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Wiltshire's Winning Ways

Stonehenge’s visitor facilities have been given a refreshing facelift, but Norman Wright discovers there’s much more to Wiltshire than just the celebrated stone circle 

It was a grey, overcast morning on Salisbury Plain and patchy rain drifted across the rolling landscape, but the moody day only heightened the mysterious shapes of Stonehenge.

I’d not been to see the stones for a few years and was keen to see the new visitor centre and visitor access to this true wonder of the world.

English Heritage has done a great job of re-presenting a monument that attracts 1.25 million visitors a year. Instead of being greeted by wooden buildings and a pedestrian tunnel under the road to get to the stones, there’s a new visitor centre with exhibitions, restaurant and shop away from the famous skyline. You are then taken up to Stonehenge in land trains towed by Land Rovers. There’s a walking path, too.

A pathway allows you to circle around the prehistoric monument and get surprisingly close at points. Set on a high point of the plain within sight of several ancient burial mounds or barrows, it gives you a real sense of its lonely placement.

Only traffic on the nearby A303 reminds you of which century you occupy, and that may be gone soon if plans to divert it out of sight through a tunnel are completed. After taking my
time to stroll around the stones, it was back on board the land train to the visitor centre and a look around the exhibition. I should, of course, have done that first because it gives an insight into Stonehenge and the theories about why it exists and how it was constructed. 

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