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

arthur-solstice

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.

winter-solstice-tour

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:
Stonehenge Winter Solstice Tour

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Travel blogger Teri Didjurgis joined us on our small group  Autumn Equinox tour and here is her story:

How to legally go inside Stonehenge Circle

Though some say Stonehenge is overrated, I found a way to visit the iconic site in a unique way to get a glimpse of the past……………………….

Druids and Pagans enjoying the Equinox sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge.

 

You can read the full story and tour experience on the BlueSkyTraveler  Blog:
How to legally go inside Stonehenge Circle

Experience for yourself our Stonehenge Equinox or Solstice Tours and remember to book in advance as these small group tours are very popular.

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Exclusive VIP Tours at Stonehenge (UK).  Read the full story on the CNN News Channel here

cnn-stonehenge

You’ll need to book a VIP tour if you want a Stonehenge shot like this

It’s every traveller’s nightmare: You finally make it to one of the wonders of the world only to find a horde of other tourists already there tarnishing your view.

 

But there’s an alternative if you don’t want your perfect shot of Stonehenge ruined.

Stonehenge Tours inked a special arrangement with preservation agency English Heritage to offer privileged access to the Stone Circle at dawn and dusk when the site is closed to the general public.

Of course, there’s a slight catch.

Demand for VIP access far exceeds the sporadic supply, and the £97 ($149) tours are often sold out months in advance.

Book a Stonehenge VIP special access tour in advance here

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The Stonehenge Experts
http://www.StonehengeTours.com

At first it was a blur on the horizon, a small, grey silhouette rising softly into the haze. Grassy meadows dotted with cowslips and grazing sheep rolled around me.

As this prehistoric monument prepares for the summer solstice, Ellie Ross joins a new tour offering an authentic view of the site

As this prehistoric monument prepares for the summer solstice, Ellie Ross joins a new tour offering an authentic view of the site

The silence was broken only by birdsong and the occasional scuff of our boots. The path dipped down into a valley before veering left – and the blur came into focus as that familiar stone circle and one of Neolithic man’s most astonishing achievements, Stonehenge.

Standing proud on the skyline, it was magnificent to behold as I followed the remnants of a parallel pair of ditches and banks. I was walking up The Avenue, the ancient ceremonial approach which once connected Stonehenge to the River Avon and which is aligned with the sunrise of the summer solstice. This is the view people would have seen more than 4,000 years ago, when they trekked up here on the final leg of their journey.

My own journey on foot had begun eight miles south, in the Woodford Valley, where the River Avon criss-crosses verdant wheat fields and dense forest. I had arrived with a group of four other walkers accompanied by David Howell, guide and local historian from the walking specialist Foot Trails.

“We’re out here to enjoy the countryside,” he said, hoisting on a hefty backpack as we prepared to embark on Journey to the Stones, a new monthly guided walk. “Please switch off your phones.”

Within moments my surroundings seemed to burst into life – the smell of wet nettles, the chirrup of skylarks, a butterfly flitting next to my elbow. We crossed a footbridge over the Avon, a tranquil, blue-black stretch that flows from Salisbury Plain to Christchurch in Dorset, 38 miles away.

“The river was an important transport route for ancient man, and played a vital role in the construction of Stonehenge,” David explained.

Not only was the Avon a highway for transporting fish, it is believed the river was used to carry the dolerite bluestones of the inner ring, which came from Wales. Although the exact origins and purpose of Stonehenge have been lost, theories as to why it was built range from human sacrifice to astronomy. But what remains is not what the original builders would have seen, as it is at least the third monument that has stood on this site.

Around 2150BC, it changed from a henge – a ditch and bank of earth – to a monument of growing importance, featuring the bluestones and later huge Sarsens from the Marlborough Downs. Work stopped around 1500BC, leaving the stone circle roughly as it is today.

Shadowing the river, we dropped into dense forest peppered with wild garlic, crossed Lower Woodford with its pretty cottages and thatched cob walls, then paused beside a field of flint.

“There was something special about the position of Stonehenge,” David said, offering around a tin of barley sugars. “We are in a chalk landscape – the flint in these fields is compressed chalk. In prehistoric times, it was easier to travel on the chalk downs than in dense valleys. Stonehenge is a natural junction for England’s chalk downs, where you can move in all directions, but remain high. Being at the heart of this superhighway meant it was an ideal meeting point for people who were dispersed around the landscape.”

We pressed on, taking in views of Lake House, the Elizabethan home of Sting, who recorded “Fields of Gold” there after apparently being inspired by the surrounding barley fields. Climbing steadily, we entered what David called the “sacred heart of the landscape”, punctuated with barrows, or burial mounds, which would once have been white.

As we climbed, a dozen grassy lumps rose out of the downs around us, expanding and contracting as our perspective shifted. Then, a gap on the horizon opened to reveal the distant but unmistakable outline of Stonehenge, bathed in sunlight, about half a mile away. The monument is false-crested, set slightly below the summit, to make it visible both from the valley and from afar.

fter half a day on David’s route, avoiding the busy national trails, we had passed no other walkers, and now I felt like we had the stones all to ourselves. It was the perfect spot for a picnic.

