Stonehenge at 60 mph!

in Photography Loverslast month (edited)

Most people have probably heard of Stonehenge the 5,000 year old circle of massive stones on Salisbury plain but few get to see it up close for a number of reasons.

It's remote and it's expensive to get into. So most people get to see this monument from the A303 road at 60mph but because everyone wants to get a photo the traffic slows right down to a crawl and that's how these photos were captured on my 5 year old potato smartphone. Which photo do you like?


Stonehenge on the horizon

Stonehenge getting closer

While these monumental stones have attracted visitors for over 5,000 years it is only in very recent times that the public has been charged for the privilege of getting close to the stones.

Of course there are the Druids who claim it as a sacred site and part of their religious beliefs and practices?

Stonehenge predates Druidism by many centuries if not millennia.

My question to you.

Is it right to charge people for visiting a place like Stonehenge which was built by the community for the community?

Disneyfication of Stonehenge by English Heritage

Uncover the story of Stonehenge. Take in the unforgettable atmosphere of this World Heritage Site and best known prehistoric monument in Europe, visit our world-class exhibition to discover how the Stonehenge builders worked and walk amongst the Neolithic houses to experience how they lived.


If you look up reviews of Stonehenge you will find many people complaining about their disgust at English Heritage profiteering from this world heritage site.

The other side of this argument is that the public has defaced the monument over the years and it needs to be protected from further damage.

Who's right in this situation?


I've not been there for a long time, but when I did you were stuck behind a fence. Avebury is a better experience as they don't care if you climb on the stones.

I've been to Stonehenge back in the 70's when it was possible to get right up to the stones but as you say it's not possible these days.
I think the closest people can get now is behind a fence about 40 metres away?

Avebury is much more accessible as you say. It's just weird that English heritage charge so much for something that belongs to everyone and no one?

It's quite near me and I've never been, but I recently joined English heritage so will take advantage of my membership now.

As to charge or not... It needs to be protected, and there's a cost to it. It's the reasonableness of the cost that matters and balancing it with affordability to the public

Yep it's free entry for English heritage members which is great.
I think the issue that people complain about is the price for the general public. For example a couple with three kids can cost £56 + donation?
That seems an excessive amount of money for a monument that belongs to the people?

Of course there is a cost to the upkeep of the place but I'm pretty sure that they are making a huge profit on what is supposed to be a charitable organisation?

I sort of understand charging if the money is going to be put to preserving the site and keeping vandals away. Having said that, the prices seem very steep. Maybe there wouldn't be so many charges of profiteering if the prices were reasonable.


Maybe there wouldn't be so many charges of profiteering if the prices were reasonable.

This is the main criticism that is levelled at English heritage. It seems to price according to demand which makes perfect business sense but this is not a business. It's a national monument that is restricting access to those that can afford it.

When I was a kid all UK museums, monuments and art galleries were free as they were seen as public goods.

In recent years they are seen as profit centres that need to be self sustaining.

Its basically a stripping away of the cultural heritage of this country for the pursuit of profits.

This is the real vandalism that is being promoted. The UK has become a joke with it's cultural heritage available... at a price.

In the U.S. it is kind of a mixed bag. The Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C. are free and those are certainly among the biggest and best. National Parks usually have an admission fee but they average a somewhat lower price than Stonehenge and i'm guessing there is a lot more to see and do. State and local museums and parks depend on the state and locality and may be free or have a fee (though usually a small fee in the $5 to $10 range for a car load of people).

I would love to see Stonehenge up close one day. On the other hand, that's damn expensive to go look at a pile of rocks and at the end of the day, whatever else they may add, that's really what you are there to see.

I suppose it comes down to a philosophical perspective on what are seen as public goods vs private property.
Museums, national art galleries and national parks are part of a country's cultural heritage and as such should be accessible by all.

Entry prices were introduced in the UK by stealth over the last 40 years. It started with people being asked to make a voluntary donation which was ramped up slowly over the years to the crazy price we see today.

These places are part of our education in my view should be free for everyone as these institutions belong to the people. Maybe it's an old idea but one that makes sense to me.

