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FREEDOM FROM THE RAT-RACE

VISITING STONEHENGE FOR THE WINTER SOLSTICE SUNSET

Stonehenge Winter Solistice

I make it no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of England. The arrogance, the entitlement and the weather are three big turn offs for me (maybe colonising half of the world, pillaging, exploitation and slavery could be number four, five and six)... hence why I haven't lived there since I was 21. But, I do reserve a place in my heart (somewhere around the spot where my British family lives) for Stonehenge. It's old, it's impressive, it's mysterious. It's our version of George Clooney. FYI in the most humblest of ways, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on visiting Stonehenge. Not because I have any credentials in that area or anything but simply because I've visited so many times (perks of being a Brit)...so some of these photos are from around 2015 (hello old narcissistic Laura):

best time to visit stonehenge

I assume, since you clicked on this post, that you're interested in visiting too and are perhaps in need of some tips like when the best time to visit Stonehenge is, info on Stonehenge inner circle tours, where to stay if you want to stay nearby etc etc etc (sorry, gotta SEO). I am personally biased towards visiting Stonehenge for the winter solstice and I'll explain why below, but to be fair, Stonehenge is great at any time of the year, so let's explore visiting first:

1. Visiting Stonehenge: When is the Best Time?

visiting stonehenge

Stonehenge, at around 4,000 years old, is older than Rome's Parthenon, Easter Island's Statues, the Great Wall of China and twice as old as Jesus would be if he was still alive somehow (lol). It was originally a set of smaller blue stones that came all the way from Wales - a hundred miles away - well before the time of cars and lorries and the environmental impact of transportation. Later on they added the massive stones that you can see today. Why Stonehenge was built is still clouded in mystery and legend... but we do know it has something to do with pig sacrifices / feasts (lots of pig bones, sorry vegan and vegetarian readers) and unless it's like the worlds biggest coincidence, we know it was used as a clock of sorts... so when is the best time to visit Stonehenge?

best time to visit stonehenge

When it comes to temperatures, I'm a huge fan of the two extremes - snow and heat - with a tendency to always somehow end up in the latter. England has neither (fellow countrywomen and men, take yer vitamin Ds). It's a steady drizzle of mild bordering on cold year-round, no, it doesn't rain all the time, but it almost always has cloudy skies. But enough about my hatred of English weather, what's my point? My point is, no matter when you visit Stonehenge the weather will probably be sh*t. So plan your visit around a different reason. In my opinion, the best time to visit Stonehenge is during the Winter Solstice, also known as Midwinter (added bonus: Christmas in the UK slash Christmas presents for your fam from the UK slash everyone just binge drinks and gets high for a week... almost like a pagan ritual, innit? Well, Father Christmas was a pagan thing anyway)

2. Winter Solstice, Stonehenge: A Very General Intro & Our Experiences

winter solstice stonehenge

Why was the Winter Solstice Sooo important?

The Winter Solstice marks the middle of winter and is the shortest day (and longest night) of the whole year. It's around the 21st Dec up in the Northern Hemisphere, where Stonehenge is lol, and about 22nd June if you're in the South Hemisphere. The Winter Solstice is believed to have been important to people back in the day, because it's the Day of Death. The shortest day = the day the year dies, and they were (understandably) desperate for it to come back. Here's a great BBC documentary about the place and the era:


Why visit Stonehenge during Midwinter / Winter Solstice?

Stonehenge not only points at the Winter Solstice Sunset, but there are also Ice Age grooves in the rock under the avenue, pointing there too. According to most, people would come to Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice, have a big feast, celebrate, and pray for the sun to come back up. I think the reason you should visit Stonehenge for Midwinter is because the stones are perfectly positioned so that when the sun sets, it sets directly between the two biggest stones. Aka, Stonehenge is an ancient clock!

