Stonehenge and the A303: The Sacred and the Mundane

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


For many people, over thousands of years, Stonehenge has been a sacred place. It is one of the UK’s most well-known sites, woven into the folklore and identity of these islands in a way that few places are. It is also meters away from the A303, one of the busiest roads in Britain. The proximity of these two sites is a constant source of tension - one seen as mystical, magical, to be preserved and revered, the other noisy, polluting and generally unpleasant (but necessary). In this paper I want to explore exactly why there is such a contrast in attitudes towards them. The path taken by the A303 has been used as a route into the West Country for almost as long Stonehenge itself has stood there (if not longer). Other old paths are revered and seen as magical - as demonstrated by the popularity of books like Robert McFarlane’s The Old Ways or Jini Reddy’s Wanderland - so why isn’t this one? There are regular attempts to have the A303 rerouted or reconstructed so that it is out of view of the Stones and no longer intruding on the landscape. However, I argue that there is something just as sacred and magical about the continual presence of travellers by Stonehenge as there is about Stonehenge itself, and suggest that we need a new way of understanding and embracing these kinds of multi-layered, multi-era, unconventionally mystical landscapes.
Period02 Sept 2022
Event titleRGS-IGB Annual International Conference: Geographies beyond recovery
Event typeConference
LocationNewcastle, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • values
  • Heritage
  • Development