Thousands descend on the Wiltshire monument to mark the longest day of the year,

THOUSANDS of revellers travel to Stonehenge every year to mark summer solstice.

But do you know why the Wiltshire monument attracts so many people on the longest day of the year? Here’s the lowdown…

When is the summer solstice?

The midsummer date is set based on the planet’s rotational axis.

It’s decided based on the sun’s tilt towards the sun, which hits its maximum at 23° 26′ and falls between June 20 and June 22 in the northern hemisphere.

This year, the summer solstice will take place on June 21.

What is the summer solstice?

The ‘longest’ day of the year marks the middle of summer.

This is because the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most aligned with the sun, providing us with the most daylight of the year.

When it ends, the nights will began to close in as our planet rotates away from the sun.

The date where Earth is the furthest from the star is marked by the winter solstice.

What has the summer solstice got to do with Stonehenge?

The day 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.

The tradition sees revellers waiting by the Wiltshire monument on midsummer, facing towards the north-easterly direction.

Crowds of devotees, often dressed for the occasion, regularly gather to watch the moment the sun rises above the Heel Stone.

It’s just one of the many pagan festivals, which include midwinter and inbolc – the day that traditionally marks the start of spring.

How else is the summer solstice celebrated?

Midsummer festivities are held across the world in many different cultures.

In many cases, the rituals are linked with themes of religion or fertility.

Article Source: By Sophie Roberts The Sun Newspaper

Join the Summer Solstice celebrations on our exclusive Summer Solstice Tour and Winter Solstice Tour from London or Bath.  

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This full day tour from London starts when you’re picked up at your hotel by a London black taxi driver – the world’s finest!  Acclaimed the world over for having to complete the fiendishly difficult ‘Knowledge of London’ series of tests before they are awarded their coveted green badge, your London black taxi driver is required to know literally thousands of streets, landmarks and places of interest. Every single London black taxi driver has been rigorously vetted, so you know you’re in safe hands too.

Climb Glastonbury Tor

Your cabbie will drop you off at your starting point where your tour bus awaits you, offering you the kind of comfort you deserve: all coaches feature reclining leather seats, air conditioning, and panoramic windows so you can sit back and enjoy the stunning views of the English countryside.

The first stop of the day is the magnificent, enthralling Stonehenge. This iconic structureexcalibur has puzzled archaeologists and historians for centuries, and its true purpose remains a mystery to this day. How did the stones get transported thousands of years ago from so far away? What is the secret of its remarkable layout? We’ll be exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site with your qualified tour guide, who will escort you into the cinema for a 360- degree experience of what it would be like to be in the centre of Stonehenge from its beginnings 5,000 years ago.

You’ll also be able to view the many artefacts recovered from the tombs dotted around the surrounding landscape of lush, rolling green hills, as well as a nearly complete skeleton of someone who lived in the area before Stonehenge was even begun.

Outside the monument there will be a chance to explore some of the huts recreated from findings at the nearby “Durrington Walls” 2 miles away. You’ll get the chance to step into the huts and see how the people who built Stonehenge lived. From here we hop on to the courtesy bus that takes us up to the site of Stonehenge itself.

day-tour-image-24The remarkable thing about Stonehenge is its unique design and the craftsmanship involved in building this extraordinary site, and your guide is on hand to talk about some of the theories, and point out the site’s distinctive features.

From here we push deeper into what is often referred to as Arthur’s Britain. The countryside gradually becomes hillier and more remote as modern civilisation melts away behind us. We pass iron age fortresses, doll-like thatched cottages, ancient landmarks, villages with old gaols and a pub that was run by a notorious highwayman.

From here we approach Glastonbury and the much-photographed Tor (hill) that silently Glastonbury Abbeydominates the landscape for miles around. We’ll pull into the small nearby town for our fish and chip lunch at an award-winning restaurant that has been a family business for over a century. From here we’ll cross the road into Glastonbury Abbey to search for the final resting place of King Arthur himself. According to contemporary reports, the monks who lived at the Abbey discovered the tomb of Arthur following a fire. But to many people, Arthur is not dead at all – he sleeps nearby ready to awake when England is in peril. Stories of Arthur abound here in Glastonbury – the Isle of Apples – as do legends of fairy folk, saints and magic, all weaving through the landscape and remembering the deeds of long ago.

