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The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge



As of this writing in February 2016, English Heritage, managers of Stonehenge, are considering several changes to their long-held policy of opening the monument free, overnight for the Summer Solstice.
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They are now in consultation over two rule changes:
  1. Banning alcohol at the monument for the summer solstice opening. The board is considering the conflicting needs of visitors. For some, the event is a spiritual occasion requiring peace and contemplation in an alcohol-free environment. For others, the occasion is a celebration which would not be a party without alcoholic beverages.
  1. Charging for parking after offering free parking on the night for years, English Heritage is trying to reduce the number of cars that visit the site by encouraging car sharing or use of local bus services.
A decision on both these policy changes is not expected until late March or April 2016 but if a decision is taken, it will be applied for the 2016 solstice. We will keep you posted.
The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge is a truly magical time to be there. It's an ad hoc celebration that brings together England's New Age Tribes (neo-druids, neo-pagans, Wiccans) with ordinary families, travelers and party people.

Solstice nowadays is a peaceful and moving experience, but that wasn't always the case. For years, Wiltshire police fought pitched battles with the people who were drawn to see the sunrise on the longest day of the year at Stonehenge. Every year the news carried the numbers arrested.

In 1985, in a notorious event named "The Battle of the Beanfield", Wiltshire police were accused by participants, journalists and other witnesses, of brutality against a convoy of New Age travelers heading for the site.
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The event resulted in law suits against the police that went on for years.

At last the authorities saw the light

In more recent times, everyone has seen sense.
For many the impulse to arrive at Stonehenge in time for the Solstice is a little like all those people drawn to the strange rock in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

It's akin to a spiritual experience. Anyone who has witnessed the crowd become silent as the sky begins to brighten can attest to that.

English Heritage, who manage Stonehenge, have establish a set of ground rules and now allow visitors to spend all night - From sundown to sun-up. By contrast to the wild and wooly 1980s, the atmosphere is peaceful and happy. There is usually impromptu music, sharing of picnics and the like and if you are in the UK for the Summer Solstice it is a fabulous way to see Stonehenge.

English Heritage issue information for Managed Access rules for the Solstice, close to the date. They don't change much from year to year. Expect 2016 rules to appear in April or May 2016. 

The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge 2015

  • When: Saturday evening, June 20 to Sunday morning, June 21
  • Parking:
    • Parking is free.
    • The parking lot and the monument open at 7 p.m. Friday evening. Cars will not be admitted before then.
    • Last admission is 6 a.m. Sunday morning, June 21.
    • The car park must be vacated by noon on June 21.
  • Access to the monument: 7:00 p.m. Saturday evening to 8 a.m. Sunday morning.
  • The shortest night: Sunset on Saturday 20th June 2014 is at 9:26p.m. Sunrise occurs at 4:52 a.m. on Sunday 21st June 2014.
  • Visit the Website

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Travel Magazine: The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
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