What we learned about Stonehenge this week is that it wasn’t built for summer celebrations.

Operation Stonehenge: a BBC programme investigated the prehistoric monument

Stonehenge Photo: Alamy

First reports of the discovery of a mass of huge stones buried near Stonehenge, appearing to be the remains of another ceremonial structure four times larger, included the tantalising suggestion that it was aligned to the position of the sun on the shortest day of the year. This echoes a remarkable discovery published 20 years ago by the late Professor John North, an expert on the history of human cosmology.

In his book Stonehenge: Neolithic Man and the Cosmos, North showed by meticulous calculation how the alignment of Stonehenge was not, as was long supposed, to the Midsummer sunrise, but to its setting on the day of the Winter Solstice: in other words, to that very moment when the old year dies before nature begins its return to new life. For our Neolithic ancestors, it was thus a midwinter festival equivalent to our Christmas or the Roman Saturnalia.

We must now await further word from the academic discoverers of this new “Super-henge” on how they think its builders 4,500 years ago, like those of Stonehenge, directed it towards the position of the sun at just the moment when the year dies to be reborn. It was this which, when I first wrote about it on December 24 2006, inspired one of my sub-editors to the memorable headline “Have yourself a Megalithic Christmas”.

By  (Source – Telegraph)

Please view our Stonehenge Winter Solstice and Christmas Tours.

Stonehenge Guided Tours


From Pagan festivals to fire ceremonies and medieval football matches, all of these winter celebrations are keeping our ancient traditions alive – and are much more stimulating than the Christmas sales …


Stonehenge winter solstice, Wiltshire: December 22nd 2014

Solstice celebrations – marking the shortest day and longest night of the year – happen right across the UK. But one of the focal points for the festivities will always be the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge. Each year, thousands descend on this field in Wiltshire to see the sun rise above the stones. Expect to see the druid and pagan communities out in full force, dressed in magnificent costumes and singing incantations within the circle. This year, the solstice takes place on 22 December, rather than the 21st, and you’ll be able to arrive at the monument as soon as the light begins to break.
• english-heritage.org.uk

Burning the Clocks, Brighton

Burning the Clocks procession to celebrate the winter solstice makes its way through Brighton.

21 December
A contemporary winter solstice celebration (and the most modern event on this list), the Burning the Clocks festival was conceived in Brighton in 1994 as a community event to be enjoyed, regardless of faith, and it takes place on the beach. Around 20,000 spectators turn up to witness the procession of light, which consists of a parade of luminous willow lanterns that are passed into a blazing bonfire. The event concludes with a huge fire show and firework display that lights up the seafront.
Parade starts 6.30pm, samesky.co.uk

Kirkwall Ba game, Orkney


25 December and 1 January
The Ba is an annual custom in which hundreds of men and boys take to the streets to embark on a medieval football match. It has been described as more like a “civil war” than a game. Windows are boarded up in preparation for the self-refereed melee in Kirkwall, capital of the Orkneys. The two teams – the Uppies and the Doonies – battle for control of the leather “ba’”, attempting to wrestle it towards the areas of the town designated as the goals. Ribs have been broken in the scrum, but the event has a festival spirit that unites the entire town.
Starts at the Mercat Cross on Kirk Green, free, discover-orkney.co.uk/the-ba

Grantchester barrel rolling, Cambridgeshire

Boxing Day Grantchester Barrel Rolling

26 December
One of many bizarre British Boxing day traditions, the Grantchester barrel rolling race is, well, pretty much as you’d imagine. Four local teams roll large wooden barrels up and down the street in a relay race, which is followed by the “County Championship” race between teams from Grantchester and nearby villages of Barton, Coton and Newnham. Founded in the 1960s, the race fell out of favour until it was revived in 2003 and, in keeping with most trivial pursuits, concludes with a booze-up at the local Rupert Brooke pub.
Coton Road, Grantchester, free, grantchester.org.uk

Keynsham Mummers play, Somerset

26 December
A bit like pantomimes, mummers plays are comic folk performances that have been performed around Europe since the Middle Ages. The tradition is kept alive by the likes of the Bristol Morris Men, who have performed the play every Boxing Day in the town of Keynsham since the idea was revived in the late 1970s (though records suggest the play originated in the town in the early 19th century). Expect melodrama, sword fighting and colourful costumes.
11am at St John’s Church, 11.30am at Keynsham Library, midday at the New Inn, bristolmorrismen.co.uk

Fishermen vs Fireman football match, North Yorkshire

Scarborough football

26 December
Nothing brings out the competitive spirit like a game against the local rivals. In Scarborough, the Boxing Day football match is a chance for local fishermen and firemen to thrash it out – in fancy dress – on the beach. One of the town’s oldest surviving customs, there’s evidence of the match taking place on the South Bay beach back in 1893. It started as a way of raising money for the families of four fishermen lost at sea, and now supports elderly or unwell people in the community.
South Bay Beach, 10am, free, discoveryorkshirecoast.com

Stonehaven Fireballs, Aberdeenshire

The Fireball Ceremony at Hogmanay, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Photograph: David Robertson / Alamy/Alamy

