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A guide to Stonehenge

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Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument whose construction started around 3000 BC. It is located in Wiltshire, about 8 miles north of Salisbury, and it is one of the most iconic features in the British landscape.

The importance of Stonehenge has long been recognised, and it has been protected since 1882 as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. In 1986 the site and its surroundings were included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Stonehenge itself is now managed by English Heritage and the surrounding land by the National Trust. Surprisingly, Stonehenge remained in private hands until 1918 when Cecil Chubb, who had bought the monument at auction three years earlier, gave it to the nation. It is now owned by the Crown.

History of Stonehenge

It seems likely that Stonehenge has always been associated with burial and it has been through several phases of construction during the 5,000 years it has stood on the site. Archaeologists continue to explore its history and new discoveries are still being made.

The monument has also become a focus for folklore and for celebrations in the neo-Druid calendar, most notably on June 21st for the Summer Solstice. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s the Stonehenge Free Festival was held on the site. However, after the Battle of Beanfield in 1985, when Wiltshire police clashed with those who wished the Free Festival to continue, access to the site for events of this nature has been heavily restricted.

Visiting Stonehenge

It is possible to visit Stonehenge, and the site is open between 9am and 8pm. However, entrance is controlled by timed tickets and therefore to guarantee the date and time you require, it’s recommended to book in advance.

Around 1.5 miles from the monument is a newly built visitor centre, opened in 2013. This houses both temporary and permanent exhibitions, including more than 300 archaeological finds from the site itself. Outside the visitor centre are several reproductions of Neolithic houses. Here you can find out more about how the houses were constructed. You can also ask questions of the volunteers, who are always available at Stonehenge, about what it was like to live during this era.

There is a café, gallery and gift shop at the visitor centre, plus a shuttle service runs between the centre and Stonehenge regularly. If you prefer to approach the monument on foot, to enjoy the landscape and majesty of the stones rising before you, the shuttle service also offers a half-way drop off point.

Getting To Stonehenge

There are many ways to get to Stonehenge and they make it as accessible as possible. You can approach by road along the A303, although as this is one of the main routes into the South-West, it can get very busy during summer months. You can also take a national rail train to Salisbury and then from there take The Stonehenge Tour bus to the site. If you are on holiday in the area, there are also several walking and cycling routes which allow you access.

One of the best ways to see Stonehenge is from the air and this can be achieved via helicopter. A helicopter charter can include your journey there and back plus a day’s visit to the site. While it’s not possible to land at the monument itself, all your land transport is taken care of so you can just relax and enjoy your visit.

For those who built Stonehenge over the centuries, it would have been impossible for them to image that one day visitors would come to see the result of their work, let alone that they would travel there by air. We are in a privileged position whereby we can still see the site as it was first created and learn about all those who played a part in its history.

The NFL Comes to Wembley

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The NFL, or National Football League, is the professional league of American Football, of which, a growing portion of their fanbase resides in the UK and since 2007, the NFL International Series has been exclusively held at Wembley Stadium. That first year, the Miami Dolphins hosted the New York Giants and demand for tickets were so high that 40,000 sold out within the first 90 minutes of them being on sale.

Every year since different teams have played and the support has never waned. The NFL are now planning more international games, some at Twickenham Stadium in London and others at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

What’s Planned for 2016?

If you want to catch the excitement of the sport live in 2016 then head to Wembley Stadium this autumn. On 2nd October the Indianapolis Colts play the Jacksonville Jaguars and on the 30th October, the Washington Redskins play the Cincinnati Bengals.  General admission tickets for both games are now sold out, although it’s still possible to attend if you book through one of Wembley Stadium’s hospitality packages.

Why Wembley is The Perfect Venue

Wembley Stadium has been synonymous with sport through the decades. It was built at the end of the First World War and originally known as the Empire Stadium. The building was the centrepiece of a post-war British Empire Exhibition. In the early part of the 21st century it was rebuilt, and it reopened its doors in 2007. The famous twin towers of the original stadium replaced by an iconic arch.

The stadium is now one of the most modern stadiums in the world, with a circumference of 1km and seating for 90,000 people. Even better, none of those seats have obstructed views so you are always guaranteed one of the best seats in the house, wherever you are sitting.