Our tour continues with a visit to the revered Chalice Well, where you can take for free the healing waters from the Lion’s head spring. Here too is an example of the Glastonbury thorn brought from the Holy Land by Joseph of Arimathea. The Chalice well itself has never been known to dry out – not even in the most severe droughts – and it was here that Joseph hid the Holy Grail. Since that time, people have travelled from far and wide to benefit from its healing properties.

Now for some serious hiking – but only if you want to! This is your chance to walk to the top of the town of Glastonbury and marvel at the magnificent views across to the city of Wells, Porlock, Dunster and even across the Bristol Channel to the principality of Wales – the land of the dragon. The tower of St. Michael stands as testimony to the medieval monks’ determination and engineering skills. But the tower holds a gruesome secret, and there’s an intriguing story of an encounter with the fairy kingdom too!

Avebury Stone CircleTime to leave now for our final stop of the day and the village of Avebury. On our way there we’ll see a striking white horse carved into the hillside to commemorate the triumph of an English King over the Vikings back in the 800s. We’ll also be driving past an old country mansion which became the subject of a notorious (and true!) murder mystery, a place that is in fact at the origin of the enthusiasm for detective novels going back to the 1800s that kick-started the popularity of the detective novel, captivating the imagination of readers and amateur sleuths on both sides of the Atlantic.

Then onto Avebury.

Measuring 400 metres across its diameter, the stone circle of Avebury is the largest in the world and – like Stonehenge – is a world heritage site. We’ll have time to explore the site together with your guide who tell you about the barber stone and the haunted pub, and will show you some great photo spots. We’ll also be doing some dowsing at the site to discover the power of the stones.  There’ll be time to pop in to the famous ‘henge’ shop and find out about crystals and crop circles, and you might even want to take home some dowsing rods of your own… From here we’ll get back on our coach that will take us past the mysterious pre-historic mound of Silbury Hill – the largest in Europe.

We drive back via the lovely market towns of Marlborough and Hungerford. We’ll see Marlborough College, the school attended by the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie amongst others. Here, too, is another prehistoric mound which, according to legend, conceals the Round Table along with Merlin the Magician.

We’ll be joining the freeway back to London and drive past Windsor Castle, the venue for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018, and you’ll be dropped off at Gloucester Road. Should any passengers require onward transfers then please speak to the guide beforehand.

Whats Included

Fully Guided Lecture Standard Tour

Admission to Stonehenge

Admission to Glastonbury Abbey

Climb Glastonbury Tor

All Travel in Luxury Mini-Bus from Central London

View and book this magical day tour here

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The striking British landmark was built in three stages – and some parts of it are 5,000 years old.

winter-sols

Stonehenge is one of the most recognisable and Instagrammed landmarks spots in Britain, but do you know its history?

But where are the famous standing stones and more importantly who put them there? Here’s what we know…

What is Stonehenge?

Instantly recognisable from the surrounding roads, Stonehenge is made up of a ring of standing stones – each of which are around 13ft (4.1 metres) high, 6ft 11in (2.1m) wide and weigh 25 tons.

The stones are set within a group of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, as well as several hundred burial mounds.

Stonehenge was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986, and is one of the most Instagrammed tourist attractions in Britain.

In 1915, wealthy Shrewton resident Sir Cecil Chubb became Stonehenge’s last private owner when he bought the site for £6,600. It is now estimated to be worth a huge £51 million.

He formally handed it over to the state three years later, with a number of conditions.

The site is managed by English Heritage – and is the third best view in Britain, according to a recent poll.

 

What is the history of Stonehenge?

Stonehenge was built in three stages, with some parts being a huge 5,000 years old.

The outer bank of Stonehenge was made in around 3000 BC, while the stone settings were built in 2500 BC.

Hundreds of people helped to construct the landmark – transporting the stones from the nearby Marlborough Downs and Preseli Hills, in south-west Wales.

The stones were then worked into shape using sarsen and flint hammerstones.

Today, Stonehenge is linked to the druids – and many people wrongly think they built the structure.

However, archaeologists believe it was constructed by three groups – the Neolithics, the Beaker people and the Wessex Peoples – who are said to have finalised the site into what we see today.

What happens during the Winter Solstice Festival?

