Twenty-seven million pounds Sterling on a nasty looking interactive site for Stonehenge...that word 'interactive' gives me the heebie-jeebies when I see somewhere or something is interactive. It usually means vast empty spaces with slightly out of focus blown-up photographs and a loop commentary in a million different languages operated by pushing buttons...so feral children charge about pressing the buttons and then run away sniggering while their parents gawp mindlessly at the photographs and come away none the wiser...
Anyway this horrible place has been built and it has a cafeteria...oh, goody...and a 'gift shop'...so tourists can buy trinkets...it even has a proper ticket booth 'cos you don't honestly think you can get in for free...
I've been to Stonehenge a couple of times...the first was when I was a teenager and I was desperately disappointed in how awfully small it is...the second time was when Luke was a baby, so that'd be thirty-three years ago...you could still leave your car on the side of the road and roam about among the stones.
The road past Stonehenge has been closed...so now you can't even drive past and shake Granny awake in case she misses it.
Now you leave your coach or car miles away and are taken in little 'bus things that are pulled by Land-Rovers...couldn't get much worse really. It is actually possible to stand at a respectful distance from the stones themselves...but you can't get near to them.
We live within an hour or so's drive from the Cliffs of Moher...they are very steep and are home to many different species of sea birds. Twenty years ago you followed the vague signs...parked the car...went to where there was a bit of rickety fence and peered over at the Puffins nesting and then you sat on the grass and ate your picnic. It made for a pleasant afternoon out.
Now there is an underground car park...and...an Interactive Centre with blown up slightly fuzzy photographs of the Puffins which you'd have been able to see in 'real life' if they hadn't fenced the cliff off. It costs vast amounts of money to get in and you'd be lucky to catch a brief glimpse of the ocean, never mind a Puffin.
If you travel another fifteen miles or so along the coast road there is a totally spectacular jaw-dropping view of incredible cliffs with the Atlantic pounding the rocks below...it is securely fenced so you can't fall over the edge...but you can lean on the metal fence and just look for as long as you like and there isn't an official car park in sight...or a gift shop...or a cafe.
We have to have proper car parks with smooth tarmac and clean toilets reeking of air freshener...we have to be fed information in neat bite sized pieces and woe betide the child who gets 'bored'...there are heaps of pictures for them to colour in and fact sheets and horribly enthusiastic young people to lead them all off on an exploratory trail...then we need a cup of tea and a cake so we pay vastly inflated prices for lukewarm tea and a stale Danish pastry when, if we'd waited until we reached the next village, we could have had a decent 'pub lunch for the same price in front of a real fire.
Newgrange is possibly the worst horror on the tourist trail...they have an interactive thing now where 'You can experience the Winter Solstice without the need to enter the tomb itself'...you can't enter the tomb anyway unless you've bought an expensive ticket and are prepared to queue...and forget the Winter Solstice...the tickets to experience that are only handed out to members of the Dail and local dignitaries...
You want to be in a Neolithic tomb that has a light chamber...sit inside in total awe when the rising sun hits the back of the chamber and you wonder aloud however did the tomb builders do that...if you'd like to and don't much mind a steep walk to the top of the mountain in the dark...I'll take you. It'll cost you nothing but a warm jacket and a torch to see your way and we can go and meet the donkeys at Sue's sanctuary when it gets light and then have a proper breakfast at the garage on the main road.
I wouldn't want a decent car park there of course...it'd fill me with horror to think I'd ever have to actually pay as it would the others who walk up the winding road right to the top of the mountain. An interactive centre would be plain silly...it is a place where quiet and own thoughts and awe for the builders are essential...
Rather sad then that Stonehenge has lost its magic.