Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. From Past to Present.

4 06 2017

Although there was historically a Summer Fayre at Stonehenge held on traditional midsummer’s day of the 24th of June, it was only comparatively recently that the association between Stonehenge and the Summer Solstice Sunrise was realised.

Before Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the summer solstice had slipped out of sync with the old Julian calendar by 11 days. This meant that the Sun didn’t appear to rise from the Heelstone on 24th June. People somehow knew that they should be at Stonehenge on “midsummer’s day”, but the reason had long been forgotten.

Indeed, it was only in 1771 that the first link between the Heelstone and the Summer Solstice Sunrise was mentioned by Dr. John Smith, even though William Stukeley had identified that the Avenue lead off towards the solstice sunrise point some 30 years earlier. Smith churlishly didn’t even acknowledge Stukeley’s work in his book.

These days, of course, everyone knows about it.

Heelstone SunriseFrom about 3pm on the 20th June, Stonehenge closes to regular visitors in order for preparations to begin for the largest mass pilgrimage to a solar temple in modern times.

Up to 40,000 people begin arriving across the landscape on foot, or by car and coach to the fields by the Visitor Centre (parking charges are £5 per motorbike, £15 per car, live-in vehicle or minibus up to 19 seats, £100 per coach with coach-space pre-booking essential, and there is no discount for disabled badge holders) in advance of the monument being reopened at 7pm.

This is the one time in the year when anyone can spend the night inside the stone circle, and it gets crowded very quickly with travellers, drummers, pagans, druids, cosplay wizards and faeries, as well as more “ordinary” folk. Alcohol has been banned in recent years but evidence is obvious of prior indulgence in that and other recreational substances amongst the revellers. This “managed open access” has the feeling of a massive outdoor party rather than a respectful observance but most people seem to have a good time.

The locals tend to come for the evening on the 20th before escaping ahead of full nightfall, and the atmosphere is more family-friendly between 7pm and sunset around 9.30pm.

Solstice Eve

Ahead of sunset a number of groups tend to perform “all welcome” ceremonies in the centre of the circle, including the modern Druids usually led by Archdruid Rollo Maughling, King Arthur Pendragon or Merlin of England.

As night falls the entire field around the monument fills up and people gather in groups on and under blankets (no sleeping bags permitted) and while away the hours until the much-anticipated solstice dawn on the 21st.

A number of concession stands near the field entrance serve up tea, coffee and a variety of food to keep everyone warm, and there are first aiders, security marshalls, volunteer peace stewards and a low-key police presence to ensure everyone’s safety. Portaloos are installed all around the site as well as lighting gantries which are gradually dimmed as dawn approaches. Bags are security checked at the entrances to the field to intercept glass bottles or other dangerous items, and no animals are allowed apart from the drugs sniffer dogs on the gate.


The “managed open access” at summer solstice has been in place since 2000 and I have attended all bar two of them. In 15 years, I’ve seen a clear solstice sunrise only twice – so if you plan to come, be prepared for a cloudy morning with no sight of the Sun.

Bring waterproofs and wear many layers – it can be unexpectedly cold at 2am in the middle of a field in Wiltshire, and it frequently rains (on occasion very, very heavily) overnight. Umbrellas are forbidden but a black plastic binbag makes an acceptable, if unfashionable, substitute.

Dawn occurs at 4.52 BST, but the Sun is always a few minutes late because the trees on the horizon to the northeast delay its appearance. As the centre of the circle is by now absolutely rammed solid, the Druid ceremony usually takes place by the Heelstone after sunrise.

The monument field has to be cleared by 8am so that the site can be tidied up and put back to normal in time for it to re-open to regular visitors by about 3pm on the 21st.

The attendees drift away back towards the car park and peace, of a sort, descends.

Crowds leaving

Now the real work begins for the on-site Historic Property Stewards who care for the monument all year round, and the army of temporary contractors.

The grass in the centre of the circle is “groomed” with rakes having been trampled flat by thousands of feet for 13 hours and the whole area of the monument within the henge bank and ditch perimeter is litter-picked on hands and knees. Lost property is gathered together in case the owners come back for it – though how anyone can forget a baby buggy is hard to imagine.

The visitor barrier ropes are re-installed around the circle, the interpretation panels are re-erected, the bench seats on the path are returned and the overnight infrastructure is taken away, along with several tons of rubbish. Sprinklers are deployed to revivify the turf.

The Stonehenge Summer Solstice experience is unlike any other – for some people it’s a lifetime’s ambition, for others it’s an excuse for a party.

