Last week we had some American cousins staying with us and on the days I wasn't working I offered to take them out and about. On Thursday we did Bath and on Friday 4th July it was the turn of Stonehenge and Salisbury.
Stonehenge is in the middle of Salisbury Plain and I love the big skies you find there
Although we had driven past it many times, I had only visited on one other occasion when our school trip stopped off at the stones on the way home to Dorset from London. It was quite magical, the sun was setting and we were able to wander around inside the stones to our hearts' content, it has become a cherished memory.
Later, driving past on frequent trips to visit my parents in Somerset, I saw a large wire perimeter fence had sprung up separating the visitors from the stones - I had no wish to stop as I felt it would only spoil the memory.
Last year, however, English Heritage changed the access to the stones and opened a new visitors' centre as befits a World Heritage Site. The transformation was radical! Gone was the fence, visitors are able to get really close to the stones in some places and, to my great surprise, it was fairly easy to take photographs without hordes of people in them.
It's hard to know if the stones are more impressive in colour or black and white
The stones and the visitors' centre explored, we set off for Salisbury where another stone edifice was the main attraction - the cathedral.
After exploring the main church we set off through the cloisters to the beautiful Chapter House where one of the two original versions of the Magna Carta signed at Runnymede in 1215 is displayed. Again I have only been to Runnymede once, under similar circumstance to my trip to Stonehenge, on the way back from a school trip. We stopped at the Airforce Memorial in the early evening and were infused with such a sense of beauty and peace. Since my visit there a memorial to JFK has been added.
The exhibitions showed links between the Declaration of Independence and Magna Carta and had quotes from various individuals in history who had paved the way to freedom, such as Martin Luther King. I think we all felt it very special to be viewing this historic document on American Independence Day.