Concerns over the new Coronavirus are sweeping the globe – with cases reaching European shores people are beginning to wonder if it is still safe to travel across Europe, particularly the UK. The answer is an unequivocal yes. Of all the globes 81,229 cases, 13 are in the UK, 0.016% of the global cases.

As things stand there is very little reason to be concerned about Coronavirus – pack a facemask if it gives you peace of mind but at the moment there is no need

As things stand there is very little reason to be concerned about Coronavirus – pack a facemask (we recommend a unicorn mask) if it gives you peace of mind but at the moment there is no need

There are many reasons not to be too concerned about the coronavirus, as long as you are considerate of the symptoms and the badly effected areas. Currently, the most deeply effected countries are China (which has the vast majority of the cases), South Korea and Iran. Italy, especially northern Italy, has the most cases in Europe. So firstly, one way to ensure safe travel to the UK for everyone is to be considerate if you have travelled to any badly effected area. If you have been to these places and are experiencing flu like symptoms, quarantine yourself and even if not, it is probably best not to travel until you are certain. This is sensible practice when dealing with infectious diseases globally and will help continue to keep places like the UK safe to travel for others.

If you have not been anywhere near badly effected areas, then you are good to go! If you are still concerned however, there are a few things that could ease your mind. Less than 1% of those tested so far in the UK have tested positive for the virus (and these are people coming back from badly effected areas). The government have released statements saying the risk to individuals is low and that they are ‘well prepared’ to deal with the virus. They have been given special powers to quarantine anyone suspected of having the virus so the risk if spread is still low. Furthermore, even the worst effected country in Europe (Italy with 165 cases) has yet to close its borders with neighbouring countries. If you are still in need of some more peace of mind, then perhaps some statistics might help you, you are roughly five times more likely to win the lottery* than contract coronavirus, you are 4,483 time more likely to be hit by a car. You have roughly the same chances of being struck by lightning – probably not something that deters tourists often!

There are further precautions you can take as a tourist if coronavirus fears are still troubling you.  Why not avoid the crowds by booking a private tour? Away from crowded coaches and try travelling more rurally, away from the cities. There are hundreds of sequestered yet historically significant sites around the UK, with many an expert willing to take small groups around – avoiding the masses! (With Brexit weakening the pound and coronavirus fears thinning crowds, it’s probably the best time to visit anyway)

All of our private custom tours include optional face masks and Hygienic Alcohol Hand Sanitiser on board

As things stand there is very little reason to be concerned about Coronavirus – pack a facemask if it gives you peace of mind but at the moment there is no need. Just wash your hands regularly and dispose of your used tissues…. and enjoy your trip to the UK!

*Chance of matching 5 numbers.

10th MARCH 2020 CORONA VIRUS UPDATE – CLICK HERE

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Operating Stonehenge Access Tours Since 1990
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Already visiting Stonehenge? Although the monument itself stands alone, its ancient monoliths contrasting the verdant splendor of the landscape, 5,000 years of British history standing in apparent isolation, that does not mean that you have to visit it in isolation! The local area alone offers enough history for a day’s worth of touring, let alone the great expanse of history and beauty that is England!

Bath Abbey

Visit Bath

Any sites you can think into an itinerary are possible to visit with us. With expert guides qualified to take you anywhere and (certainly more than capable of suggesting somewhere) – lets take a look at what a possible tour with us beyond Stonehenge could entail.

Firstly, Stonehenge doesn’t have to be your first ‘port’ of call – we are capable of picking you up from any airport or seaport and beginning the tour from there! From that point, the only limitation is your imagination (and of course the British coastline).

Part of England’s charm is that you can run into sites of historical significance and beauty on any journey. For example, if you arrive in London, your path to Stonehenge is positively cluttered with exciting opportunities.  Perhaps you could start with the traditional sites of London – St Paul’s Cathedral, the tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the list is pretty much endless! Moving on you could make your way past Windsor Castle, or via Winchester Cathedral (or both) – you can take a detour through New Forrest and appreciate its stark prettiness. Before or after reaching Stonehenge, you can visit the medieval city of Salisbury, with its vast cathedral and quintessentially English feel.

