Around 14,500 people braved the miserable weather to welcome the dawn at Wiltshire landmark
Thousands of people have marked the summer solstice despite the celebration being one of the wettest in years.

Poor weather could not dampen the spirits of 14,500 people who welcomed the sun at Stonehenge at dawn this morning.

The annual pagan celebration of the sun, on the longest day of the year, centred on the famous prehistoric monument where the event was marked with religious ceremonies.

The solstice annually attracts an eclectic mix and among the druids, revellers and sun worshippers were those just curious to experience the spiritual event at the site on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

English Heritage opened up the stone circle at Stonehenge yesterday evening ready to welcome those making the annual pilgrimage.

Heavy rain overnight reduced the number of people who camped out or arrived early to witness the dawn compared with previous years, which have seen numbers of around 20,000.

The sunrise at 4.52am was welcomed by rain-sodden crowds with a loud cheer and applause despite the sun being blanketed by dark clouds

Through the poor weather, drummers inside the ancient stone circle kept the mood cheerful while new age pagans danced to their rhythm.

Joining revellers this year was a 22ft (6.70m) figure called Ancestor which was moved to the stones ahead of the solstice celebrations.

The steel statue depicts a man with his ‘head thrown back and arms open wide’.

One of the places to have the heaviest rainfall in England Wales overnight was Evershot in Dorset, Met Office forecaster Helen Roberts said.

She said the village had 21.4mm in just six hours – almost half the normal June rainfall of 45mm for London.

Mrs Roberts said the North West was likely to see the heaviest rain in the coming days, with central, south-west and north-east England, as well as north Wales and northern Scotland also getting downpours.

There is also a chance of flooding in the North West tomorrow, she said.

‘The forecast is definitely unsettled for the next few days. The main focus over the next 24 hours is going to be north-west England – that’s where we’re expecting the heaviest rain to be.

‘Further south it could push into north Wales and further north it could push into northern Scotland.’

She added: ‘There is a potential for some large accumulations of very heavy rain and fairly persistent through much of the day tomorrow.’

A spokesman for English Heritage said 14,500 people gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice this year.

He added: ‘Heavy rain during the night meant this was one of the lowest attendances in recent years.

‘However, the rain did stop in time for the sunrise ceremonies and although clouds obscured the sun, loud cheers and applause rang out amongst the ancient stones.

‘There was torrential rain at some points during the evening, but it stopped and although it was cloudy, it didn’t rain for sunrise.

‘It has been the wettest and dare I say the muddiest in recent years.’

Wiltshire Police said the event passed peacefully apart from 20 arrests.

Superintendent Matt Pullen said: ‘Solstice 2012 has been a positive experience for the majority of visitors.

‘As with every year, sadly there was a small minority who were determined to disregard the law. These people were dealt with robustly and there were 20 arrests throughout the night.’

The arrests were for theft, drugs or alcohol-related offences. There were also 101 street cautions for cannabis.

Stonehenge, which is thought to be between 4,000 and 5,000-years-old, has been the site of confrontations between worshippers, other revellers and police officers in the past.

Meanwhile, racegoers at today’s Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot raised umbrellas and wore ponchos, as showers dampened the Berkshire racetrack throughout the day.

A thunder storm was forecast for this afternoon, said Matt Dobson, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association.

‘There will be pretty heavy rain first thing, turning murky and muggy by the late morning. In the afternoon, there is the risk of heavy downpours.

‘If they get unlucky, there could be an absolute cloudburst. By 2pm there could well be thundery conditions.’

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The Bluestones

Broadly speaking the monument is made up of two stone types. Sarsens and Bluestones. While the large Sarsen stones come from the Marlborough Downs, about twenty miles from Stonehenge, the bluestones are not local.

The Bluestones form two arrangements inside Stonehenge, a circle inside the outer sarsen circle and a horseshoe inside the trilithons.


Originally there may have  as many as eighty Bluestones, weighing up to five tons each. It’s difficult to be certain, some are missing, others are broken and the pattern of holes is confusing.

The Bluestones have tended to be overshadowed by their larger neighbours. Early texts and examination of the stones show that Stonehenge is not the first site where the bluestones stood as a circle. Robert Graves said this sacred circle was transported to Stonehenge for it’s religious significance; in the words of Professor Rhys ‘ the stones were regarded as divine or as seats of divine power’.

“The great dolmens of Stonehenge, all of local stone, look as thought they were erected to give importance to the smaller stones, which were placed in position shortly after they themselves were. It has been suggested that the smaller ones which are known to have been transported all the way from the Prescelly Mountains in Pembtokeshire, were originallt disposed in another order there and rearranged by the people who erected the larger ones.” – Robert Graves; The White Goddess, p282.

