What to expect when celebrating Summer Solstice at Stonehenge...

I've been fortunate to visit this fantastic piece of history twice now, including a recent trip, but the first time was a pretty different experience...being the flower child I am, I had always wanted to visit on the Summer Solstice and when I heard that each June 21st, on the solstice, the monument is still opened up to pagans, worshippers, revellers and curious bystanders to celebrate the longest day in the calendar year and watch the sun rise, I had to go along to take part.

We found a campsite near to Salisbury but when we arrived we realised that some of the tent poles were missing, cue panic, but between borrowing a tent and two of us sleeping in the car, we managed to get around it.
The journey to Stonehenge begins by congregating in a location where a bus picks you up at dusk to take you to a special drop off point. I can only liken the bus to a school trip full of the most eclectic mix of adults ever. It felt a little bizarre just pitching up with drinks, camping chairs and not knowing what to expect but we embraced the sense of adventure.

After a short drive, we arrived at the drop off point which was just off the motorway which runs directly alongside Stonehenge and from there we were told we had to walk in the dark across fields for a mile or two until we reached the iconic structure.

Using the torches we luckily thought to bring, we picked our way gingerly across the grass, careful to avoid potholes. Here we learned our first lesson that taking a lot of drinks, chairs and speakers etc was quite a lot to carry in the dark for a few miles but we managed.

In the distance we saw laser lights shining out brightly marking the way for the pilgrimage. It was such an atmosphere of excitement, giddiness and intrepidation that we chatted and giggled along with other revellers.
When we got closer, we realised the set up was similar to other festivals, where there was security and bag checks, along with music, merriment and a few places to get food and drinks. The crowd was very mixed, with young and old, families and singletons all coming together to celebrate peace and unity - a very special thing in this current time.

We found a spot to set up camp, enjoyed some of our picnic and enjoyed the beat from the drumming. People played instruments, whirled and twirled and druids carried out their rituals in preparation for sunset.

Soon it was 4am and the first rays of sun were starting to peek through the clouds and the atmosphere ramped up a notch. The druids made their way to the circle to start the blessings for the solstice and we found a good spot to watch the ceremony. Whatever your persuasion, it was fascinating to watch and everyone respected the ceremony by dialling down the noise and merriment.
The sun crept higher and higher over the next hour, while people whooped, cheered and children sat atop their dads shoulders marvelling at the sun rise, which is so often taken for granted. By 7am people were starting to drift off and the buses were starting up again to transfer Solstice goers.

Feeling so tired, we once again moved across the fields that in the dark had seemed so foreign but were now like old friends. We caught our last glimpses of the beautiful monument that is Stonehenge in the dewy morning light before departing back to our campsite.

I knew one day I would go back as it was such a special, magical place to see and so we did recently, albeit with a slightly different tone. We visited during the day and it was lovely to see the site in all its glory without the many, many revellers. Sure there were tourists but you can't get that close to the stones, unlike during Solstice, so there are lots of uninterrupted views.
They are so majestic to see and I can really get a sense of the history and spirituality of the place. Even if you don't care too much for that, it's hard not to be impressed by the size and scale. Quite how they managed to move this massive mounds of rock as far as they did without modern inventions is impressive to say the least.
There are guided walks around the stones that tell the story of what they represent and their role, as well as the age of them. No-one quite knows the exact purpose they served but it's believed it was to do with the position of the sun in the sky, so some sort of clock/calendar, but the mystery still remains and adds to the allure.
There is also a café, museum and other sites to see, including an ancient village, so we pootled around in the sun enjoying the atmosphere and before hoofing down a cream tea.

We spent a few hours here before the winds blew us on to our onward journey. I really enjoyed seeing this beautiful, ancient, spiritual place again after the complete contrast of the summer solstice night time experience, and both will forever remain in my memory as very special experiences.

Have you visited Stonehenge? What did you think of it?

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