If you're still asking the question 'why come to Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice' (sorry, I might've overSEOd that), here's another reason. Back in the day, people would also take their dead there then. And it wasn't just people from around the corner, apparently, according to recently found evidence, it turns out that people were coming from as far north as Scotland(!) Like this blows my mind... it was way way before Megabus was invented or any bus. You'd have to walk, or maybe take a horse if you were lucky (and the horse wasn't... #govegan, folks! it was travelling that did it for me). So why come to Stonehenge for the Winter Solstice? Because it's something our ancestors did thousands and thousands of years ago AND it's the reason Stonehenge was built. And if you're lucky you'll get that money shot and see the Stonehenge sunset between the stones.

What it's like to visit Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice?

visiting stonehenge winter solstice

My dad took Tanbay (my ex) and me to the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge. In the winter they sell the last tickets at 3pm. The road on the way there was kinda busy (hot tip: make sure you leave with plenty of time, don't miss the sunset like my bestie Flo). But at Stonehenge itself it wasn't crowded at all. In fact, it was way less crowded than all the other times I've visited. There really weren't that many people there at all, and there was a chill vibe. Then the pagans turned up!! Including this famous pagan priest guy that my dad (sagittarius) knows. Around the main stones is a cute lil rope, the pagans asked if they were allowed over the rope, they weren't, so they did a ceremony outside: 

visiting stonehenge winter solstice

Then, as the sun went down, the clouds came up and unfortunately we didn't see that famous money-shot sun going through the stone. But that's why the God of the Internet invented Flickr, thanks to Black Skulls this is what it looked like in 2009 when it wasn't cloudy (let's be honest, probs the last time it wasn't cloudy in England).

stonehenge sunset

Thanks Black Skulls. I've always been more into the moon anyway, so my chosen money shot is this one:

stonehenge inner circle tours

Stonehenge was used not only as a calendar to map the sun's progress (i.e. to tell when a year had gone by). It was also used to map the moon's progress (i.e. months)! This was pretty unusually for this time - most stone monuments either mapped the moon OR the sun, not both.

Stonehenge inner circle tours (for non-pagans)

stonehenge inner circle tours

Whilst we didn't witness the sunset, we did witness a few pagans* (and their dog) jump that Stonehenge rope and run inside the circle. (*Yes I was one of the pagans lol.) They (slash we) respected the rocks, (undoubtably more so than the Crown who owns them and pimps them out on the daily) and didn't touch them, so it wasn't really a bad thing to do.. A few guards ran over and asked everyone to leave. But so many people had jumped by that point that we were able to be a very slow moving crowd (#peoplepower !)

stonehenge inner circle tours

I think it's okay to do this once in a while (especially on such an important date) BUT if everyone starts jumping that rope, maybe they will replace the rope with a concrete wall (think Berlin Wall) and no one will ever be allowed near the stones again. Then again, maybe they'll just say f it and take away the rope all together, who knows. If you want to be a law abiding citizen in the UK (which unfortunately, if you're not British I would recommend) you could instead take one of these legal Stonehenge inner circle tours:


3. Stonehenge Alternatives or Additional Sites

It's probably obvious by now that I have a real boner for Stonehenge that I love Stonehenge, but it is definitely not the only cool thing in the area, and if you have the time, or are looking for a Stonehenge alternative, I highly recommend these:

No. 1: Visit Avebury (and Touch Old Stones)

stonehenge alternative

Why? Avebury has its own little stone circle (affectionately known as Avebury Henge) and if you want to touch some old stones (admit it, who doesn't) and you don't want to get told off for jumping a fence or don't want to pay extra for getting into the inner circle of Stonehenge, go to Avebury. Touching the stones there is free and not frowned upon.

stonehenge alternative

Avebury is even older than Stonehenge! And right in the centre of the stones is an old British pub (of course lol), it's actually super cute and, surprisingly, isn't even a Wetherspoons. (Wetherspoons is a shitty chain of pubs in the UK owned by a Kiwi.) Okay, enough sidetracking, back to the stones for just one more sec: according to Wikipedia '[the stones] are usually described as being in one of two categories; tall and slender, or short and squat. This has led to numerous theories relating to the importance of gender in Neolithic Britain with the taller stones considered "male" and the shorter ones "female".' (if this is true then it's a grand example of how ancient societies conditioned their subjects into gender binarizing... you folks dig Foucault?)

