DCMS blog

Stonehenge: Meeting new challenges at the ancient monument

Jennifer Davies

by

Jennifer Davies

English Heritage’s Head of Historic Properties for Stonehenge

On 18 March, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began to be felt, Stonehenge closed its doors to the public, along with more than 400 English Heritage sites. In an ordinary year, the celebrated ancient monument welcomes 1.6 million visitors, but overnight the numbers of people on site was reduced to just a handful of staff, with only Stonehenge’s resident rooks, larks and hares for company.

Stonehenge

Reopening and welcoming back visitors

When the site reopened on 4 July, the team had been working hard to prepare new social distancing measures to help keep everyone safe. Visits must now be booked online in advance and audio guides downloaded to smartphones.

A new 2.6 mile walking route now allows visitors to soak up the surrounding ancient landscape as they approach the stone circle on foot, helping the team to prioritise on-site shuttle buses for those who need them. All visitors travelling on the bus and visiting the fascinating indoor exhibition must now wear face coverings. Additional hand sanitising stations are available across the site.

However, it is one not-so-new initiative which has proved a particular hit. Visitors can help reduce the pressure on the on-site café – now takeaway only – by bringing their own picnic. The ancient stones make the perfect backdrop and it’s a simple pleasure which has been enjoyed by Stonehenge visitors for centuries.