Every year, hundreds of people gather at Stonehenge for The Winter Solstice, which falls around December 21.

It is the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year.

Every year people gather at Stonehenge in the early morning to mark the Winter solstice and see the sun rise over the stones.

People also gather at Stonehenge on the eve of Midsumer’s Day, to celebrate the Summer Solstice.

At dawn on the longest day of the summer – which normally falls between June 20 and 22 – pagans, druids and other spectators gather to celebrate and watch the sunrise.

Spring Equinox, which falls around March 20, is also marked at the historic site.

What’s going on with the plans for a tunnel near Stonehenge?

The plans for a 1.8-mile dual carriageway tunnel near Stonehenge, have got the go-ahead from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Some experts warned it would compromise the “precious” archaeology of the World Heritage Site.

But government agency Historic England, and the National Trust and English Heritage who manage the stone circle, welcomed the ruling. The A303 is often gridlocked there.

Time Team presenter Tony Robinson has previously described the scheme as “old-fashioned” because it “assumes what needs to be protected is that little clump of stones”.

He said the stone circle was invaluable, but over the past 20 to 30 years, experts had begun to appreciate that the area around it was a complex network of henges, pathways, barrows and track-ways.

Article Source: By Josie Griffiths: The Sun Online

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 should be booked in advance: Stonehenge Winter Solstice Tour

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SUN-seekers will be alarmed to know that the summer solstice is just around the corner. The pagan celebration falls in June every year. 

Even though the midsummer date is when we get the most daylight of the year, it also marks the time where the days start shortening ahead of winter.

summer-solstice-getty-sun

The summer solstice is considered to be the longest day of the year because it’s when we get the most daylight. Getty Images

Here’s everything you need to know about summer solstice 2017…

When is the summer solstice?

The midsummer date is set based on the planet’s rotational axis.

It’s decided based on the sun’s tilt towards the sun, which hits its maximum at 23° 26′ and falls between June 20 and June 22 in the northern hemisphere.

This year, the summer solstice will take place on Wednesday, June 21st
solstice-moon

The date is decided based on the angle of the Earth’s tilt. Getty Images

What is the summer solstice?

The ‘longest’ day of the year marks the middle of summer.

This is because the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most aligned with the sun, providing us with the most daylight of the year.

After June 21, the nights will began to close in as our planet rotates away from the sun.

The date where Earth is the furthest from the star is marked by the winter solstice.

What’s the summer solstice got to do with Stonehenge?

The day 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.

The tradition sees revellers waiting by the Wiltshire monument on midsummer, facing towards the north-easterly direction.

Crowds of devotees, often dressed for the occasion, regularly gather to watch the moment the sun rises above the Heel Stone.

It’s just one of the many pagan festivals, which include midwinter and imbolc – the day that traditionally marks the start of spring.

solstice-party

Revellers face the sun as they watch it rise up around the Wiltshire monument

How else is the summer solstice celebrated?Midsummer festivities are held across the world in many different cultures.

In many cases, the rituals are linked with themes of religion or fertility.

Wianki celebrations in Poland are similar to those held in Britain, as the day is largely considered a pagan religious event.

There are different traditions across Europe, with Estonia using the day to mark a shift in agricultural patterns.

In Russia and Ukraine, it’s tradition for revellers to jump over bonfires to test their courage and religious faith.

Article source: By Sophie Roberts The Sun News

Cross it off your bucket list this year and join our Stonehenge Summer Solstice Tour. Guided tours with luxury transport depart from Bath and London on 20th and 21st for sunset and sunrise.

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Established 1995

Why does Stonehenge exist? We explore the pick of the theories, which are all totally sane and reasonable.

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From archaeologists to modern-day pagans to Spinal Tap fans, Stonehenge is truly a place of wonder where the demons dwell, where the banshees live and they do live well. The prehistoric monument has been the source of a great deal of speculation over its meaning, purpose and construction. Here are some of the theories surrounding those ancient stones.

Merlin did it

Not as popular a theory among historians as it once was, the Merlin Hypothesis suggests that King Arthur’s pet wizard had Stonehenge constucted with the help of a local giant, the Devil or his own mysterious magic. Notable fabulist Geoffrey of Monmouth was a big supporter of this theory, which was pretty popular into the 14th century.

