The first glimpse through the window showed a vision of pure blue sky and sunshine, the perfect weather for sight-seeing, but will it last?
We caught the bus at the foot of the chine and changed in Bournemouth to the X3 Salisbury bus, our destination being Stonehenge.
At Salisbury we took the Stonehenge tour bus. For £10 this takes you to Stonehenge and includes the entrance fee. There is a regular timetable, so you can come back on any of the bus’s scheduled services.
Stonehenge is one of the most photographed, talked about and written about monuments in the world. There is nothing I can say that hasn’t been said better many times before. My photos will be no different from the many taken before but you somehow feel you have to take your own.
Much is known about Stonehenge and a lot is not known. There are also many myths about this structure. The main one is the spurious claim that it is a Druid site. It is not. Stonehenge had already been abandoned for 1000 years before the Druids, a Celtic creed, came along. The Druids held their rituals in forest glades, not in built environments.
Ancient Stonehenge sat proudly on a windswept plain where the only sounds would have come from the rain and wind and the calls of wildlife. Today, it is at the confluence of major roads, its air troubled by the constant roar of traffic. While this makes for easy access, it also detracts from the charm of the place.
After our visit to Stonehenge, we took the tour bus as far as Old Sarum, the massive hill fort that was the first “town” in the area. Its construction of earthen walls surrounded by a deeply dug ditch was a remarkable feat when you consider the primitive tools at the builders’ disposal, namely deer-horn picks and ox shoulder blades for shovels.
The Normans recognized the strategic value of the site and within the precincts built a castle and the first cathedral on British soil. The site lacks a source of water, which must have been a serious disadvantage, so as defensive needs declined, a decision was made to move to a more amenable site. Thus was born the modern Salisbury. The castle itself was abandoned and fell into ruin. The stones of the castle and the cathedral were plundered for use in building up the new town.
After our visit to Sarum, we took a service bus back into town where we looked around a small outdoor market and then had coffee. The X3 bus ride back to Bournemouth seemed quite long for some reason, but there was plenty to see as we sped along the road through towns and countryside.
When we arrived back in Bournemouth, it was still early evening so Tigger proposed a visit to Shell Bay to walk along the sandy beach. To get there from the centre of Bournemouth you take the number 50 bus and get off at the first stop after the ferry crossing. This places you on the Studland Peninsula.
We walked along the beach which is composed of fine sand mixed with fragments of shells. We had asked the bus driver where to find the stop for the return journey but he had been vague, suggesting we try to flag down the bus, which might or might not stop, depending on the driver.
This made me somewhat nervous as the next bus back was the last of the day and I didn’t want to miss it. This caused us to curtail our walk along the beach and look for an official bus stop. We had to walk a long way until we eventually found a stop but it was marked only on the other side of the road. We assumed our bus would stop there if we hailed it, but were not entirely sure until it actually did so.
By the time we reached Westbourne, night had fallen. We went for dinner to Indi’s Contemporary Indian restaurant. I am not in general keen on Indian restaurants with “modern” or “contemporary” in their name as this is often an excuse to serve small portions of simplified and bland food but I found Indi’s very good. The food was tasty and well prepared and the portions reasonably large. We finished in time to catch the 24 bus due at 9:41 and this took us back to the hotel.
This was a good day out. For one thing, the weather played along and it was sunny and warm until darkness fell. For another, the buses turned up more or less on time, giving us good transport between our places of interest, Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Shell Bay. The Indian dinner rounded off the day nicely.
Tomorrow is our last full day. Let’s hope the meteorology is as kind as it was today.