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English Heritage has asked the public to ‘be patient’ whilst it sorts out the teething troubles evident at its new Stonehenge visitor centre. Since the new complex was opened just before Christmas it has attracted a mixed reception. Whilst some visitors have praised the new exhibition, others have complained about lengthy queues and the cost of visits.
With the new visitor centre being sited one and a half miles away from the stones themselves, ‘land trains’ are on hand to transport visitors between the two venues. However these have not coped with visitor numbers, resulting in emergency coaches being brought in to ferry visitors. A cheaper ‘walk to view the stones only’ option is also to be introduced.
The new visitor complex was built in response to criticism of the previous visitor centre, built in the 1960s, coupled with a desire to remove the immediate road network from around Stonehenge, thus restoring the site to its previous isolation. But as with any visitor attraction, its ultimate success depends on making sure that the visitor experience is an overwhelmingly positive one; both in engendering positive publicity to attract new visitors and to attract repeat visitors. Once the teething troubles are over, it will be interesting to see how the ‘new look’ Stonehenge beds in to its role as a world heritage site.