An existing sacred circle, whose stones originated in West Wales, was transported to Salisbury Plain, re-erected at Stonehenge and a mirror structure of local stone was erected around it.

Until the advent of the railways transport by water was the only way to effectively move large heavy objects over long distances. 

Thus it is likely that much of the transportation of the bluestones from the Preseli Mtns. to Stonehenge was by water. First by river, then along/across the Bristol Channel/Severn Estuary, then lastly by river to Stonehenge; and while we can’t be certain which rivers were used we can be certain that in their passage across the Bristol Channel/Severn Estuary the bluestones would have been carried past Lundy Island.

So, where did the bluestone circle first stand?

The Bluestones

Geoffrey of Monmouth describes the original home of the stones as ‘the Giant’s Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland.’

The frequently maligned early historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his ‘History of the kings of Britain’ written around 1139AD, wrote

“If you are desirous,” said Merlin, “to honour the burying place of these men with an everlasting monument, send for the Giant’s Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland. For there is a structure of stones there, which none of this age could raise, without a profound knowledge of the mechanical arts. They are stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality; and if they can be placed here, as they are there, round this spot of ground, they will stand forever.”

At these words of Merlin, Aurelius burst into laughter, and said, “How is it possible to remove such cast stones from so distant a country, as if Britain was not furnished with stones fit for the work?” Merlin replied, “I entreat your majesty to forbear vain laughter; for what I say is without vanity. They are mystical stones, and of a great medicinal virtue. The giants of old brought them from the farthest coast of Africa, and placed them in Ireland, while they inhabited that country. ….There is not a stone there which has not some healing virtue.” When the Britons heard this they resolved to send for the stones….A fleet therefore being got ready , they set sail, and with a fair wind arrived in Ireland. …they went to the mountain Killaraus, and arrived at the structure of stones, the sight of which filled them both with joy and admiration. Merlin. .began his own contrivances. When he had placed in order the engines that were necessary, ho took down the stones with an incredible facility, and gave directions for their carrying to the ships, and placing them therein. This done they set sail again, to return to Britain; where they arrived with a fair gale… Merlin set up the stones… in the same manner as they had been in the mountain Killaraus.”

Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain pp133+

Geoffrey claimed to have taken much of his information from an earlier British source, unknown to us today. Before Geoffrey the Scots lived in present day Ireland, the Irish were settled in areas of Cornwall, North Devon and the south-western part of present day Wales. Killaraus is unfortunately not identifiable.

Stonehenge bluestones, in their incarnation as ‘The Giants Dance’ had their home somewhere in those areas of southwest Britain settled at one time by the Irish.

Somewhere in Cornwall, North Devon Southwest Wales there’s a very sacred site without a stone circle.

A search for a lack of stones doesn’t seem likely to be very productive.

Where next?

“For a culture to whom the timing of seasonal events was particularly important, the culture which produced Stonehenge, for example, the observation of heavenly bodies was a central part of their religious ceremonies. Any place which possessed such alignments was holy. The movements of heavenly bodies is regular and can be calculated and thus predicted. Throughout time the coincidence of a sunrise or sunset with a natural feature such as a mountain or an island has always been, and indeed still is, awe inspiring. Any site which possessed such an alignment was a natural indicator of a heavenly event and thus sacred. Other markers could be erected, if necessary, at the site, stones , trees etc., to indicate other alignments from the site. However, A place with two or perhaps even three natural features all providing significant alignments would be very much rarer, and so more holy.” Henry Lincoln

Megalithic stone circles have one common quality. The stones which make up the circle are aligned on natural features.

If we take an imaginary stone circle monument. It possesses a number of stones standing in the landscape and certain stones line up with a distant natural feature, a mountain for instance. On midsummers day the solstice sun rises over that mountain. The stone alignment marks the midsummer solstice.

Midsummer day + stones + natural feature + sun = sacred site.

If you take away the stones and view from the same place, you still get

Midsummer day + natural feature +sunrise = Sacred site.

Remembering what Geoffrey of Monmouth said about the stones ‘They are stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality’ and ‘They are mystical stones, and of a great medicinal virtue.’and considering the physical effort involved in manhandling over 80 stones weighing up to five tons each to Stonehenge alone testifies to the fact that the previous home of the Bluestones must have been a very special place, a holy place, to contain such an illustrious circle. Never mind the work in constructing the Sarsen stones around them. It seems probable that their earlier home was a site with several significant natural alignments.

If this is so, it may be that by examining alignments from significant natural features in the areas of southwestern Britain known to have been settled by the Irish we may find a site where several intersect. We may find the original home of ‘the Giants Dance.’

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