Want to stand in the presence of a broken circle of stone that nods to our neolithic past? Stonehenge, otherwise known as a collection of intriguing rock formations sitting in the English countryside, is a popular place to witness the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer Solstice. A masterpiece of engineering, Stonehenge is shrouded in mystery and spiritual questions. Building Stonehenge clearly took huge effort from many hundreds of people, when considering how the large structures were erected using only basic tools and technologies (the nearest quarry is a good 40 kilometres away).
Visiting the archaeologically significant site at sunrise for the summer solstice feels a lot like an early morning carnival. Alternate theories for the stones’ existence on the Sainsbury Plains are in abundance, so expect heated debates, intensely conflicting assumptions and enough pseudo-science banter to last another year. This is partly due to the crowd. Fellow revellers may include but are not limited to spiritual loose canons, hippies, Druids, mystery seekers, alien apocalypse fan boys, pilgrims, self-professed philosophers, archeology students and families ticking off their bucket list. Hear drums beating, the echoing of spontaneous chants and bring warm clothes and wet weather gear in case of rain. In recent years dodgy weather has been a defining feature.
Once the sun appears, the group energy shifts gear from antsy anticipation to a more calming, positive vibe and by 11am, the crowds disappear once more.
WORDS OF WISDOM
- Stay nearby at Stonehenge Campsite and Glamping Pods. They uphold a fantastic reputation, and are the hosts of a spirited three day camping festival between June 18–21, in celebration of the Summer Solstice. The glamping pods are ideal for bag-only travellers, but these book out quickly over this time.
- Get there early. There are mighty crowds to contend with on both the summer and winter solstices, but entrance is free on these days and the high people count adds to the early morning carnival atmosphere.
- Can’t make the solstice? Pre-book entrance tickets to visit another time. English Heritage provide managed open access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice each year. Visit their website for updates on opening times, parking, traffic and local area advice. Advance booking on their website is also the only way to guarantee entrance to Stonehenge on any other day.
- Bring a camera to document all the weird and wonderful goings on leading up to sunrise.
- Sample local eats. Berwick Farm Shop stocks the legendary Marilyn’s Sausages as well as other fine meats. Staying nearby and feel like cooking? Call ahead of time to pre-order.