Castle Combe

Scenic Cotswolds Village

And that is just one example of the dizzying array of options open to a budding adventurer! There are thousands of castles, in varying states of decay – some still have royals in, some are ruins, beautiful villages, with traditional pubs serving classic British fare and ale and thatched cottages which give our countryside its essential feel,  hundreds of stately homes each with their own slice of British history and dozens of national parks, each one a unique painting of native England in all its grace, and much more beyond! Tell us where to go, or ask us, and off we go with an expert in tow.

Do you have a specific period of interest, (British History spans quite a lot!), or maybe you want to trace your ancestry and visit the sites that are significant to your own personal history – it is all possible. The true greatness of Britain is worth seeing and is in reach when you explore beyond Stonehenge!

Our tour planning department are always pleased to help you plan your tour itinerary to give you the best possible experience. Our knowledgeable, friendly qualified driver/guides will ensure that your visit is truly memorable. No one does it better! Special interests, foreign languages and themed tours (Stonehenge special access / Crop Circles / Myths and Legends) easily catered for. Half day, full day tours and extended tours departing from LondonWindsorHeathrow AirportSalisburyBathSouthampton Port, Portland PortBristol, and Oxford

Email the Stonehenge experts today for a prompt reply

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Operating Stonehenge Access Tours Since 1990
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The December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year it falls on 22nd December

winter-sols

In ancient Pagan traditions, the winter solstice was a time to honor the cycles of life and death and celebrate the sun’s rebirth as the days would slowly begin to lengthen in the months leading into spring. Many modern practitioners of Pagan and earth-centered spiritual traditions observe the holiday, and at Stonehenge, the celebration is particularly special.

 

There is no access to the inner circle at Stonehenge on  between the 18th and 27th winter-solstice-tourDecember inclusive because of the winter solstice. There is, however, open access on the morning of the 22nd December to watch the winter solstice sunrise which happens about 8.09am.  We are are offering our usual exclusive guided Winter Solstice tour that departs from London or Bath, pleae visit our Stonehenge Tour website for full details.

 

THE winter solstice: the shortest day and longest night of the year.

So what is so important about this date? What about it possesses people to dress in unicorn masks and visit Stonehenge?

Here, we take a look at just what the winter solstice is – and why a day with so little sunlight is worth celebrating.

What is the Winter Solstice?

The winter solstice is a phenomenon that marks the shortest day of the year. Often referred to as the official beginning of winter, the solstice generally only occurs for a moment.

The true solstice occurs when the Earth is tilted the furthest away from the Sun on its axis. Despite it only lasting a moment, the full day is recognised.

When is the Winter Solstice?

The winter solstice generally falls between December 20th and 23rd.  This means, for the UK, the sun will rise at 8.04am and set at 3.54pm – meaning we will have just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.In 2017, it will fall on Wednesday, December 22nd.

A winter solstice also occurs in the Southern Hemisphere, with the day occurring in late June.

How is it celebrated?

The day is one that is celebrated by pagans and druids, with rituals of rebirth performed throughout history on the day.

One of the biggest celebrations in the UK occurs at Stonehenge with crowds gathering to watch the sunrise on the morning of the winter solstice.

The crowds of devotees, often dressed for the occasion, regularly gather at the historic site.  It is just one of the many pagan festivals, which include midwinter, midsummer and inbolc – the day that traditionally marks the start of spring.

The importance placed on the day comes from how people were previously so ecoenomically dependent on the seasons with straveation common in the first months of winter.

Will the days start to get longer?

After the solstice, the days will start to get longer.  The process is gradual, with minutes added everyday.