For Stonehenge, this year will be something like the 4,517th time it’s seen people gather at this turning point in the seasonal round – it must have some stories to tell, and Stone 28 is probably the one to tell them – you just have to listen closely.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

If you are considering visiting Stonehenge for the Solstice or Equinox celebrations you can join an organised tour and save all the hassle.  Use a reputable tour operator who respect the conditions.  Stonehenge Guided Tours are the longest established company and Solstice Events offer small group Solstice tours using only local expert guides.

Relevant links:
Stonehenge Summer Solstice Open Access Arrangements.
Respecting the Stones
English Heritage Conditions of Entry
The Salisbury Reds special solstice shuttle service
Stonehenge Summer Solstice Tours and transport from London
Stonehenge Summer Solstice Tours from Bath

Follow @St0nehenge @EH_Stonehenge @VisitStonehenge @HighwaysEngland and @Wiltshirepolice for #summersolstice updates on the night.

If you are unable to visit Stonehenge on the Solstice you can watch our LIVE PERISCOPE STONEHENGE BROADCAST

The Stonehenge News Blog
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest Stonehenge News




When is the Stonehenge summer solstice 2016? Everything you need to know including times and rituals

28 05 2016

Here’s everything you need to know about the longest day of the year and traditions surrounding the summer solstice


Party time: Druids, pagans and revellers take part in a winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge

Every year, around this time, we start talking about the summer solstice.

Mostly it’s because it’s the longest day of the year, and there’s a very British pessimism that says the days will immediately start to shorten into winter from now on.

But there’s also the shenanigans at Stonehenge, general celebrations and a pause to celebrate the summer.

But what does it all mean?

What is it?

It’s generally understood to mark the middle of summer – even though some of us may feel like we haven’t really had the first half yet in the UK.

Technically, it’s when the tilt of Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun, and that’s why we get the most daylight of the year.

In the winter solstice, we’re tilted furthest away from the sun, hence shorter hours of daylight and the shortest day.

The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

Read more: New Stonehenge alignment theory proved right as monument’s tallest stone points at solstice sunset

When is it?

In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice takes place between June 20 and 22. This year it’s on Monday, June 20.

As it happens twice annually, the winter solstice in the UK is between December 20 and 22.

In London on the summer solstice, the sun will rise at 04:43 and set at 21:21.

Near Stonehenge in Salisbury, sunrise will be at 04:52 and sunset will occur at 21:26.

Why Stonehenge?

The midsummer solstice is being celebrated at Stonehenge on Saturday into Sunday and at the Avebury stone circle from Friday until Monday.

Thousands flock to the English Heritage site for the solstice in a tradition which has its roots in pagan times, when Midsummer Day was considered to have power.

Of those who attend, many are druids, but some are tourists.

This year it’s falling on a weekend for the first time in more than a decade and is expected to draw much larger crowds.

The way that the stones are positioned is said to be aligned with sunrises on the two annual solstices.

Read more: Stonehenge attracts thousands as Pagans mark longest day of the year with celebration

Although not much is known about its formation, those facts are thought to be involved with whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to its construction.

The monument field at Stonehenge is open from 19:00 on Monday 20 June to 08:00 on Tuesday 21 June. Admission is free, but parking fees apply.

The Solstice Car Park opens at 7pm on 20th June with last admissions at 6am (or when full, if earlier) on 21st June. The car park will close at 12 noon on 21st June.

Visitors, including sunrise-worshipping Druids for whom it is a religious occasion, are encouraged to use public transport or arrange to car share.

How else do people celebrate it?

It’s not just for the arch-druids in Wiltshire – there are celebrations worldwide among lots of different cultures.

The holidays, festivals and rituals do tend to have themes of religion or fertility.

Read more: ‘Fridgehenge’ pranksters mark summer solstice with homage to Stonehenge – made out of white goods

In Latvia there’s Jāņi, when women wear wreaths on their heads. Estonia has Jaanipäev or St John’s Day, which marks a change in the farming year.

Wianki happens in Poland, with roots in a pagan religious event, and Kupala Night happens in Russia and Ukraine, where people jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery and faith.

Are the days going to be shorter now?

They will of course get shorter between now and the winter solstice on December 21, but don’t worry, we’re not talking early dark nights quite yet.

Read more: Stonehenge and Statue of Liberty ‘in direct and immediate danger’ from climate change

Article Source: Kirstie McCrum ,  (Daily Mirror)

Stonehenge Summmer Solscice Open Access

“We strongly advise anyone planning to come to Stonehenge for solstice to leave their cars at home and travel by public transport. Salisbury is easily accessible by train and the local Salisbury Reds bus company will be running a special service from Salisbury to Stonehenge through Saturday night and into the next day. Solstice Events are offering their usual transport from Bath and Stonehenge guided tours are offering their small group tour from London.

