This computer-generated image just released by English Heritage gives an impression of the superb facilities which will welcome groups arriving at Stonehenge when its new visitor centre opens late next year.
The dedicated coach park to the right of the picture will have spaces for 30 vehicles and there is an optional drop off bay in front of the coach reception building – where pre-printed tickets will be available for collection.
Groups will walk the short distance from the coach park to the new visitor centre shown on the left of the image, which will contain:
imaginative museum-quality exhibition galleries
a 114-cover café, with outdoor seating for 60 under a canopy and room to expand by a further 70 seats during the summer peak
expanded retail space that is over four times larger than the existing shop
ample toilets, including disabled toilets
Just outside, groups will hop on to the transit service for the 2km journey from the visitor centre, to the Stone Circle. Able to accommodate 900 passengers every hour, the transit stops once during the 10 minute drive to the Stones, so that passengers can walk a part of the way if they wish.
On arrival at the Stone Circle, they will enjoy a much quieter and greener experience – central to the exciting project being led by English Heritage is the removal of modern clutter next to the monument. This includes the closure of the A344 – which currently runs right past the monument, almost touching the Heel Stone – the removal of ugly high fencing and the existing outdated visitor buildings and car park nearby and the reinstatement of a grassy landscape. Restoration of the landscape is due for completion in summer 2014.
English Heritage is recommending that tour operators and GTOs plan in a dwell time of at least two hours for groups to fully appreciate and enjoy the enhanced experience Stonehenge will offer from late 2013. A pre-booked timed ticketing system will ensure that queues are kept to a minimum.
Construction work began on the new visitor centre in July and while the new facilities are being built, it is business as usual at Stonehenge with group visits unaffected. Popular Stone Circle Access visits – outside normal opening hours – are also unaffected and may be pre-booked.
From late Spring 2013, coaches approaching Stonehenge will be re-routed to the existing parking and visitor facilities, when the A303/A344 junction closes at Stonehenge Bottom so that work can start on de-commissioning the road. Coach drivers should look out for the diversion signs and a little extra time should be planned in to itineraries to take account of the slightly longer arrival and departure routes.
Travel trade clients booking visits to Stonehenge in the future will enjoy the same generous group discounts as now (10% discount for 11 or more people, with a free place for a driver and group leader), as well as a dedicated phone line for bookings/information and dedicated website pages.
Full Article and other Wiltshire news: http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk
When completed, the new visitor centre will make it possible for the first time to present the fascinating story of Stonehenge on site. The archaeological gallery will feature important objects on loan from local museums and outside will be three Neolithic houses, recreated using extremely rare evidence of domestic buildings from prehistoric England recently unearthed near Stonehenge.
Stonehenge Guided Tours – www.StonehengeTours.com