Join us on a Stonehenge guided tour from London or Bath and join the Pagan celebrations at sunrise on the Winter Solstice. This is a popular tour and shoule be booked in advance:
Stonehenge Winter Solstice Tour

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Stonehenge Guided Tours
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Stonehenge – a name that evokes a great many emotions in a great many people. For some it is a place of pilgrimage, a place to connect with the ancestors and for others it is seen as a tourist trap or something to tick off the bucket list. For centuries it has captured our imagination; never has a heritage site been so controversial – something which continues to this day. In this post it is not my intention to give a full on thesis about Stonehenge, there are plenty of books/websites who do this already. Instead it is simply an overview of what is currently understood about the site, its surrounding landscape and my own personal thoughts.

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Stonehenge is situated on the Salisbury Plains, to the south is the busy A303, a main road between the south-west and London, and for many years the equally busy A344 ran alongside the site. This latter road was removed sometime ago to improve the visitors experience. Today there are ongoing discussions regarding the upgrading of the A303 and a proposed tunnel. It is a highly emotive subject, on one hand I understand the need to improve the road situation (ask anyone who is stuck in a traffic jam on the A303) but as an archaeologist I am also aware of the sensitive nature of the surrounding heritage landscape (and yes I am on the fence). Mike Pitts in his recent post discusses the pros and cons for those of you who are interested.

For the visitor today the focus is on the large stone circle with its trilithons, they marvel at how it could have been built by ‘primitive man’ often leading to suggestions of alien intervention and lost technologies.  But such thoughts only serve to belittle our ancestors and our past.  Others may ask why did our ancestors build Stonehenge?  Often the answers are unimaginative and simple – sun-worship; display of power; ancient computer; druid temple – once more when we look only for one answer to a what is obviously a complicated site of great longevity we belittle their achievements.  Instead if Stonehenge was understood in terms of the wider landscape and as a site whose history spanned several millenia we might come to some small understanding of how and why.

In today’s world of instant gratification where everything has a beginning and an end,  it is hard to imagine beginning a project knowing you might not see it finished but this was a reality for the builders of Stonehenge.  It has lead some to suggest that it was not the end product which was important but the doing, the act of building which was in fact the purpose.  Suggesting a cyclical thought pattern which can be seen in other aspects of prehistoric life – round houses, stone circles, round barrows.  in addition, time itself was most likely viewed in cycles, the phases of the moon and the movement of the seasons are all cyclical events which would have been of great importance to prehistoric people trying to make sense of their world.

“So was Stonehenge ever ‘finished’?  The answer to that has to be no, because completion was never the intention of the people who created it.” (Pryor F. 2016 ‘Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape).

It is well known that Stonehenge itself had many incarnations, perhaps meaning new and different things with each alteration or rebuild.  To understand Stonehenge it is important to consider it in the wider context of the surrounding landscape (there are literally hundreds of prehistoric monuments around it) in all the different phases.

The Mesolithic Story

The story of the Stonehenge landscape begins back in the Mesolithic, ongoing recent excavations at Blickmead are providing archaeologists with tantalising clues as to why this area was important to our ancestors.  The site is situated near a spring by the River Avon, excavations began in 2005 and almost immediately were fruitful.  Basically, the deposits consisted of an array of Mesolithic settlement debris, mostly flint fragments (tens of thousands) but also a great number of animal bones.  Interestingly, the site also yielded the largest collection of auroch bones ever found on a Mesolithic site in Britain so far.  Other animals which were hunted and consumed included red deer, wild boar and salmon – this has led archaeologists to suggest that feasting was a common occurence around the spring.  The spring itself is quite unusual as it has the tendency to stain flints and other materials a bright magenta pink – the importance of springs in later prehistory is well attested to.

