Monday, 30 September 2013

Stonehenge vs. Ring of Brodgar

Have you ever been let down by a much-hyped tourist attraction? I'm asking because I was a bit disappointed when last summer I visited Stonehenge on my way to Bath.
There were literally dozens of tour buses parking in the proximity of the ring, which incidentally is smaller than I expected. Another thing that put me off is that you are not allowed to walk within the ring, only around it at a safe distance. I can understand why this is, but add a souvenir shop, the chattering teenagers on a school trip and the entrance fee (8£), and the mysterious and magical atmosphere that it should emanate is almost ruined. I say almost, because you can still perceive bits and pieces of good vibes here and there. Among other things, Stonehenge is set among rolling hills, with nothing but green grass in sight.
Stonehenge, England
Stonehenge, England

Can you see the people walking around it?
For a comparison, these are pictures I took some years ago of the Ring of Brodgar, in Orkney Islands, in the north of Scotland. It is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, together with the rest of Neolithic Orkney. I much appreciated the quiet of the spot. As you can see from this picture the Ring of Brodgar is close to the sea, and I can assure you that it's a mesmerizing place. My small group, four of us and our guide, were the only ones visiting at the time. There is no fence in the Ring of Brodgar, which means that you can go within the ring and touch the stones. There are no souvenir shops, no entry fees, no tour buses and no audio guides. Only the mystery of this Neolithic monument, actually much larger than Stonehenge, left there thousands of years ago. It is a spellbinding place, and nothing short of its more famous English neighbour. Yes, sure, Stonehenge is iconic, it's also protected by UNESCO, and I grant that in Brodgar there are no horizontal stones forming a circle as in Stonehenge. Overall, the Ring of Brodgar was for me a much more pleasant and intimate experience, and also because it's not widely known I cherish it as much as or perhaps even more than my visit to Stonehenge. 

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands
Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands

I know, this stone looks like those in  Easter Island!

Tell me about your experiences with major let downs and discoveries!


  1. Thanks for sharing - I'd never heard of the Ring of Brodgar before. I guess in part because it's overshadowed by Stonehenge despite the fact that the two are in different countries. Sorry to hear that Stonehenge was underwhelming.

  2. Many people find Stonehenge to be underwhelming. I think the reason why I enjoyed my visit so much was because of our tour guide. He was hilarious and such a charming old British man. And I quote "We really don't know a thing about this place. I like to think it was the work of fairies."

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

    1. For me the guide in Brodgar. We booked a 2-day tour of the islands if I remember well. In Stonehenge I had an audio-guide, no charming old British man.

  3. You can take a private tour of Stonehenge and walk among the stones--next time, try Golden Tours and book one of their early morning or late evening tours.


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