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

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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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Prehistoric Stonehenge. See the ancient monoliths at Stonehenge and make your Christmas or New Year a memorable one.

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We have a number of scheduled guided Stonehenge Christmas and New Year tours deparing from London this year.  Our very popular Stonehenge Winter Solstice tour departs on the 21st December this year.  The festive season is already very busy so we highly recommend booking early to avoid dissapointment.

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Stonehenge Solstice Sunset Viewing Tour – December 21st 2017
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 Cathedral / Christmas Market. Click here

“We hope we have all the ingredients for the perfect traditional Christmas.”

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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.

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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
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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.

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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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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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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.

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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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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.

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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

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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)

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