Celebrate Summer at Stonehenge
Summer is the perfect time to visit Stonehenge, one of the world’s great historical monuments. And on the solstice—or just with special permission—you can even get up close!
The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year, a date that has held much significance throughout history for nature worshippers. In England, the 5,000-year-old sacred stone monument Stonehenge is the focus of summer solstice activities.
You can visit Stonehenge year round, but can only get up-close with the stones on the solstice, when English Heritage opens the monument to 20,000 people (or with special permission, see below). Some come to engage in the spiritual aspect of the celebration, some to get a rare opportunity to gain intimate access to the stones, and others to simply join in the powerful, reverent celebration.
Stonehenge is estimated to have taken 30 million hours of labour to complete. The stones are an architectural wonder, given their age and the astronomical accuracy with which they were built. It’s perhaps Britain’s greatest national icon, and one of the world’s foremost historical attractions. It’s incredible to see at any time of year, but there’s no better day to experience the awe and mystery of this great monument than right inside the stone temple on the summer solstice.
The main event happens at sunrise on the solstice, when the sun’s light aligns with the central Altar stone, Slaughter stone and Heel stone. Druids consider the solstice to be a wedding celebration of heaven and earth, the Sun King God and the Mother Earth Goddess.
Summer solstice at Stonehenge is far from the free-for-all mayhem that many summer festivals have become. As a sacred site, a number of restrictions are in place to protect the space: no camping, dogs, fires, fireworks or amplified music (for a complete list of conditions as well as directions and ticketing information, visit efestivals). Instead, acoustic music is played by samba bands and drummers, while Druid ceremonies and maypole dances mark the reverent occasion to commune with nature.
Stonehenge is estimated to have taken 30 million hours of labour to complete. The stones are an architectural wonder, given their age and the astronomical accuracy with which they were built.
Since a visit to Stonehenge typically means parading around the stones at a distance, gaining access to the inner circle is a rare treat. This year, the monument was to be accessible from June 20 at 8.30 p.m. until June 21 at 8 a.m. Check timings every year as they may change.
For travellers interested in gaining close access to the stones—but who don’t want to battle the solstice crowds—English Heritage offers pre-booked Stone Circle Access visits outside of normal hours of operation. Due to high demand, it’s best to download booking forms and submit well in advance of your trip.