I’ve been to some very interesting events in my life, but I’ll admit, celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge takes the cake. 364 days a year Stonehenge is a pretty tame place and visitors are generally restricted from coming anywhere near the rocks. However, during summer solstice the barricades are removed from sunset to sunrise and the English Heritage Foundation (Historic Preservation Group) allows managed open access to the general public under the following conditions–“we support all individuals and groups conducting their own forms of ceremony and celebration providing that they are mutually respectful and tolerant of one another. It is a place seen by many as a sacred site – therefore please respect it and those attending.” In a nutshell, you get to walk right into the circle with hundreds of other people, some of whom consider it a sacred time and place, and watch the sunset and sunrise.
Needless, to say Stonehenge draws in a very interesting crowd of people. Some of the people come to enjoy a nice evening with their families, while others come to participate in the many ceremonies and rituals conducted by the Druids. It was by far one of the most interesting “people watching” events I’ve been to in recent years. Some people came dressed in official Druid garb, while others simply wore costumes to join in the festivities. There’s quite a bit of drinking involved – although one of the druids that I took a photo of wanted to be clear that there was no alcohol in the photograph – so it seemed the true believers do not partake. Overall it was just a very happy, fun-loving gathering of people enjoying a good time. It felt a bit like a mash-up of Dungeons and Dragons, Woodstock, and good old fashioned house party. In the end, I think it ended up being the highlight of our Europe trip and from many accounts possibly the last time the English Heritage Foundation will open Stonehenge up to the general public during the summer solstice.
Here are are a few of my favorite images from the night:
Much like my small town county fair, ”you see it all” — but I love my hometown county fair!