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Travel writer Bill Bryson slams the National Trust for 'fleecing' stone circle tourists after he spent £32 without even getting a cuppa 

  • Author moaned about his visit to Avebury, Wiltshire, to visit stone circles 
  • Said the village lacked signs and that manor house looked like a film set
  • Accused National Trust of fleecing tourists as he spent over £30 on visit
  • Writer concluded that the visit to the village had left him feeling 'grumpy' 

By Jennifer Newton for MailOnline

Published: 13:36 EST, 19 October 2015 | Updated: 13:36 EST, 19 October 2015

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Acclaimed travel writer Bill Bryson has slammed the National Trust accusing them of 'fleecing' tourists visiting a stone circle claiming he spent £32 before even getting a cup of tea.

The 63-year-old moaned he was made to stump up the cash before he even saw anything during a visit to Europe's biggest Neolithic stone circle in Avebury, near Marlborough Wiltshire.

He criticised everything about his visit to the village saying it lacked interpretation signs and that the manor house had been transformed into a 'film set'.

Travel writer Bill Bryson, who has slammed the National Trust, accusing them of fleecing tourists visiting a Neolithic stone circle in Wiltshire 

Travel writer Bill Bryson, who has slammed the National Trust, accusing them of fleecing tourists visiting a Neolithic stone circle in Wiltshire 

The damning review appears in Mr Bryson's new book, The Road to Little Dribbling, where he says the visit to Avebury left him 'grumpy.'

The author, who is also a commissioner for English Heritage, wrote: 'The size and complexity of Avebury and the fact that a village stands in its midst make it awfully hard to get your bearings, and the National Trust does precious little to help.

'If you want to know what you are looking at, you have to buy a guidebook.

'They like to charge for every individual thing. The day cannot be too far off when you have to pay for toilet paper by the sheet in a little booth manned by a volunteer.'

He also wrote: 'Within minutes of arriving, I had paid out £7 for parking, £10 for a ticket to the manor house and garden and £4.90 for the small museum, and I still couldn't find my way to the stones.

The 63-year-old moaned he was made to stump up the cash before he even saw anything during a visit to Europe's biggest Neolithic stone circle in Avebury, pictured

The 63-year-old moaned he was made to stump up the cash before he even saw anything during a visit to Europe's biggest Neolithic stone circle in Avebury, pictured

However, when he did see the stone circle, he did describe the tourist spot as both 'awesome and entrancing' 

However, when he did see the stone circle, he did describe the tourist spot as both 'awesome and entrancing' 

'I went into the gift shop and bought a big handsome map for £9.99, which meant that I had spent £31.89 at Avebury without even having a cup of tea.

'So I went and had a cup of tea for £2.50 and studied my map.

BILL BRYSON: NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND

In his 1995 book Notes From a Small Island, Mr Bryson details his trip travelling around Great Britain.

In the book he gives praise and criticism to the various places he visited up and down the country.

Among the places that come in for criticism is Blackpool and the illuminations. He wrote: 'Blackpool's illuminations are nothing if not splendid, and they are not splendid.'

He also claimed that Exeter as 'not an easy place to love'.

However, he was impressed by Durham, calling the cathedral city in the north east 'a perfect little city'.

He wrote: 'If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It's wonderful.'

Mr Bryson also praised the Stonehenge, calling it one incredible achievement.

He wrote: 'Whoever was the person behind Stonehenge was one dickens of a motivator, I'll tell you that.'

'Then, feeling ever so slightly grumpy, I went and wandered among the stones and everything was suddenly fine, for Avebury is both awesome and entrancing.'

However, Mr Bryson saved his most barbed prose for Avebury manor, the former home of the village's pre-war 'saviour' Alexander Keiller.

Opened to the public in 2011 after it was restored by the National Trust, each room is recreated in a different period of the home's history.

The restoration featured in a BBC documentary series called 'To The Manor Reborn'.

Mr Bryson wrote: 'I was particularly keen to see the manor house as I assumed it would be filled with Keiller's personal curios and archaelogical treasures.

'But no. In what must be the cheesiest thing the National Trust has ever done, it had allowed the house to be made into a set for a now-forgotten BBC television series.'

However, since hearing of Mr Bryson's less than favourable reviews the National Trust have hit back, saying he was wrong about visitors being fleeced and that free maps were available.

General manager of Avebury Jan Tomlin said she was 'justifiably proud' of the Manor.

She explained: 'It's a million miles from a film set. The interiors celebrate the best of traditional craftsmanship, with cabinet-making, weaving and painting all done by hand, including the unique and fabulous hand-painted wallpaper in the dining room.

'People tell us that they have an overwhelming positive experience in the Manor.

'Bill Bryson says he felt the stone circle was 'awesome and entrancing' and we've made sure that the stones at this ancient site are allowed to speak for themselves, without signage or interpretation coming between the person and the place.

'Visitors can walk up to touch each stone, and this is at the heart of any visit to Avebury.

'Indeed, people often tell us how special this is to them.'

 

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