If you’ve ever considered visiting Stonehenge on the summer solstice, I’d strongly suggest you follow up on the idea! In fact, it’s not even a suggestion. You have to go! Not only is it one of the most memorable experiences of my life, but it’s also a good place to celebrate anything, especially…… The summer solstice itself. Let me quickly add that the two solstices are the only days of the year the public are granted access to the stones. So if you want to see Stonehenge, you must go between the 20th and 21st of June (Depending on the year) for the summer solstice. Or for the winter one, which is the shortest day of the year, around the 20th of December.
The magic is that on the summer solstice (The longest day of the year) the sun lines up with the gap inside the heel stone and rises over it. It’s spectacular.
I went to see Stonehenge for the first time this year. I’ll probably be returning next year (If I can’t, then I will return at some point in my life!) It was at the end of our camping trip that our family decided to visit. We were looking for something interesting to do. It was an almost spur-of-the moment decision, concerning my dad’s birthday the next day. We spent the evening packing up our tent and loading the car. Unfortunately, I was ill at the time, gradually on the mend after a two-day fever (Cold aching bones, nausea and stomach aches…) so I couldn’t help with the packing… Which was probably (Can I say this?) a positive side-effect of being ill… At least, for me.
Well, we got the car packed, and then around midnight, headed off towards the stones. After a two hour car journey, we arrived. Stewards in fluorescent jackets ushered the car towards the parking lot – a large basic field of grass, rented specially for the day. We parked.
I was miserable, wrapped in blankets from feeling ill, but the early-morning parking lot was too exciting for me not to look out the window.There were cars and camper vans shrouded in darkness, and a mass of excited chatter from other visitors, who’d already got out of their vehicles. They probably wanted a bit of a drink before heading up. We stayed in our car, hoping to catch a couple of hours’ sleep before waking up for the sunrise. Both of my parents nodded off. I was kept awake a little longer, from a combination of excitement and an annoying younger sister.
Quick tip: Don’t bring along younger siblings if they’re going to be whiny.
Looking out of the window, I noticed most of the people were in their late teens to early thirties. Which was slightly surprising. I guess I’d stereo-typed the average Stonehenge-goer to be a middle-aged/old pagan or druid. With a white beard and/or ceremonial robes. And I’d assumed that the people who weren’t pagan would be normal families/middle-aged people who lived around the area. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Nearly everyone who I saw, looking out the window, was a young hippie. Or they were dressed up really crazily. Most people had flower garlands and those baggy trousers you see peace-lovers wearing, but some took it to the next level, with mock-pagan robes or coloured mohawks.
While I was being a creep watching people out the window, my sister had decided to actually get some sleep. So I didn’t have to hear any more whinging. As she was falling asleep, people drifted out of our part of the car park. I was left being the only one in the car who was awake, with nothing to do. (Just in case you want to know, I decided make a list of all the heavy metal bands I knew, in my head, to occupy my mind while I was trying to fall asleep.) I fell asleep in the end.
The path was huge and stretched out into the distance. It was a long walk. And there were TONS of people. There was a sort of excited anticipation as everyone along the path made their way forward, a shared expectation. It was quite cold, since the sun hadn’t risen yet, so a lot of us were wearing blankets or shawls. Which was pretty cool, ‘cos it was like we were all sharing the cold, united in our blanket-ness. You get me?
Stonehenge finally loomed into sight. You know how it feels when you’ve been waiting for something for ages, and then it finally happens? Well, there it was. Stone. Freakin’. Henge. I’d seen it before, but never this close.
As it happens, my dad and I somehow managed to lose my mum and sister in the crowds, so we we ended up watching the sun rise separately to them. Typical. We walked forward, past a few breakfast stalls, which I was surprised to see.
There seemed to be quite a jam of people in and around the stones themselves, so we watched from a slight distance rather than fighting our way through. My dad and I stood around for a while, chatting while we waited.
There was a countdown from everyone in the crowd.
And then, the sun ROSE.
It was breathtaking.
And of course, you don’t just go home once you’ve seen the sun rise.
There were people hanging out (And smoking ganja. People getting stoned at the stones, fittingly) praying, taking photos, playing music, meditating, and dancing . It was awesome. We hung round and soaked up the morning air. A couple of guys had their guitars out, but there were also a few groups of people dancing and playing drums or horns. There was a kind of trance-y feel around the dancers. So if you want to, it might be be worth taking along an instrument when you go. Anything will do and you don’t even have to be great at playing it!
And the cool thing was that anyone could join in. It was such a chilled, open atmosphere, like literally anybody could go up to anyone else and strike up a conversation and it wouldn’t seem weird. THAT’S why I’m telling you to go. It’s not just that you’re going to see Stonehenge, it’s that everyone there is going to see Stonehenge. You get the difference? My friend compared it to going to a concert, where even though the audience doesn’t know each other, they’re all there to enjoy the same thing.
Quite a few people were even crashed out on the grass (A combination of tiredness and alcohol, I assume)
Around eight o’clock everyone was cleared out of Stonehenge. Walking back along the path, I couldn’t help my mood lifting when I saw a young woman (And her boyfriend) picking up pieces of litter to throw away. Neither had dropped them, and they weren’t staff, so I guess they simply cared about the environment. It just proves that there are still good people around these days, which is something we all find hard to believe.
Thank you for not vomiting while reading. I’m not usually like that.
Like I said before, I’d strongly suggest a visit (On the summer solstice!!) to Stonehenge. You’ll get something out of it even if you just go to people-watch. It would make a pretty good anthropological study. There are ravers, hare krishnas, hippies and more. It’s worth a long car journey.
Thank you for reading this far, dude!
P.S. Officially, you’re only allowed four drinking cans per person at Stonehenge.