Donations I can live with. Each according to their means but a blanket price is going to exclude a lot of people.

The Smithsonian is brilliant and an example of how it should be. Free 👍🏼

I guess the one thing to keep in mind is that nothing is free. It's just a matter of how you pay for it. Donataions? User fees? Taxes? Some combination? But in any case, I think it is obvious that Disney World like prices to see ancient standing stones is a bit much.

I looked it up and apparently more than $1 billion in tax money is spent on Smithsonian museums every year (and I'm sure they get donations too). That's...a lot.

one thing to keep in mind is that nothing is free

Whilst the above statement is commonly used in discussing economic ideas it is not factually true but more a philosophical position that has become dominant in the last 50 years.

There had been community or public goods for centuries which were owned and maintained by the community for the community.
Of course there is the infamous 'Tragedy of the commons' scenario which is always used as an economic excuse for profit making citing the selfishness of individuals over community assets.

'People can't be trusted to do the right thing for the community'

This argument breaks down everytime we see a disaster. People actually flock to help out.

Cultural enrichment from our shared history is a human resource and should not be subjected to the same market forces as say pork bellies or soy beans. Public goods are not supposed to make a profit.

Traditionally public goods were paid for by taxes. Many English heritage properties were donated to the charity or left to them in wills. I'd assume that the same thing happened in the USA?

Disney World like prices to see ancient standing stones is a bit much

I absolutely agree. Trying to turn everything into a variant of a Disney theme park is ridiculous.
Where's the civic pride or cultural enrichment in that? 🤦‍♂️😂👍🏼

I think it is observationally true. Helping out in disasters is not the same thing as a permanent volunteer effort to maintain something. I wholly support getting government out of maintaining "public" things but I don't think the result will end up with everything being maintained for free or on an entirely volunteer basis.

At the end of the day, there is a limit to the amount of effort people are willing to expend to maintain things that are not "theirs". This isn't necessarily selfishness, there's just a practical limit. Your labor is valuable and typically you need to use it to maintain your own household and extra time you have is better spent with your family and in doing other things you enjoy.

You see this in public housing and almost any poorly funded "public" facility. I agree that in many regards its a philosophical viewpoint but I base mine on what I observe. I tend to be libertarian in my thinking and think private ownership is better because it is more efficient. Having "public" places run by non-profit organizations might make sense but they are likely to still need to raise money for maintenance and security. Donations and volunteers may exist but will not be enough in all cases (probably not in most cases). I think the fact that Stonehenge was vandalized is evidence of that.

Going back to the Smithsonian, that's a billion dollars a year equivalent you would have to find in volunteer manpower and donations to maintain it as it is. Good luck with that. I think it could be run privately for less but I don't think it could be run for "free". Part of the problem is that for some things, a particular skill set is needed. It's not true that any volunteer can do any job. Passing out water bottles, donating food, or moving rubble in a disaster isn't the same is having an architect to design a building, skilled construction workers to build it, museum curators and the appropriate equipment to take care of exhibits, etc.

I'm not against using volunteer effort, I just don't think it would be enough in most cases.

While in theory, saying these things shouldn't be subject to market forces sounds nice, it's just not true. What happens when 10x more people want to visit Stonehenge than it can reasonably handle? You can charge an increasing amount of money until you weed out enough people or you can put people on a waiting list (effectively creating a shortage). The market forces are always there when a resource is limited. You can only choose between price and availability. Perhaps for something like Stonehenge a waiting list is better as it at least gives everyone an opportunity as opposed to not being able to afford it. You still need funds for whatever costs are involved that volunteer effort is insufficient for though.

In the U.S. how such things started varies. Things like the Smithsonian and Library of Congress were started with private donations but have since been maintained primarily with tax dollars though there are donations also. National parks were created by the government as the U.S. expanded westward. Most are quite large with the largest being in Alaska and is over 33,000 square kilometers in size. These are funded through a combination of taxes, donations and entrance fees (usually these are reasonable). There are tons of other museums, parks, historic buildings etc. but there is no one size fits all approach. Some involved donation, some are private, some are entirely government operated, some are a combination...

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