From archaeologists to modern-day pagans to Spinal Tap fans, Stonehenge is truly a place of wonder where the demons dwell, where the banshees live and they do live well. The prehistoric monument has been the source of a great deal of speculation over its meaning, purpose and construction. Here are some of the theories surrounding those ancient stones.

Merlin did it

Not as popular a theory among historians as it once was, the Merlin Hypothesis suggests that King Arthur’s pet wizard had Stonehenge constucted with the help of a local giant, the Devil or his own mysterious magic. Notable fabulist Geoffrey of Monmouth was a big supporter of this theory, which was pretty popular into the 14th century.

It was a very fancy cemetery

Over the years, the remains of 63 different people have been exhumed from the site – in the form of more than 50,000 cremated bone fragments. Apparently the burials occured way back around 3000BC, roughly 100 years after the first stones were placed on the site. Given those rubbery figures, its possible the initial structure was designed as an over-the-top headstone arrangement.

It was designed for healing and pilgrimage

There’s another theory about why those remains were found there, and it’s based on the fact that a lot of them appear to have suffered from illness or injury. This suggests that people saw Stonehenge as a place to travel when you weren’t well, in the hope of getting magical first aid. Further investigation revealed fragments of the first stones had been chipped away, which could have been so people could craft them into healing talismans. (Or they were just touristy vandals.)

Aliens did it

There was once a strong school of thought that held that ancient people were idiots who couldn’t build anything as amazing as the wonders still standing among us today, so they must have had help. Obviously Merlin and his fairy minions are ridiculous, but aliens – well, it makes sense that they would pop down and help our forebears construct monolithic calculators. All you have to do is squint, fudge a few measurements, take liberties in the interpretation of ancient artworks and/or Bible passages, and it makes perfect sense.

Druids used it as a measuring instrument

If you want to know exactly when the Winter Solstice is coming, Stonehenge can help you calculate that. The avenue connecting Stonehenge to the River Avon aligns with the sun that day. Apparently there are key points around the complex that could have been used to predict eclipses, too, which is pretty cool if true. By the way, the “Druids did it” theory began in 1640 but has been pretty well debunked. Sorry.

It was a feel-good collaboration to celebrate unity

And by “unity”, we mean “you’ve all been conquered, now help us build a stone circle so you’ll never forget it”. Everyone except the alien and fairy enthusiasts agree the work of bringing these stones to the site and erecting them in a circle would have required the efforts of many people working together. Under this theory, the Neolithic locals spontaneously banded together to create the ancient equivalent of the Statue of Liberty.

It’s monolithic porn

Look, it seems unlikely, but in 2003 one researcher claimed Stonehenge looked like female genitalia and was meant to celebrate the Earth Mother. This theory requires even more squinting than the alien one.
By Shane Cubis SBS

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Wiltshire’s world-famous stones have been attracting sightseers for thousands of years. Here, Mike Pitts tells the tourists’ story.

A group of Victorian tourists pose in front of Stonehenge, c1900. © Corbis

A group of Victorian tourists pose in front of Stonehenge, c1900. © Corbis

2500 BC: Stonehenge is the talk of prehistoric Europe

Visitors have always been part of Stonehenge, even the stones are foreigners: the small ones from Wales, the large ones probably from the Marlborough Downs, 20 miles to the north.

Stonehenge was truly unique in Europe and so, at its height around 2500 BC, it must have been talked about across the continent.

Evidence of houses in the area suggests that far more people lived near to the stones than we would normally expect. Drawing labour and representatives from different tribes or groups, Stonehenge must have played a part in alliances that reached across Britain, and perhaps even beyond.

Tests on a man buried nearby around 2300 BC have revealed that he grew up in central Europe, was rich, but had a bad knee and a limp. Other men buried in the area originated at least as far away as Wales. Could these have been among Stonehenge’s first tourists?

Read the full story at History Extra

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Excavation of two quarries in Wales by a UCL-led team of archaeologists and geologists has confirmed they are sources of Stonehenge’s ‘bluestones’– and shed light on how they were quarried and transported.

New research by the team published this week detail evidence of prehistoric quarrying in the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, helping to answer long-standing questions about why, when and how Stonehenge was built.

