Winter Solstice at Stonehenge – does it live up to the hype?

Blue skies above standing stones

While Stonehenge is a firm favourite of free spirits and tourists alike, many leave the stones feeling a little disappointed.

I wondered: is Stonehenge as impressive as it seems when you get up close?

Usually, you can’t get anywhere near the stones when you visit. I’ve always wanted to see them from within, but the Summer Solstice crowds put me off attending one of the special access dates.

When friends invited us to go this Winter Solstice, when the crowds are typically much smaller, we decided to go for it – despite the 5am departure needed to get there for sunrise.

My verdict? It was magical.

This is my quick guide to visiting Stonehenge on this special day.

Trust me, it’s totally worth it.

Get there early

Stonehenge is notoriously bad for traffic – even first thing in the morning. We joined the queue of cars at around 6am and found that we had plenty of time to park and walk the mile or so to the edge of the stones. Parking cost £5 for one car and entry to the stones was free. There’s also a shuttle bus if the walk isn’t for you.

Be prepared to wait

We had to wait for the Stonehenge staff to assess the grass for slipperiness, which meant the way to the stones remained closed until we had started to worry that we’d miss the sunrise. Luckily, we were at the front of the queue and managed to make it right to the front for the druids’ ceremony.

Expect to be amazed

Up-close, the stones are utterly amazing – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They’re huge – some are apparently up to nine metres tall (three times as big as the largest stones at Avebury – also well worth a visit). They’re a beautiful greenish-blue.

Consider others during the ceremony

Just in case you’ve never attended a pagan ceremony before, here are some tips. This list may or may not be inspired by a real person ;-):

  • Don’t view everything through your mobile phone screen (thereby forcing people behind you to do the same).
  • Do turn your device off and take photos later. Enjoy the moment.
  • Do be respectful, even if you’re not interested in the spiritual side of the event (and by the way, if you’re not – do you need to elbow your way to the front of the crowd?).
  • Don’t fiddle about with your phone when you should be finding someone’s hand to form a circle, then demand “Let me in!” to the people around you at the last minute.
  • Don’t distract people who want to participate fully.

Bring food

No-one wants to be around me when I’m hangry. So we packed a picnic, including lots of coffee, hot soup in a flask, bread, cheese and some homemade sloe gin, to share with our friends. Note: you can’t take food and drink to the stones (especially not alcohol). We ate in the car park because we just didn’t care by this point.

Food is available from the Stonehenge café, but the queues were mega.

Make the experience your own

One of my (typically obscure) resolutions for 2018 is to spend more time grounding or earthing myself (basically taking my shoes and socks off and standing on the bare earth). 

I couldn’t resist doing this at Stonehenge, despite the cold, squidgy ground. We did the same again on Christmas Day at Burrow Mump, despite same.

After the druids’ ceremony, we spent some time wandering around the stones and experiencing them properly, taking photos and generally soaking up the vibes.

Have you been to Stonehenge on a special access day? What did you think? How did you celebrate the solstice? Let me know in the comments below.

What do you think? Let me know!