“Most people go straight to the stones or simply drive past them on the A303,” David said, producing a blanket and wonderful bread, cheeses, tea and cake from his backpack. But you don’t see the significance of these barrows without walking through them. As a monument, Stonehenge is so much about its landscape. It was designed to be seen from afar, as well as from inside the stone circle.”

Refuelled, we skirted a wide semi-circle around the stones to see them at different angles. Each time I paused and looked towards them, they appeared different, first short and fat, then tall and thin. But all the while they were mesmerising, a dramatic display of human ingenuity that took more than 30 million hours of labour to create.

After a busy but brief crossing of the unavoidable A303, we traversed a field to join The Avenue bending up from the Avon, turning south-west for our final approach.

Standing in the stone circle, as the shadows hugged the ground, I looked out towards the fields with their lumpy barrows, and down the chalk-strewn Avenue, where the sun will soon rise, marking the summer solstice.

Walking there

Foot Trails (01747 820626; foottrails.co.uk) offers ‘Journey to the Stones’ on the first Thursday of every month, until 6 October. The guided day walk costs £75, including return transfers from Salisbury railway station, picnic lunch, entrance to Stonehenge, the services of a guide – and the occasional fortifying barley sugar. Private guided tours can be organised on request.

More information

Article source: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/stonehenge-walking-tour-sunrise-and-stones-on-the-horizon-10331290.html

english-heritage.org.uk/stonehenge

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For people from overseas visiting England, or even English people that want to experience something different, the summer solstice is a big draw. For anybody in or near to Salisbury on 20th and 21st June (every year), I strongly recommend a visit to Stonehenge which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with it’s neighbour Avebury.
Theories about Stonehenge - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The story of Stonehenge is still not 100% known, there are many theories ranging from an alien landing site to an ancient temple. While some theories hold more weight than others, none have been confirmed to be 100% true yet. However the National Trust (the body that looks after Stonehenge) has allowed for the site to be open each summer solstice,  at the request of druid and other pagan communities. This is to allow the druids to celebrate the sunrise of the longest day, but the opening is not restricted to just druids, over 20,000 people attend the event each year and it really is a great atmosphere. There are acoustic instruments, dancing, hula hooping and just about any other natural form of entertainment you can think of. There are food stalls to cater for all of the hungry attendees and portable toilets around the area. With police and st. John’s ambulance in attendance people will be happy to know that they are safe.  The venue usually opens at 7pm on 20th June and closes at 7am on 21st June. I have been 6 times before and I would strongly recommend this to anybody in the area.

Summer Solstice 2012: Astro-Science & Pagan Ritual | Cierra

a travel blog by Graham Targett
Full story at the ‘bigger than England’  website

U.K Solstice Events offer Stonehenge tours of the Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox.

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A new breed of fixers for the itchy-footed are offering made-to-measure trips tailored to a client’s pocket, pace and passions, writes Tim Pile

On his way home from a recent Nato summit in Wales, Barack Obama made an unannounced stop at Stonehenge. The prehistoric monument closed early so that the president of the United States could soak up the atmosphere without being gawked at by day-trippers. He was given a personal tour by an English Heritage curator before continuing his helicopter journey to London. Describing the ancient stone circle as “cool”, Obama told reporters that he had “knocked it off his bucket list“.

The president’s sightseeing sortie might seem beyond the reach of ordinary mortals but his stopover was merely a high-profile example of a global tourist trend.

A growing number of tour operators specialise in putting together one-of-a-kind adventures. Like buying a tailor-made suit, discerning clients – many of whom have been there, done that, and bought the vineyard – are willing to pay for a “made-to-measure” experience. Add a whiff of one-upmanship and it’s easy to understand why this sector of the tourism industry is becoming increasingly popular.

The high-end holiday market encompasses a pigeonhole-defying range of possibilities. A customised itinerary can mean gaining entry where doors are usually closed while neatly sidestepping the tourist herds. The best companies can fix up tee times on a Ryder Cup golf course or charter you a steam train in India. They’ll arrange for a historian to accompany you around first world war battlefields or set up a meeting with the president of the Maldives to hear how climate change is affecting the low-lying archipelago.

Firms that put together special-interest programmes usually give clients the opportunity to unpick and reassemble itineraries to suit individual tastes. Perhaps you’re fed up with arriving at all the best sights at midday, leaving you with overexposed, washed-out photos. Someone a phone call away will be happy to tweak the tour so that you arrive in Vienna for sunrise and Budapest for sunset.

Read the full travel story here: http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/1656313/call-travel-designer-ultimate-bespoke-holidays

Stonehenge Guided Tours arrange bespoke private guided tours of Stonehenge, including special access private viewings.

http://www.StonehengeTours.com