For over four thousand years the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge has always been a surreal affair. This year, amidst the COVID-19 lock-down, English Heritage have had to cancel their 21st June celebrations, albeit promising to live stream the sun rise behind the Heel Stone via their social media channels.
So, make sure you are in position (wherever that may be) to hopefully (subject to the mid-summer dawn weather) ride the sun’s early rays as they beam straight into the centre of this most magical of Neolithic monuments.
In addition to Stonehenge, with the impressive newly-opened Visitors Centre offering an excellent time-machine journey back through the ages, this year’s unavoidable move towards staycation-holiday experiences means you should factor in a trip as soon as you can. With crowds limited and well managed, I highly recommend booking a time-slot in advance online (cheaper and no queuing).
Best known as one of the ancient wonders of the world, it is a gentle, exciting and impressive visit, that continues to attract folk from across the planet. Smaller than expected and under-whelming as it is on first site, as soon as you delve deeper into the mystery, history and spiritual significance of Stonehenge, the more drawn in and enthralled you become.
Set 3kms from the Amesbury Archer’s hometown in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside, this pre-historic monument comprises a ring of standing stones (each weighing approx. 25 tons and standing 4m high & 2.1m wide). Further adorned with hundreds of burial mounds (tumuli), the inner ring stones were cut, dragged, shipped and rolled from as far afield as the Preseli Mountains in northern Pembrokeshire, 280 kms away. Standing loud and proud thousands of year later, they continue to bring in droves of visitors, as if continuing a millennia-old pagan pilgrimage ritual.
Certainly, visitors today can enjoy a more informative experience than in decades gone by. I remember as a child living near the site, stopping off for a picnic on numerous occasions, wandering through and climbing over the stones. Outside of solstice periods, in the 1970s Stonehenge was visited by relatively few, offering more of a drop-in free-for-all experience.
In today’s faster moving world, with 1.4 billion annual international trips across the globe, Stonehenge continues to offer visitors an opportunity to slow down, take stock and appreciate what has gone before us.
In short, the stones offer a perfect 2020 COVID-19 post lock-down experience for those that are lucky enough to have survived and can make the journey.