Preliminary Note: Exceptionally, I am publishing an english post in my spanish blog. I am doing so as a special courtesy to the English Heritage organisation, that have allowed me to publish an article and the related photo gallery, absolutely for non-commercial purposes. This is NOT an exact translation of the spanish post on the same subject. It is, of course, the same story, but directly written in English. I hope that every english-speaking reader will love it.
In the spring of 2008, I was evaluating the feasibility of a one-week discovery travel to Wales, where I had never been before (well, except for a one-day train trip from London to Cardiff, many years ago).
(Stonehenge. JMBigas, July 2008).
I tried to find out in the web an economy air fare to some United Kingdom airport near Wales. I discarded Bristol and Cardiff, as the offer from Madrid was very small, and not conveniently priced. I finally chose a Ryanair flight to Liverpool that, anyway, is quite close to North Wales.
Since many years, I had the wish of visiting Stonehenge at least once in my life. Of course, it was not in my route for this journey, but I could do some twisting to make it to be somewhere in my itinerary. I checked the web of the English Heritage, to be aware of how the visit to Stonehenge is to be planned, the opening times, the prices, and so on. Then I realised that they proposed a possibility I had never considered before. I mean, there is a Stone Circle Access possibility, outside the standard opening times. It is intended for reduced groups (of up to 26 people only). Depending on the scheduled time for dawn and dusk, some additional visits of this kind were planned for early morning or late afternoon.
My travel was going to take place in the second half of July. I definitely preferred the early morning option. For that time, visits at 5.30, 6.30 and 7.30am were scheduled, before the standard opening time at 9.30. I checked the form in the web, prepared to ask for a reservation in one of these Stone Circle Access special visits. I fulfilled the very much complete form, where you have to specify if you intend to celebrate any kind of ritual, you have to define the equipment you will have - photographic and/or video equipment -, and the use you intend for the photos and/or videos taken during the visit. You have to propose some alternate dates and times for the visit. I sent the fulfilled form, and in a returning e-mail, a specific date and time was reserved for me: July 21st, 6.30am. I had to pay for the visit, of course, and a little bit higher than the standard visit fee.
I arranged the whole of my travel, to be in Stonehenge that specific day. I booked an hotel in Salisbury, the city that is closest to the site, provided Amesbury is a small village, with very few lodging resources. Finally, Salisbury is roughly 16km away from Stonehenge, and I had rented a car for the whole journey, so no problem at all for that early morning trip.
I reached Salisbury in the afternoon of July 20th. I had booked a room in The White Hart, a Mercure-branded hotel, in the city centre, and very near the Salisbury Cathedral Close. I walked a little bit through the city centre, got a dinner, and went to bed quite early, as I had to wake up before dawn the day after.
I got up before 5am in the D Day. I prepared a coffee in my room, and I packed a bag with the photographic camera, a jacket for the cold of the mornign (even being July), and, of course, the reservation for the Stone Circle Access at 6.30am.
I drove to Stonehenge site, and I reached the parking by 6.15am. Very few cars and vans were already there, including the ones belonging to the previous group (the one at 5.30am) and the ones of the not-so-crazy 6.30am visit, who were arriving now. The group was composed by twenty something people, including some lonely elements (somehow mystical) and even a small team coming directly from London that same morning.
(The Rising Sun through the Stones. JMBigas, July 2008).
At 6.30am sharp, the previous group abandoned the site, and the magic started for us. The group, accompanied by some guard, to prevent excesses (that never happened, by the way), entered the site, and we approached to the cromlech, and entered the Inner Circle. The different teams dispersed over the site, enjoying the very special light of the Rising Sun. Taking photos against the light (impossible at any other time of the day), and assuming our temporary role of priests of a primitive religion. And feeling a very special communion with our forefathers.
I was travelling alone, but, of course, I got people ready to take a photo of myself with the stones. I pushed the button over 90 times, and I got a remarkable photo collection of the site from every angle. I have done a huge effort to be able to reduce the photo collection I am sharing with you to only 70 shots. By the way, the comments on the shots are in spanish, but I hope it not to be a major inconvenience.
The visit took one full hour. By 7.30am a new group was ready to live their own magic experience, and we walked out the site, back to the parking. I drove back to my hotel in Salisbury, and I got a huge breakfast there. Later that morning, I visited the Salisbury Cathedral Close, but this, maybe, will be the subject of a different post.
For your next visit to Stonehenge, try to arrange a Stone Circle Access at a convenient time for you. As the English Heritage defines it, we are talking about a once in a lifetime experience. And I fully agree with that.
Now, if you click in the backlight shot of the stones, you will get access to the full 70-shots Gallery, that is located in the Google PicasaWeb service.
I hope you will enjoy the collection, and the special visit to Stonehenge, when you have the opportunity to do it. Please feel free to make comments on this post, now or whenever you wish in the future.