeed awed by Stonehenge, though I would happily have vaporized some of the other tourists and, of course, the highway there is perilous. Standing stones just get me, and I'm happy to see them anywhere. I'd like to see the ones in the Hebrides that I've seen pix of -- I imagine they're a little less visited.

    In America, there are also prehistoric monuments well worth seeing. Any of you ever seen the Nine Mile Canyon in Utah? Lots more than nine miles of petroglyphs carved into rocks by an ancient Indian people (the Uta, I think).

    But then, I'm into all that Clovis/Llano culture stuff about the first Americans, and the mitochondrial DNA studies that show how incredibly long ago they got here -- from Siberia.

    I don't know how this stuff doesn't fascinate you. In fact, if I lived in England, I'd be putting spade to earth all over the place hoping to hit a Roman coin or a Druid ditty bag.

    Perhaps it goes without saying that the first thing I wanted to see at the British Museum a couple of years back was the Bog Man.....

  4. Good web site you have got here.. It's hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!
    Feel free to visit my web blog : from this source

  5. Woah! I'm really loving the template/theme of this blog. It's simple, yet effective.
    A lot of times it's difficult to get that "perfect balance" between usability and visual appearance. I must say you have done a awesome job with this. Additionally, the blog loads very fast for me on Internet explorer. Outstanding Blog!

    my web-site :: property

  6. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you so much, However I am having troubles with your RSS.
    I don't know the reason why I can't subscribe to it.
    Is there anyone else getting the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond?

    Feel free to surf to my weblog I Found It