We have discovered that one of the huge benefits of Wales having half term a week after England, is the fact that you can hop over the bridge and visit English tourist attractions without the normal school holiday hoardes being present. We took full advantage of this fact yesterday and booked an impromptu day out to Stonehenge.
Booking in advance is strongly recommended, and can be done quickly and easily here. Members of English Heritage and National Trust are entitled to FREE admission, but still need to book a ticket. Whilst booking online you can also add extras such as audio guides and guide books to pick up when you arrive.
Hubby declined the sat nav’s preferred route in favour of a vague set of directions from a mate, for once this didn’t end in tears or near divorce and was in fact a lovely drive through a set of pretty villages packed with more thatched cottages than I’ve seen in my entire life. My excited cries of ‘thatched roof!’ were met with indifferent grunts from Mini-me and Monkey Boy who typically had their heads buried in various digital devices for most of the journey.
On arrival parking was quick and easy and right next to the visitor centre, ticket booths, toilets and café. Word of advice, take the little ones (and yourselves) for a wee now as once you get up to the stones there are understandably no loos. The whole area is very accessible, fine for little legs and pushchairs. Quote your booking reference number at the ticket desk and you’ll be given your tickets and guide books and directed to the area where you can pick up your audio guides. They have different versions of the audio for adults and kids. After I’d forked out £9 on a family bundle, I discovered that there is a free audio guide that you can download to your phone, but I personally think the fact the kids did not have a screened device within their clutches for the day was a massive bonus so it was £9 well spent!
To get to The Stones you have two choices, you can either jump onto one of the very frequent shuttle busses, or you can walk. We opted to walk, so armed with walkie talkies (worth their weight in gold when forcing the kids on a walk – Monkey Boy and Daddy are always half a mile ahead, and being able to continue to argue/trade insults with each other even at this distance is enough to distract the kids from the fact they are walking!) and binoculars to stave off moans of ‘are we there yet’ and ‘my legs hurt’ we set off.
Even walking at 5 year old pace it was less than a half hour stroll along the same road that the shuttle busses use – fine for pushchairs and safe for little ones as the only traffic is the busses which give all pedestrians a wide berth.
Once there you can wander around the path that circles the stones for as long as you like. There are a couple of benches dotted around – we managed to nab one to sit down and have our picnic.
After initially promising the kids they could get the shuttle bus back to the visitor centre, we managed to trick them into walking by taking the scenic, cross country route back down. The area surrounding the stones is criss-crossed with plenty of National Trust paths, so we walked up to the burial mounds nearby (kids moaned because they couldn’t climb them due to erosion control measures) and then followed the path back through the fields. Distraction from walking tactics included ‘lets jump over the cow pats’ and ‘spot the military helicopters flying over’ also ‘lets see how many cannon booms we can hear from the nearby tank firing range’….
Before they knew it we were back at the start where the kids got their promised ice creams and Mum and Dad got to refuel with a coffee. We had a quick look around the exhibition which is just the right size for kids as you can get enough of a condensed history of the area before their attention spans start to falter.
Mini-Me (5) says: “I think the rocks were good because they have stayed up for 500 years and you could get those little phones that tell you all about it. It was really good because it makes you exercise. There was loads of cows and sheep and I thought that was good, and we found some really soft sheep wool in the field”
(500 years or 5000? it’s only an extra 0 after all, and said sheep wool is still safely stowed in Daddy’s wallet!)
Monkey-Boy (9) says: “I liked the audio guides I thought they were helpful, they gave us lots of information about Stonehenge. We got to see the actual stones but we couldn’t go underneath them. It was about a 3 mile walk*”
*It was nowhere near 3 miles
Mum says: “In my opinion this is absolutely one of those places that you should take the kids to and tick off your list. I think we hit lucky with a quiet day, I can imagine it would be a completely different experience at the height of the summer holidays – so wrap up warm, pack a picnic and have a winter wander with a view!”