Last week I was fortunate enough to have visited Stonehenge for the fourth time. The place has a real energy about it and each time I have visited the place I am struck with an eerie feeling. The stones are truly awe-inspiring and one cannot appreciate how huge and imposing they are until you actually see them. Thousands of people celebrate the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge every year.
Summer Solstice 2011
One of my most magical and memorable experiences as an adult was when I visited Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice in 2011. This is only one of four occasions throughout the year in which visitors are permitted to walk among and even touch the stones (when visiting at any other time, the stones can only be viewed from behind a rope). The Summer Solstice, or midsummer is the longest day of the year and marks the day of the pagan festival Litha. It is believed by some that Stonehenge was built as a celebratory shrine to mark this festival as the sun can be seen rising through the stones, at sunrise the central Altar stone aligns with the Slaughter and Heel stones. If you’re planning on visiting for the Summer Solstice festival, make sure you get yourself into a good spot so you can see this wonderful moment. It is also important to arrive in plenty of time – cars must be parked some way from the stones so be prepared for a long walk (perhaps a mile or more) in the dark.
Upon arriving at the Summer Solstice festival, you are to be surrounded by the most friendly and liveliest people you will ever meet. My family and I did not look like some of those present, most were pagans; some wore masks and beautiful elaborate costumes. However, there were others there in wellies, jeans and coats like us yet we did not feel a bit out of place or that we were spectators to this magical experience. Rather we felt a part of something truly spectacular. It really is a unique celebration. Beautiful music was played by talented musicians with flutes, drums and other traditional instruments. Six years later almost to the day and I can still hear the music. The atmosphere was electric as everyone was in the best of spirits. And when the sun finally rose, the cheering and merriment was unforgettable.
Children are Welcome
My then 9-year-old daughter came with us, I must say I was a little concerned about bringing her along to the Summer Solstice celebrations as I had no idea what to expect. However, there were other children also and she was made extremely welcome by all there. She was also fascinated by the masks worn by some of the Druids, who would greet her with a wave as she stood staring open-mouthed at them.
If you are taking children, make sure they stand close to you at all times as it is easy to get lost in the huge crowd. I was also worried she would be bored, yet she still talks about this experience as one of her most memorable and enjoyable childhood memories. (It also gave me some points as a ‘cool Mum’ as her friends are envious she was able to have this experience).
Summer Solstice 2017
This year the Summer Solstice will occur on Wednesday 21st June. Sunrise will be at 04.52. Also, note that admission is free of charge. Information regarding the Summer Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge can be found on the English Heritage website.
Please make sure you do read this before attending the Summer Solstice celebrations as there are certain rules and regulations that must be followed so everyone has a wonderful experience.