High on my list of places to visit was Stonehenge, located West of London. My reasoning was simple: since it has already been here approximately 5000 years, one never knows when the stones just might fall over, and then I’ve lost my chance. The nearest city of any size is Salisbury. Salisbury also has a very famous cathedral, so we decided to take a long weekend, begin at Stonehenge, and Salisbury, and then move South to the coast, to the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton.
So what I learned about what remains at Stonehenge is that one third of the stones are actually buried beneath the ground, so I’m now thinking the chances of them falling is quite low. It’s quite amazing and quite larger than I expected. And while it’s in the middle of nowhere, if you’ve got directions, you simply follow your last major road and literally run right into it. Most of the photos in books don’t show you that the busy A344 roadway runs directly beside it.
Historians believe there were actually four stages of building at Stonehenge from 3500 BC to 1500 BC, that the bluestones arrived from Wales some 240 miles away, and while no one really knows why it is there, it could have had some religious meaning to those who built it. It must have been very important, as think about how many people it would have taken to haul all those stones from 240 miles away!
Salisbury Cathedral was next and probably what was most memorable to me, in addition to the impressive Gothic cathedral itself was what is considered the most well preserved of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, and the oldest working clock in Europe (AD 1386), both inside. Salisbury has also hosted the same market in its market square since the 1300s; we took a walk through it on Saturday to find everything from vegetables and meats to maps and power tools. Dear daughter kept asking, “what do they have for little girls” as we scurried though the aisles trying to keep her hands off items.
Portsmouth has Clarence Pier; think Coney Island, with rides, games, restaurants and greasy food. My two year old had a great time on the super slide and we had a nice walk on a beautiful day, watching cruise ships and ferry boats – carrying both people and autos – pass by the coastline.
Southampton, the departure point for both the Mayflower and the Titanic, is today where the Queen Mary 2 docks and carries passengers across the Atlantic to New York on one-way passages, a journey I would love to take someday. Unfortunately it wasn’t docked, but we did see other cruise ships in port and also enjoyed a nice driving tour along the south coast of England on our way back to London.
We decided we’d try to stop at famous landmarks along our way, as many castles were marked on our road map. After stopping at about four, we realized we’d be late returning our rental car if we stopped at any more. Maybe an entire weekend castle tour would be appropriate at a later date?