To cater for that many people there are 34 bars, 8 restaurants, and 688 food outlets to choose from. In a standard half-time during football and rugby matches it is estimated that around 40,000 pints of beer are served, so the scale of the operation is incredible.

Getting to Wembley

There is limited parking at Wembley Stadium, as it is designated a public transport destination. If you want to drive ensure you book parking in advance.

Train, tube, and coach access are relatively easy. Wembley is only two stops away from Baker Street on the Metropolitan Line and National Express coaches have dedicated services for events from across the UK.

An alternative, and one which makes a much more special occasion of the day is to charter a helicopter and take in the sights of the capital from above before making your way to one of the NFL Games.

The Future of NFL in the UK                     

NFL games will continue at Wembley Stadium until at least 2020 and the likelihood is they will go on long after that. Enthusiasm for American Football has reached a level where thousands of people are now playing the game themselves and taking part in amateur games here in the UK. Since the NFL first arrived at Wembley in 2007 participation has risen 15 per cent every year and there are now more than 40,000 people over the age of 16 playing regularly.

American Football is exciting, fast paced and very different to sports we are used to watching in the UK. If you haven’t experienced it first-hand try to make it to one of the games at Wembley or even if you don’t make it there in person, catch up on the action on BBC Sport and iPlayer. You might just become a fan.

Highclere Castle: Why you should visit

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Highclere Castle in Berkshire has become famous in recent years as home to the fictitious Earl of Grantham and his family in ‘Downton Abbey’. In reality, though, it is the estate of Lord and Lady Carnarvon but it has just as rich a history as its on-screen counterpart.

The Estate

The site was first mentioned in the Domesday Book and was originally a medieval palace of the Bishop of Winchester. The Carnarvons have lived at Highclere since 1679 but the castle building we see today did not emerge until Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament, remodelled it in 1842. The house is set in 1,000 acres of parkland including formal gardens, woodland, and several follies. The parkland was designed by one of the most celebrated landscape gardeners of the 18th century, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. In October of this year, Highclere is opening the grounds for a special exclusive celebration of the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown’s birth.

At the turn of the 21st century, the house was in a state of disrepair with necessary renovations estimated to cost around £12 million. Because of the popularity of Downton Abbey, Highclere has seen a huge upsurge in visitor numbers and Lord and Lady Carnarvon are now in a position where the repairs are being carried out.

Egyptian Connections                        

Highclere Castle was home to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, a colleague of archaeologist Howard Carter. It was the two men who discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. Lord Carnarvon died soon after the discovery and much has been made of the rumour that there was a curse upon those who disturbed the tomb of the Boy King.

At Highclere, there is an Egyptian Exhibition which houses a collection of the antiquities collected by the 5th Earl and reproductions of many of the items found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Visiting Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle is open between July and September for tours of the house and gardens and there are also various special events held throughout the year, such as a vintage tea party and Christmas fair.

You can travel to Highclere by train, alighting at Newbury and then getting a taxi to the house. By car, you can approach by the M4 and the A34 and then follow the brown tourist signs which will bring you to the correct entrance. If you want to experience the magnificence of Highclere by air why not charter a helicopter and see the full extent of the parkland from above?

Private Functions

Highclere Castle also offers private functions and the beautiful setting makes it the perfect backdrop for an engagement, wedding or anniversary celebration. Smaller parties of 30 people right up to 140 guests can be catered for and the bride can even descend from the first floor Gallery, down the sweeping Oak Staircase into the heart of the castle the Saloon, where civil marriage ceremonies are licensed to be held.

If you don’t want to visit the Castle when it is open to the public, private tours can also be arranged when you can take in the house, parkland, and even the Egyptian exhibition, too.

Continuing Appeal

Downton Abbey has now completed its run but the popularity of Highclere Castle shows no signs of abating. People travel from around the world to visit the castle and it seems likely that they will continue to do so. Part of the appeal of Highclere is that it has so much to offer in its own right. It took a television series to bring it to the public’s attention but it will be the allure of the house and grounds that will keep them coming back for more in years to come.

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