stonehenge alternative

Can't resist another interesting quote from the same wiki page, sorry: 'Archaeologist Aaron Watson highlighted the possibility that by digging up earth and using it to construct the large banks, those Neolithic labourers constructing the Avebury monument symbolically saw themselves as turning the land "inside out", thereby creating a space that was "on a frontier between worlds above and beneath the ground."' - interesting thought, isn't it?

stonehenge alternative

No. 2: Visit Silbury Hill (and Climb a Mound... or Look at It)

stonehenge alternative

Right bang between Stonehenge and Avebury is Silbury Hill. At 30 metres (98 ft) it's the tallest prehistoric human-made mound in Europe. Or at least it's the tallest one we know about. Maybe there's another one hiding somewhere.

No. 3: Visit Salisbury (and Check Out the Magna Carta!)

visit salisbury stonehenge

Salisbury is a medieval city 10 miles from Stonehenge. Salisbury Cathedral holds an original copy of the Magna Carta. Also, a really old clock that still works. There's a cute market, Mompesson House (an 18th Century house with period furniture and a lovely garden) and my Grandma and Godmother live there. Yey. If you're staying in Salisbury, you could even take a Salisbury Stonehenge Tour.

4. Stonehenge Hotels & Accommodation

Actually talking about where to stay, where is a good place to stay if you want to stay near Stonehenge? Sure, there's camping, Couchsurfing or even housesitting but in case you've got the money and just want a comfy bed with a pillow to support your head full of the dreams this ancient place might conjure (who knows?), here are some ideas:

Stonehenge Cottages

stonehenge hotel

Is there anything more quaintly British than a cottage? Maybe. Maybe not. But as a Brit that once lived in a British cottage, I can confirm it's authenticity. Now, Stonehenge Cottages have free breakfast, free wifi (not always a given in the UK) and free parking. There's fireplaces. It's perfect for a romantic getaway. Actually they're perfect for a non-romantic getaway too. But, perhaps best of all they are situated just 7 miles (11 km) from Stonehenge! Plus, like I said, fireplaces. [You can book your room here for £95/night]

Rollestone Manor

salisbury hotel

If you're a fan of Downtown Abbey and you visit England without staying in a manor, are you even a fan of Downtown Abbey? Okay you are but let's talk about Rollestone Manor: free wifi, free parking, free English breakfast and it's even closer to Stonehenge - just 5 miles. [You can book your room here for £99/night]

Cholderton Stonehenge Youth Hostel

stonehenge hotel

If you're on a budget, one of the cheaper options is Cholderton Stonehenge Youth Hostel. There's free wifi in the lobby and free parking. And it's only 5 miles from Stonehenge. A twin room with a shared bathroom is just £48/night [You can book your stay here]

Airbnbs near Stonehenge

Airbnb is a platform that let's you rent out someone's spare room or even their whole place. Advantages of Airbnb include access to a full kitchen (usually), and the authenticity of living like an actual local. There are actually quite a few Airbnbs near Stonehenge starting from around £80/night and if you're new to airbnb I can offer you a £34 airbnb discount code.
stonehenge Airbnb

House sitting near Stonehenge

If you're new to this site (hi) you won't have heard about my love affair with house sitting: house sitting enabled me to travel the world for free, I stayed in people's homes whilst they were away to look after their pets and homes. There might not be any house sits right next to Stonehenge, but since THS (the biggest and my opinion best house sitting website) was founded in the UK, there are always house sits vaguely nearby, (England is tiny, let's be honest). You can browse house sits here or learn more about house sitting here.

visiting stonehenge winter solstice

5. Wrap Up: Why Come to Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice?

Massive thanks to my dad for taking me to Stonehenge and for teaching me about British history. Thank you to my Godmother and her son for letting us stay :) And thank you to you so much for reading this post! If you have any questions or just want to say hi, (hi!) there's the comment section below. Enjoy Stonehenge! You can also visit our Youtube channel if you are interested in our other adventures in the UK, e.g.:


P.S.: If you're new to house sitting (and this blog), Dear Reader, I can offer you a 10% discount off TrustedHouseSitters.com - click on the link and follow our instructions when registering on THS! :) With love from: Laura, Tanbay & Tamás

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