Stonehenge Summer Solstice

The Longest Day. 21st June 2019

As the sun spirals its longest dance,
Cleanse us
As nature shows bounty and fertility
Bless us
Let all things live with loving intent
And to fulfill their truest destiny

Wiccan blessing for Summer

Three of my favourite things are photographing people, visiting a beautiful landscape and British history, so it was only natural that I would be attracted to visiting Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice. It’s one of those things that has always been ‘on the list’.

I’m always more confident in crowds with my camera on me so it was a great opportunity to capture the atmosphere whilst experiencing the sunrise at Stonehenge.

At the summer and winter solstices visitors are able to get up close to the stones. The rest of the year it is strictly roped off and has been since 1977. It’s a special opportunity to get closer to the site just a couple of times a year organised by English Heritage.

I had been to Stonehenge once before on a bleak and perishing cold December day and the stones seemed a very long way away. No photo ops that day. It was too cold to  appreciate and view the landscape they were in with any enthusiasm. But it still got my imagination going, thinking of the builders hauling the stones from Wales to Salisbury Plain, and thinking, ‘why here’? I really do think that the Summer Solstice is the best opportunity to visit the stones as you can get up close and appreciate their size. So much effort and human struggle created Stonehenge. It is a site of mystery and wonder!

Historically solstices mark the changing of the seasons. At Stonehenge the Heel Stone and the Slaughter Stone, which are outside the main circle line up with the rising sun. It is thought that the builders placed the rocks to showcase the summer and winter solstices as a kind of celestial observatory. Building started 5000 years ago and is thought to pre-date the Celts. Stonehenge is also an ancient burial site. It has been drawing visitors for thousands of years. I was interested to visit and observe just how spiritual the event would be and found there were people from many nationalities, cultures and movements at the solstice.

A place of recognised religious importance, Stonehenge is a place of worship to neo druids, pagans and other alternative cultures. I was very excited to see the druids there, but their numbers were smaller than I expected and hoped for. But so happy to see them celebrating life and growth.

The sun rose just before 5:00am. It’s the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere with approximately 16 hours of daylight.

The crowds cheered and lifted their hands as the sun rose. The mood was calm and the large crowd of around 15,000 was good natured.

Within the inner circle there were young people standing all over the stones as if they were waiting for a concert to start. It’s so interesting the draw of the Summer Solstice, people of all ages from all walks of life.

As we made our way around the inner circle after sunrise I got the opportunity to touch the stones and amazingly, I spontaneously burst into tears. I am not exactly a spiritual or outwardly emotional person but I do love nature and history so I think I was just in awe with being so close to this ancient monument that has been important to people for so many years. If it was built as a celebration of the seasons that for me is really moving. Lots of people were nestled into the stones embracing them.

I led our way through the crowds looking for interesting people to photograph (along with many press photographers I must add) I stopped for a while and a beautiful Green Man appeared. He stood still very close to me and with the early sun on his face he closed his eyes. The moon behind him was making an appearance and I took a perfect portrait. I am very proud of it and it made it worth getting up at 2am for this shot.

I’ve made a point as I’ve got older to visit places and events that we can take for granted as they can become familiar as a part of the fabric of Britain. Experiencing the Summer Solstice was part of visiting what is ‘on my doorstep’. I really enjoyed it, the sunrise was really beautiful.  I thoroughly recommend it if you enjoy people watching and are curious to see the stones up close.

So check out that local gallery, independant country house or museum that you’ve never been to. Or visit the folk festival or town parade that happens every year. You may be missing out on a great photo opportunity.

For more details about visiting Stonehenge for the summer or winter solstice please visit English Heritage.


Location: Stonehenge at Summer Solstice. English Heritage

Green Man: Niall O’Riordan and on Instagram

Photographer: Me. Rebecca Knowles Photography

Driver: Mr Jamie Knowles