Solstice celebrations have been taking place for centuries and today Solstice is still celebrated all over the world in many ways by different cultures. In the UK, Stonehenge is one of the most popular places to gather.
Stonehenge, one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom, believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons around 3,000 years ago is one of the most popular places in the UK for Pagans to celebrate the longest day.
The sarsen stones, erected at the centre of the site was aligned to line up with the movements of the sun. English Heritage created the Skyscape website which live streams a real-time view from inside the holy circle at all times of day, helpfully illustrating how the sun rises centrally through the Heel Stone, and sets alongside the Altar Stone.
The stones are believed to have been dragged to Stonehenge from hundreds of miles away and took around half a century to build. The people who built Stonehenge were believed to mostly be farmers, herders, and pastoralists therefore the movements of the sun and the changing of the seasons were important factors when deciding on when to grow crops or when to harvest. Apart from it being an important planting calendar, Stonehenge could also have been a burial ground as deposits containing human bone were found.
Even though it’s the summer solstice that is widely celebrated nowadays it is believed midwinter was the most important factor for the people who built Stonehenge as the alignment towards the setting midwinter sun are ahead of you when you walk towards the monument. There’s also evidence of cattle and pig bones found at Durrington Walls, with the animals estimated to be around 9-months old as they would have been born in Spring. This suggests that midwinter was a time when people gathered in great numbers to conduct ceremonies at the monuments and feast together.
Other sites in the UK from which you could watch the sunrise are:
Avebury (England’s largest Neolithic henge) – Owned by the National Trust it is free to explore
Glastonbury Tor – known as one of the most spiritual sites in the UK with its pagan beliefs still being celebrated
Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh – often mentioned as one of the possible locations for Camelot, the legendary castle and court of King Arthur.
Place Fell in the Lake District – where sunrise funnels perfectly down the valley of Ullswater Tarn
Saltwick Bay in North Yorkshire – where you can also later watch the sun set over the sea, over Black Nab rock and the twisted exposed steelwork silhouette of an old shipwreck.