Saturday, 12 January 2013

Can British heritage sites compete on the world stage?

Our expert panel ( rated Avebury in Wiltshire as one of the best heritage sites in the world, beating the pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal for visitor experience. Do we take our extraordinary heritage for granted?

With an expert score of 78%, Avebury came second only to the ancient Zapotec capital of Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico, when rated by a panel of Which? experts against a range of criteria.

Most people know the site for its enormous stone circle, but there’s much more to this prehistoric complex, including ancient burial chambers and the vast man-made Silbury hill, dating back around 5,000 years.

Taking on the world
There’s no doubting Avebury’s importance – it is after all a Unesco World Heritage Site – but I was astonished to find that it could compete with iconic sites like Peru’s Machu Picchu or Jordan’s Petra.

But our experts were adamant. On every single aspect that we judged to be important for a great heritage visit, Avebury scored highly. While the stone structures may not be as well preserved as say,Machu Picchu, they are considerably older. Up to 5,000 years older, in fact.

And unlike at its sister site, Stonehenge, the visit is not sanitised. You can turn up at any time, day or night. You can walk freely among the stones and try and imagine how on earth these 40-60 tonne monoliths were moved into place by manpower alone. You can even hug the stones if you feel so inclined.

And where else in the world would monuments of such historic importance be left alone to gently integrate with the landscape and become a feature of everyday life for subsequent generations?

A heritage site without the hassle
So many world heritage sites are ravaged by commercialism and mass tourism. Visitors face overpricing, queues and hawkers, as they are rushed around a site that is mostly fenced off and inaccessible. Not so Avebury. Visitor numbers are intentionally kept low, the site is clean, quiet, free to visit and ecologically and culturally sustainable.

Still not convinced? Nor was I. So I visited on a crisp November morning and I must admit there is something magical about the place. It may not be perched on a mountain-top, but the setting has its own quintessentially English charm. As the world gets smaller and we regularly jet off in search of the exotic, are we becoming blasé about the historic wonders of our own green and pleasant land?

Have you visited Avebury or other British prehistoric monuments? How do they compare to other major heritage sites around the world?

Which magazine link:

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Join the Stonehenge Cycle Challenge and pedal into history. In September 2013 members of English Heritage will be able to take part in an exclusive sponsored cycle ride, which traces the route of the Stonehenge bluestones from Wales to Wiltshire.

Starting at the Preseli Hills in the Pembrokeshire National Park and ending inside the stone circle at Stonehenge with a celebratory glass of champagne, this really is a monumental ride of a lifetime.
When is it and who can get involved?
This three day event, which runs from 13-15 September 2013, is ideal for keen cyclists with a love of history. The journey will cover:
Preseli Hills to Llandovery on day one (approx. 50 miles)
Llandovery to Chepstow via Brecon Beacons on day two (approx. 60 miles) and finally
Chepstow to Stonehenge on day three (approx 65 miles).
Cyclists will be able to take in some of the most beautiful Welsh and English countryside with plenty of water stops along the way, as well as much-deserved pub lunches.

Why cycle Stonehenge?
This sponsored ride, open to both individuals and teams, will raise much needed money to help fund improvements to the unique prehistoric landscape surrounding Stonehenge. These improvements include:
A new environmentally sensitive visitor centre 1.5 miles away at Airman's Corner
Removing the current car park and facilities at the Stones and returning these areas to grass
Closure of the A344 with the section from Stonehenge Bottom to Byway 12 reverting to grass, allowing Stonehenge to be reunited with its ancient processional way
Find out more about our ambitious plans to transform Stonehenge. Please note: a registration fee will be charged to cover the cost of the safe running of this event.

How to get involved
If you would like to take part in the Stonehenge Cycle Challenge, you can register your interest by emailing: Or why not support Stonehenge without breaking out into a sweat by donating online.

Stonehnege Tour Guide (in training now)