The team of scientists includes researchers from UCL, University of Manchester, Bournemouth University, University of Southampton, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, and Dyfed Archaeological Trust.

The very large standing stones at Stonehenge are of ‘sarsen’, a local sandstone, but the smaller ones, known as ‘bluestones’, come from the Preseli hills in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Geologists have known since the 1920s that the bluestones were brought to Stonehenge from somewhere in the Preseli Hills, but only now has there been collaboration with archaeologists to locate and excavate the actual quarries from which they came.

Director of the project, Professor Mike Parker Pearson (UCL Institute of Archaeology), said: “This has been a wonderful opportunity for geologists and archaeologists to work together. The geologists have been able to lead us to the actual outcrops where Stonehenge’s stones were extracted.”

The Stonehenge bluestones are of volcanic and igneous rocks, the most common of which are called dolerite and rhyolite. Dr Richard Bevins (Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales) and Dr Rob Ixer (UCL and University of Leicester) have identified the outcrop of Carn Goedog as the main source of Stonehenge’s ‘spotted dolerite’ bluestones and the outcrop of Craig Rhos-y-felin as a source for one of the ‘rhyolite’ bluestones. The research published today details excavations at Craig Rhos-y-felin specifically.

Excavataions at Craig Rhos-y-felin

The special formation of the rock, which forms natural pillars at these outcrops, allowed the prehistoric quarry-workers to detach each megalith (standing stone) with a minimum of effort. “They only had to insert wooden wedges into the cracks between the pillars and then let the Welsh rain do the rest by swelling the wood to ease each pillar off the rock face” said Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton). “The quarry-workers then lowered the thin pillars onto platforms of earth and stone, a sort of ‘loading bay’ from where the huge stones could be dragged away along trackways leading out of each quarry.”

Professor Colin Richards (University of Manchester), an expert in Neolithic quarries, said: “The two outcrops are really impressive – they may well have had special significance for prehistoric people. When we saw them for the first time, we knew immediately that we had found the source.”

Radiocarbon-dating of burnt hazelnuts and charcoal from the quarry-workers’ camp fires reveals that there were several occurrences of megalith-quarrying at these outcrops. Stonehenge was built during the Neolithic period, between 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. Both of the quarries in Preseli were exploited in the Neolithic, and Craig Rhos-y-felin was also quarried in the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago.

“We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC” said Professor Parker Pearson. “It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view.  It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.”

Excavations at Carn-Goedog

Professor Kate Welham (Bournemouth University) thinks that the ruins of any dismantled monument are likely to lie somewhere between the two megalith quarries. She said: “We’ve been conducting geophysical surveys, trial excavations and aerial photographic analysis throughout the area and we think we have the most likely spot. The results are very promising – we may find something big in 2016.”

The megalith quarries are on the north side of the Preseli hills, and this location undermines previous theories about how the bluestones were transported from Wales to Stonehenge.  Previous writers have often suggested that bluestones were taken southwards from the hills to Milford Haven and then floated on boats or rafts, but this now seems unlikely.

“The only logical direction for the bluestones to go was to the north then either by sea around St David’s Head or eastwards overland through the valleys along the route that is now the A40” said Professor Parker Pearson. “Personally I think that the overland route is more likely. Each of the 80 monoliths weighed less than 2 tons, so teams of people or oxen could have managed this. We know from examples in India and elsewhere in Asia that single stones this size can even be carried on wooden lattices by groups of 60 – they didn’t even have to drag them if they didn’t want to.”

Phil Bennett, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Culture and Heritage Manager, said: “This project is making a wonderful contribution to our knowledge of the National Park’s importance in prehistory.”

The new discoveries may also help to understand why Stonehenge was built. Parker Pearson and his team believe that the bluestones were erected at Stonehenge around 2900 BC, long before the giant sarsens were put up around 2500 BC.

“Stonehenge was a Welsh monument from its very beginning. If we can find the original monument in Wales from which it was built, we will finally be able to solve the mystery of why Stonehenge was built and why some of its stones were brought so far”, said Professor Parker Pearson.

The project’s results are published this week in British Archaeology magazine.  It also features in our new book Stonehenge: making sense of a prehistoric mystery available from Oxbow Books. Further excavations are planned for 2016.

The new Stonehenge book's cover

Council for British Archaeology

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