I had intended to jump on a train to Wales as soon as I arrived at London’s Gatwick airport at 4 a.m. so that I could wander around “a few miles above Tintern Abbey” and be back in London to fall asleep for a good many hours. Online, I had seen fares that seemed reasonable for such a hefty excursion, but in person they wanted 100.50 quid!! One way! I thanked them kindly and then took the train into London to leave my bag at my hostel and hopefully find my way to Stonehenge instead. The receptionist (an Aussie named Claire – yay Lost!) was very helpful in finding a tour company that could take me to the ruins for 28 quid (student rate). The entry fee itself is only 7.50, but it is far enough away that dealing with the transfers alone is not worthwhile. There are other options that include Bath and various other cities for a full day (and full price) trip, but the half day was I all I needed. 2 hours to and from the ruins and 1 hour at the site.
I did not really want to fall asleep on the bus in case it interfered with my masterplan of staying awake until 9ish (ended up being 10ish) and passing-out into a coma-like sleep until a reasonable hour tomorrow to put me right on the clock. But the bus was a somniferous imp and rocked me to sleep—after our guide Andrew had ceased his tourguiding duties within the city limits. “Now that we are out of London, there is not much I can tell you. There are some fields. Some pretty lakes. So enjoy. Or sleep. And I’ll wake you when we reach Stonehenge.”
I had trouble wrenching my eyes open when he loudly announced our immanent arrival, partly because I feared the crowds that would likely be crowded around the stones ruining the solitary aesthetic all my readings of Romantic poetry have taught me to admire. And, of course, the crowds were there, and the stones did not seem so big or impressive.
But then they grew on me. The audio tour is well devised. It is knowledgeable but not long-winded, with extras (about myths and the surrounding countryside) if one so chooses to hear. It paces one’s walk around the stones to last for about 45 minutes (leaving time for the gift shop and snacks for those on tour buses). I suppose that what I liked was that it was an audio tour. Our bus driver Andrew had that wry British charm that is at once endearing and slightly condescending, but I would not have wanted him to have explained the stones to the group. With every tourist walking around with a cell phone sized speaker pressed to his or her ear, there was silence around the stones. A reverence that I had not predicted when I had seen the tourists from the bus. Everyone wanted the information and only seemed to talk to ask someone to take a photograph of them.
Sidebar: The guy who took this photo for me liked my pose so much that his girlfriend took an identical picture of him. They gave me an adorable couple-set thumbs-up afterwards.
I took a lot of photos mostly because I was trying to eliminate humans from the shot.
. . .
And I took even more photos because I wanted the rooks to be in them. As my website has probably made clear, I love love love crows, ravens, rooks, and all things of the corvus clan. The weather was drizzling rain, so two rooks took cover on the drier side of one of the stones. Humans are not allowed to touch the stones because we wreck things. Rooks just make them better.
So that was Stonehenge! “The biggest henge of them all” (as Eddie Izzard would say). Nothing magical.
But maybe, just maybe, if you take the evening tour that occurs after hours when you are allowed to walk among the stones, the faeries come out.
Or the giants eat you.
Pretty sure it’s one of those two.