It is the day with the least sunlight with the winter solstice having been celebrated for thousands of years.


A druid ceremony is held during the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

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 20 and 23.


Stonehenge Winter Solstice Tour

In 2016, it will fall on Wednesday, December 21.

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.

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.

The days will eventually lengthen until the summer solstice, which is expected on Wednesday June 21.
Article source: By BRITTANY VONOW The Sun Online

Join us on a guided tour from London or Bath and join the Pagan celebrations at sunrise on the Winter Solstice:
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At various times and in different (mostly Northern European) cultures, the solstice has gone by different names, such as Yule, Midwinter, and Jól. Nowadays, the solstice gets overshadowed by its more commercial and religious winter relatives: Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; but plenty of people still celebrate the winter solstice in its own right.


If you’ve ever wondered what the solstice is, or why it matters, here’s the lowdown.

What is it?

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. From June to December, the days shorten and shorten until the solstice. After the winter solstice, days gradually grow longer again (yay!), which brings warmer temperatures. On the actual solstice, the North Pole gets zero energy from the sun — that is, no sunlight at all.

In the summer, we celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. (In the Southern Hemisphere, everything is flip-flopped — they’re celebrating the summer solstice in December.)

When is it?

Each year, the winter solstice falls on either December 21 or 22. This year, it takes place Tuesday, December 22 at 4:48 UTC (December 21 at 11:48 p.m. EST).

But I noticed the sun started setting later before the solstice…

An astute observation! Depending on where you live, the shortest day of the year doesn’t necessarily fall on the day with the earliest sunset or the latest sunrise. This has to do with what’s called “true solar noon,” the time when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. In early December, solar noon is about ten minutes earlier than it is when we hit the solstice. Thus, depending on the latitude where you live, the sunset may actually be slightly later on the solstice than it was earlier in the month. The closer you live to the Arctic, the more closely the earliest sunset and the winter solstice will match up.

What about the latest sunrise?

Unless you live in the Arctic Circle, the latest sunrise usually arrives in early January, which makes sense, knowing that solar noon moves later in the day starting in early December. There’s a variation in solar noon and noon on the clock, because of the tilt of the earth’s axis and the earth’s not-quite-circular orbit around the sun.

How long have we known about the solstice?

Our earliest ancestors tracked the seasons and years by changes in the sky: the movement of the sun, stars, and moon. Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in the world built to observe and celebrate our trek around the sun. Nowadays, 3,000 to 5,000 people visit Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the winter solstice and up to 30,000 visit for the summer solstice.

Article source: Refinery 29

Solstice Events U.K operate guided tours from London and Bath.  Experience sunrise on the Winter Solstice, a truly magical experience!

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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.

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A line of huge megaliths that once acted as a site for rituals carried out during the building of Stonehenge has been discovered. Here is how to visit the site

Why go

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a massive stone monument buried under the bank of a stone-age enclosure known as Durrington Walls, just two miles from Stonehenge.

A new line of stones has been found under Durrington Walls super-henge

A new line of stones has been found under Durrington Walls super-henge

Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, investigators from Birmingham and Bradford universities, alongside an international team of experts, have uncovered a 330m-long line of more than 50 massive stones, buried under part of the bank of Britain’s largest pre-historic henge.

Professor Vincent Gaffney, an archaeologist on the project, said that the discovery has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting.

“Not only does this new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier,” he said.

What is it

Gaffney said that the stones are thought to have been erected more than 4,500 years ago to form a dramatic ritual arena. The monuments were grand, built to give the impression of authority to the living and the dead.

However, as the megaliths are buried underground, visitors to the area will not be able to see them for themselves.

Yet you can still get a great sense of their majesty if you use a bit of imagination, and Durrington Walls, the village where Stonehenge’s builders lived, is itself an interesting site.

The henge at Durrington Walls has long mystified archaeologists because one side is straight while the rest of it is curved. It surrounds several smaller enclosures and timber circles, and is connected to a newly excavated later Neolithic settlement. Thousands of people travelled great distances to gather here and feast on roast pork and apples in midwinter. The area outside the ditch and bank was once a settlement, possibly housing hundreds of homes, making Durrington Walls the biggest village in north-west Europe at the time.

The earliest phase of Durrington Walls with its line of megaliths

How to see the site on a guided walk

The National Trust is hosting a Discover Durrington Walls event on October 10. On this 3-mile walk, you’ll explore the secrets of Durrington Walls – once home to the builders of Stonehenge – and discover 6,000 years of hidden history with National Trust’s landscape guides.

To book: Call the estate office on 01980 664780 or email

How to see the site on an independent walk

Download a National Trust map for one of the following routes and explore for yourself.

1. Ramble around on a Durrington Walls and Landscape walk and explore the connection between two of the most important henge enclosures in the country in a less-known part of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. To view the route:

2. Go on a Durrington Walls to Stonehenge walk and discover the landscape in its full glory from the Bronze Age barrow First World War military railway track, as well as its diverse wildlife and plants. To view the route:

Join a guided tour from London or Salisbury

Stonehenge Guided Tours operate daily tours of Stonehenge and many of their small group tours explore the greater landscape including Woodhenge and Durrington Walls.  Exclusive private guided tours can be arranged for individuals, families and small groups with local experts.  They also specialise in Stonehenge special access tours.  To view their tours:

Local facilities

– Picnic area (not NT) and information panel at Woodhenge car park

– WCs

– Outdoor café

– Picnic area (not NT) at Stonehenge car park, 0.75 miles from this walking route.

How to get there

Bike: National Cycle Network route 45 runs south-east of the property. See

Bus: Wilts & Dorset 5 or 6, between Salisbury, Pewsey, Marlborough and Swindon. Service 16 from Amesbury, request stop at Woodhenge

Rail: Salisbury station, 9 miles from Woodhenge car park

Road: Woodhenge car park is 1¾ miles north of Amesbury, follow signs from A345

This article was written by Trisha Andres (Telegraph Mail)

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