Follow  @St0nehenge @EH_Stonehenge @HighwaysEngland and @Wiltshirepolice for#summersolstice updates on the night.

If you are unable to visit Stonehenge on the Solstice you can watch our LIVE PERISCOPE BROADCAST

The Stonehenge News Blog




2015 Stonehenge Summer Solstice News

21 05 2015

Stonehenge will close its normal visitor operation at 1500hrs (3pm) on Saturday 20th June and all day on Sunday 21th June 2015.

Detailed Information
• Last admission to Stonehenge on Saturday 20th June 2015 will be 1300hrs (1pm)
• The Stonehenge Visitor Centre will close at 1500hrs Stonehenge Summer Solstice Sunrise(3pm) and will remain closed for the period of Managed Open Access
• Sunset on Saturday 20th June 2015 is at 2126hrs (9.26pm) and sunrise on Sunday 21st June 2015 is at 0452hrs (4.52am)
• Stonehenge re-opens for normal admissions at 0900hrs (9am) on Monday 22st June 2015
Please note that the Stonehenge coach park will be closed during Managed Open Access for Summer Solstice and we will not be able to accommodate any commercial coaches on site during this time.

English Heriitage Top Tips for Group Visits
• Please remember to call or email with your booking well in advance to secure your preferred time slot
• Please ensure your final numbers are confirmed correctly – no refunds can be made once payment has been received or an invoice raised
• Please arrive at Stonehenge within your designated time slot. If your journey is delayed by more than 30 minutes due to exceptional circumstances, call with a revised arrival time so we can do our best to accommodate you
• If your group wishes to go off separately ensure your tour leader/guide/driver agrees a meeting point and time for the group within your timescales for the visit
• English Heritage offer coach drivers, tour leaders/guides and Blue Badge Guides one complimentary hot drink (excluding luxury hot chocolate) at Stonehenge. This is limited to one coach driver and one tour leader/guide or Blue Badge Guide per group and only available when accompanying groups

For all Stonehenge group bookings and enquiries, contact the exclusive Stonehenge line –
Mon-Fri 09.00-17.00
Tel: + 44 (0) 370 333 0604 (charged at local rates)

For all general Travel Trade enquiries, contact the English Heritage Travel Trade Team –
Mon-Fri 09.00-17.00
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7973 3529

The Stonehenge News Blog

2014 Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

6 05 2014

English Heritage is pleased to be providing Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice on 20-21 June 2014. Please help us to create a peaceful occasion by taking personal responsibility and following the Conditions of Entry and guidelines set out on these pages. The full Conditions of Entry can also be downloaded from their website.


We have a duty of care to ensure public safety and are responsible for protecting Stonehenge and its surrounding Monuments. If we are to ensure that future access is sustainable, it is essential that everyone observes and abides by these Conditions of Entry.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Stonehenge is an ancient prehistoric site and has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of Summer Solstice since time immemorial.

During Managed Open Access for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, we support all individuals and groups conducting their own forms of ceremony and celebration providing that they are mutually respectful and tolerant of one another. It is a place seen by many as a sacred site – therefore please respect it and those attending.

English Heritage continues to work closely with the many agencies and people from all sectors of the community and we would like to thank them for their help and support.

Parking and entry to the Monument will be free, subject to the Conditions of Entry.  Please do not arrive at the Solstice car park or Stonehenge in advance of the opening times listed below.

Please note: As Summer Solstice this year occurs on a Friday/Saturday, the roads around Stonehenge will be very busy. We strongly advise visitors to leave their cars at home and travel to Stonehenge using public transport. See Travel for further information. 

You can also follow @eh_stonehenge on Twitter for travel updates on the night.

Timings for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

    19.00 hours (7pm) Friday 20 June
    19.00 hours (7pm) Friday 20 June
    06.00 hours (6am) Saturday 21 June
    08.00 hours (8am) Saturday 21 June
    12.00 hours (12 Noon) Saturday 21 June  

We hope the weather will be kind and wish you a peaceful and celebratory solstice.

Sunset and Sunrise

Sunset and sunrise occur at the following times:

  • Sunset on Friday 20 June 2014 is at 21.26 hrs (9.26pm)
  • Sunrise on Saturday 21 June 2014 is at 04.52 hrs (4.52am)

Link Source:

Stonehenge News Blog


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