In 1966 row of four large pit like features were found during upgrades to the old carpark close by Stonehenge.  When excavated one was found to be a the root-hole of a tree and the other three were holes dugs to hold large poles.   Examination of the material from these features gave a date range from between 8500 and 7000BC.  The posts would have been approximately 75cm in diameter and were from pine trees.  Later in 1988 another post-hole was discovered south and east of the original pits but it was contemporary.

So here we have a landscape already well populated by hunter-gatherer communities who revered certain natural features long before Stonehenge makes an appearance.  A landscape which had meaning to the people who inhabit it; who had traditions and memories of place.

At around 3500BC (Neolithic) with the arrival of farming these communities and their traditions had evolved and more permenant features began to make an appearance on the landscape.   Long barrows such as those at East and West Kennet or Winterbourne Stoke were the first to appear and by 3400BC the Stonehenge Cursus and Lesser Cursus was under construction.

3000BC – The first official phase of construction

In many parts of Britian at this time a new type of monument was being constructed, these were earthwork enclosures which are referred to as henges.  They consist of irregular cut ditches encircling a defined area with corresponding banks.  Stonehenge’s earliest phase was one such earthwork.  Here there were two entrances one faced north-east and the other faced south.  The north-easterly entrance remained in use for much of the sites lifetime and appears to be important to its function.  The entrance is aligned along a line of natural gullies which face towards the midsummer sunrise in one direction and the midwinter sunset in the other.

These natural gullies would have been visible to the people of the Mesolithic and may have been why the large pine posts were erected where they were – the midsummer and midwinter solstices were just as important then as they were to the later prehistoric communities.

Inside the earthwork enclosure around the inner edge of the bank were fifty-six regularly spaced pits – these are now known as the Aubrey Holes.  There is some discussion as to what they were or what they contained – small stone uprights or wooden posts?  However, what is known is that eventually they did contain cremated human remains.  Similar deposits have been found in the partly filled ditch and cut into the bank suggesting that at this stage in its history Stonehenge was used as a cemetary, among other things.
Read the full story (article source) here: Toni-maree Rowe – Write

Further Reading

Pryor F (2016) Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape

Parker-Pearson M  et al (2015) Stonehenge: Making Sense of Prehistoric Mystery

Parker Pearson M (2013) Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery

Bowden M et al (2015) The Stonehenge Landscape: Analysing the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Join s on a Stonehenge guided tour and hear all the latest theories.
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The Stonehenge Experts

History.com listed these interesting facts about Stonehenge:

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“Among the remaining riddles about Stonehenge is how its builders, who had only primitive tools, managed to haul all the massive stones to the site. The sarsen stones, which each weigh an average of 25 tons, are thought to have been brought to the site from Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles to the north. The bluestones, which weigh between 2 tons to 5 tons, were transported to Stonehenge from the Preseli Hills area in West Wales, a distance of more than 150 miles. Most archaeologists believe that humans moved the bluestones over water and land to Stonehenge, although it’s also been suggested these stones could’ve been pushed to the site by glaciers.”

Stonehenge once was put up for auction.“…the passage of the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act in 1913 protected Stonehenge from being intentionally demolished. In 1915, Stonehenge went up on the auction block, where local resident Cecil Chubb successfully bid on the site, on a whim, for £6,600. Three years later, Chubb donated Stonehenge to the national government. In recognition of this deed, he was knighted by Prime Minister Lloyd George.”

Theories abound about Stonehenge’s purpose.“Stonehenge’s builders left no known written records, so scholars (and non-scholars) have long speculated about why it was constructed. Those theories include ‘(Stonehenge) was erected as a memorial to hundreds of Britons who were slayed by the Saxons’ or that ‘Stonehenge was built as a Druid temple.’”

Summer solstice gatherings were banned at Stonehenge.“First held in 1974 during the summer solstice, the Stonehenge Free Festival started as a counter-culture gathering that grew significantly in size over time. After tens of thousands of people showed up for the 1984 festival, authorities banned the event for the following year over concerns about the bad behavior of some of the visitors.” Summer Solstice Tour

Darwin studied worms there.“Darwin’s research was included in what would be his final book, ‘The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms,’ published in 1881.”