31 December

As this Stonehaven Fireball Association states proudly on its website, come rain, snow or storm “we have never cancelled”. This hardy 150-year-old fire ceremony is held on Hogmanay in Stonehaven, and is watched by thousands. When the Town House bell strikes midnight, the ceremony begins, with firedancers, known as “swingers”, making their way down the street, led by drummers and the Stonehaven Pipe Band and finishing with a firework display on the harbour.
Free, stonehavenfireballs.co.uk

Allendale Tar Barl festival, Northumberland

Allendale Tar Barrel festival on December 31

Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

31 December
Setting whisky barrels full of tar alight is certainly one way to warm up on a winter’s evening. In existence since the dark ages, the Allendale Tar Barl festival is another fiery event, consisting of a Pagan ceremony led by “guisers” – an hereditary team of 45 barrel carriers in traditional costumes. Whisky barrels filled with flaming tar are paraded across the town, before being thrown on to a huge bonfire.
Free, visitnorthumberland.com

The Haxey Hood, Lincolnshire

Smoking the Fool … a fire is lit under the Fool who makes a welcome speech before officially starting the Haxey Hood.

Smoking the Fool … a fire is lit under the Fool who makes a welcome speech before officially starting the Haxey Hood. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/the Guardian

6 January
And on the 12th day of Christmas … a man with a feathery hat tried to smuggle a leather tube into his local pub. The event, in the parish of Haxey, north Lincolnshire, is not unlike the mass rugby/football games that take place in various parts of the country where there are far more participants than rules – a large, chaotic match in which locals try to manoeuvre the leather “hood” to one of four pubs. The game, which can go on well into the evening, ends once the hood arrives at a pub, where it remains until the following year.
Free, wheewall.com/hood

Whittlesea Straw Bear festival, Cambridgeshire

The Whittlesea Straw Bear festival

9-11 January
If anything is going to help lift the spirits above the dreary grind of January, it’s a man dressed head to toe in straw, dancing to folk music. This Cambridgeshire festival includes barn dances and concerts, as well as a procession through the streets on Saturday with teams of Morris dancers and, of course, the belle of the ball: the straw bear. Come Sunday, however, the bear costume will go up in smoke during the “bear burning” ceremony, a symbolic act to leave the way open for the new harvest … and a new bear.
Concert and barn dance £10, daytime events free, strawbear.org.uk

Article source (The Guardian) by Will Coldwell

Solstice Events U.K are offering their usual Stonehenge Winter Solstice Tour / transport from London

Stonehenge Guided Tours

We are now taking bookings for December 2014.  We have our regular classic Christmas sightseeing coach tours and some new exclusive trips on offer this festive season. Some day tours are now including the fabulous Salisbury Christmas market and carols in Salisbury Cathedral this year.  Other tours include Bath, Windsor, The Cotswold’s and some include traditional pub lunches.  While the weather may be getting Snowhengecooler, London’s Christmas season is just warming up. England acquires a special sparkle around Christmas time. The weather is frosty and the Christmas lights are twinkling. England is a truly magical place to explore at Christmas

Stonehenge Sunrise Access Viewing Tour – December 19th 2014

We have arranged with English Heritage for you to experience a unique guided visit to this ancient sacred site – beyond the fences and after the crowds have gone home. Walk amongst the stones and experience the magical atmosphere within the inner circle. Include’s Bath and Lacock. Click here

Stonehenge Solstice Sunset Viewing Tour – December 21st 2014
The Winter Solstice is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge and a truly magical time to be there. Exprience the new English Heritage visitor centre and witness the sun setting plus Avebury Stone Circle and Salisbury Catthedral / Christmas Market. Click here

Stonehenge Winter Solstice Sunrise Access Tour – December 22nd 2014
The Winter Solstice is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge and a truly magical time to be there. Witness the sun rising from within the inner circle of Stonehenge at dawn. Click here

Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and the Roman Baths – Christmas Eve (24th)
See the ancient monoliths at Stonehenge, visit the magnificent Windsor Castle and the Georgian City of Bath, where we visit the Roman Baths. Click here

Stonehenge, Windsor and Bath with traditional pub lunch – Christmas Day
Luxury coach tour with professional guide
Explore the heart of England on Christmas day & see Royal Windsor, historic Stonehenge and Georgian Bath. Plus enjoy a festive lunch in a classic British country pub with Roast Turkey and all the trimmings! Includes festive pub lunch – Click here

Stonehenge and Bath with fish and chips pub lunch – Boxing day (26th) December 2014
With Champagne reception and lunch included
See Windsor, Stonehenge, Salisbury and Bath all in a day. Includes Champagne reception at Windsor, fast track entrance at Stonehenge and a classic country pub lunch. Fast track entrance at Stonehenge –Click here

Stonehenge, Windsor and Bath – NEW YEARS DAY (1st January 2015)
All entrance fees included
Prehistoric Stonehenge, Elegant Bath and Royal Windsor all lined up for a fabulous New Year! Includes Festive Lunch – Click here

27th – 31st December Tours

During this festive period between the 27th and 31st of December, we are pleased to provide our full range of tours whether its a London sightseeing tour or a visit to Stonehenge

Stonehenge Guided Tours
The Stonehenge Experts