Stonehenge still intrigues after 5,000 years:
June 21st is Summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and on this longest day of the year, thousands flock to Wiltshire to visit Stonehenge and to watch the sun rise.
Shrouded in Mystery
This world-famous prehistoric monument is a place shrouded in mystery. Numerous myths surround Stonehenge – the sacred circle of standing stones on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. Such is the fascination with the strange ring that many have devoted their entire lives to speculating about their vintage. In the 17th century, scholars thought the rings were a Druidic site, later it was thought to be an import of the Romans. While the Carbon-14 method provided approximate dates (first stage at 3100 BC), it still couldn’t explain their function.
So when you walk around this awe-inspiring site you can decide for yourself whether this remarkable feat of ancient engineering was a place of sun-worship, a healing sanctuary, a sacred burial site, or something entirely different altogether. With modern techniques in archaeology and new digs, new theories about the stones are evolving, but their ultimate purpose remains a fascinating and enduring mystery.
The scale of Stonehenge is amazing given the lack of hydraulic machinery at the time and the only tools available then were made of stone or wood. Vast human resources must have been used to quarry and transport the stone structures here. As with many prehistoric constructions, the structure is aligned with the sun, and much have been written about the rituals that took place here.
Today’s Stonehenge experience
Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the English Heritage manages the site. Those old enough will also remember the hippie generation and the Stonehenge Free Festivals that took place here from 1972 until they were banned in 1985. The event to mark the dawn of the longest day in the northern hemisphere has grown in popularity since a four-mile exclusion zone around the site was lifted nine years ago. These days however, Summer Solstice at Stonehenge is a much more controlled event with police and security guards ensuring crowd control and that visitors are law-abiding. As the English Heritage warned “Summer Solstice is not a good time to experiment with drugs….”.
Some people come and tent overnight to catch the first ray of sunrise. If you’re planning on doing this in the future, be aware that tent numbers at a field near the Avebury Ring are restricted as well due to complaints by residents about the number of visitors.
People who were lucky to have made it through the traffic gridlock and those who camped overnight saw Druid ceremonies at the stones as the sun rose on the longest day.
From London, there are many Stonehenge tours that will bring you to Stonehenge and other famous English attractions.