We rounded the crest of the hill on the highway, and there it was ahead of us: Stonehenge!
Tall, wonky, somehow familiar stones, brooding dark against the yellow grass of the hillside. Bigger than we had thought, after all the people telling us how small they really were. The large "heelstone" at the outer edge, next to the road, was about twice as tall as a person.
Brendan and the heelstone.
All that separated the casual observer from the stones was a chain-link fence running along the road. We parked down the road at the parking lot, and stepped out of the car.
A blast of icy wind hit us, whipping straight through our gloves and hats and scarves. We hurried up to the entrance gate. The hillside was very exposed, and we rather painfully struggled to keep our hands warm enough to take photos. Even though the ambient temperature was actually 1*C, and it was sunny, the staff told us later that the windchill brought the temperature to -7*C!
Because it was so cold, we didn't manage to stay for very long. We walked around and enjoyed it, but decided against walking up to the cone-shaped barrows on the fields on the other side of the monument. These barrows are burial places for the leaders of those who built Stonehenge.
On the hill, you can see the barrows.
Lots of signs around the monument warned to keep off the grass, and there were two wardens standing in front as well to ensure that no-one goes up to the stones. It was only in the past few decades that people have gained an appreciation of preservation here - it used to be that everyone wandered around as they pleased and carved their names on the stones!
We look far less cold than we are.
Stonehenge is the most important ancient monument in Britain, and is at least 5,000 years old. (Some scientists think it's much older, based on post holes dating to 8000 BC underneath the car park!) The whole site was actually built in multiple stages over 1,500 years, at one stage being abandoned for 1,000 years. It's a rather fascinating mystery.