Join us on a guided Tour of Stonehenge and hear all the facts and figures.

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This walking path links Britain’s two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, and is as epic as the Inca Trail

The Great Stones Way is one of those ideas so obvious it seems amazing that no one has thought of it before: a 38-mile walking trail to link England’s two greatest prehistoric sites, Avebury and Stonehenge, crossing a landscape covered with Neolithic monuments.

great-stones-way-map

The Great Stones Way is a route using existing paths through the Wiltshire Downs, starting just south of Swindon and ending up at Old Sarum, on the outskirts of Salisbury. As long-distance trails go, this one is quite short, making it perfect for an energetic long weekend, or for more leisurely exploration over a week.

What’s the attraction?
Walking the Great Stones Way takes you on a journey through a landscape steeped in history, allowing you to discover the extraordinary sights our ancestors have left us. These include Iron Age hill forts with commanding views such as Barbury Castle and Old Sarum, while optional loops take you past the Neolithic henges and stone circles at the combined UNESCO World Heritage Site of Avebury and Stonehenge. There is also the option to finish the walk at Salisbury’s majestic medieval cathedral. The first part of the trail heads south through the rolling open chalk downland landscape of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“I can’t help thinking how much better it is to arrive at Stonehenge on foot. The comparison that comes to mind, and which I know well, is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The experience of trekking to both sites is immeasurably richer, not just because you’ve “earned it”, but because both sets of ruins are only properly understood in the context of the sacred landscape that surrounds them.”

Stonehenge Guided Tours is proud to offer a Contours walking holiday following the ‘Great Stones Way’ Please visit our Stonehenge tour website for full details

We also offer  daily Stonehenge guided walking tours throughout the year.

Stonehenge Guided Tours
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The days are getting shorter, the nights are drawing in, and the Winter Solstice is just a a week away.  It may feel like the days can’t get any shorter, but we still haven’t yet reached the winter solstice , which is the shortest day of the year.

henge-snow

The solstice marks the moment the sun shines at its most southern point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

The world might look pretty grim now, but remember: as soon as the solstice has passed, the days will start getting longer again and you can start looking forward to Spring.

Here’s your guide to the darkest day of the year – and a few reasons to be cheerful about it.

What is the winter solstice?

The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the official beginning of winter.

The solstice itself is the moment the sun is shining farthest to the south, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

When is the Winter Solstice?

The date of the winter solstice is different every year, falling between December 20th and 23rd.

This year, the solstice will occur on Wednesday, December 21. The sun will rise in the UK at 08:04 GMT and set at 15:54 GMT, giving just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

Traditions and rituals

The winter solstice is a major pagan festival, with rituals of rebirth having been celebrated for thousands of years.

Chief Druid leads the Winter Solstice service at Stonehenge

Chief Druid leads the Winter Solstice service at Stonehenge (Photo: PA)

Every year revellers gather at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the shortest day.

Many of the traditions we now think of as being part of Christmas – including Yule logs, mistletoe and Christmas trees – have their roots in the pagan celebrations of winter solstice.

Wait, the Christmas tree was originally a winter solstice tree?

Sort of. The Druids – the priests of the ancient Celts – used evergreen trees , holly and mistletoe as symbols of everlasting life during winter solstice rituals.

Cutting them down and putting them in their homes would have been too destructive to nature.

But when Saint Boniface, also known as Winfrith of Crediton, found a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree in 8th Century Germany, he cut the tree down.

Myth has it the converted pagans in the region returned the following year to decorate the fir tree.

Will the days start getting longer again?

Yes. After the solstice, the days will gradually get longer until the summer solstice on Wednesday, 21 June 2017.
Article by By  (Source The Mirror)

Experience sunrise at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice with our exclusive guided tour from London or Bath.

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