While Stonehenge is a firm favourite of free spirits and tourists alike, many leave the stones feeling a little disappointed.
I wondered: is Stonehenge as impressive as it seems when you get up close?
Usually, you can’t get anywhere near the stones when you visit. I’ve always wanted to see them from within, but the summer solstice crowds put me off attending one of the special access dates.
Still, when friends invited us to go this winter solstice, when the crowds are much smaller, we decided to go for it – despite the 5am departure needed to get there for sunrise.
My verdict? It was magical.
This is my quick-and-dirty guide to visiting Stonehenge on this special day.
Trust me; it’s totally worth it.
Get there early
Stonehenge is notoriously bad for traffic – even first thing in the morning. We joined the queue of cars at around 6am and found that we had plenty of time to park and walk the mile or so to the edge of the stones. Parking cost £5 for one car and entry to the stones was free. There’s also a shuttle bus if the walk isn’t for you.
Be prepared to wait
This is England, so obviously we had to wait until the health and safety people had assessed the grass for slipperiness, which meant the way to the stones remained closed until we had started to worry that we’d miss the sunrise. Luckily, we were at the front of the queue and managed to make it right to the front for the druids’ ceremony.
Expect to be amazed
Up-close, the stones are utterly amazing – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
They’re huge – some are apparently up to nine metres tall (three times as big as the largest stones at Avebury – also well worth a visit). They’re a beautiful greenish-blue.
Behave yourself during the ceremony
I know my readers would never disgrace themselves at a religious event. But just in case you’ve never attended a conscious ceremony before, here’s what not to do:
Don’t view everything through your mobile phone screen (thereby forcing people behind you to do the same). Turn your devices off and take photos later. Enjoy the moment. Let the words wash over you, even if you’re not interested in the spiritual side of the event (and by the way, if you’re not – why elbow your way to the front of the crowd?).
Don’t fiddle about with your phone when you should be finding someone’s hand to form a circle, then demand “Let me in!” to the people around you at the last minute. And don’t distract people who want to participate fully.
No-one wants to be around me when I’m hangry. So Jim and I packed a picnic, including lots of coffee, hot soup in a flask, bread, cheese and some homemade sloe gin, to share with our friends. Note: you can’t take food and drink to the stones (especially not alcohol). We ate in the car park because we just didn’t care by this point.
Food is available from the Stonehenge café, but the queues were mega.
Make the experience your own
One of my (typically obscure) resolutions for 2018 is to spend more time grounding or earthing myself (basically taking my shoes and socks off and standing on the bare earth). Jim and I couldn’t resit doing this at Stonehenge, despite the cold, squidgy ground. We did the same again on Christmas Day at Burrow Mump, despite same.
After the druids’ ceremony, we spent some time wandering around the stones and experiencing them properly, taking photos and generally soaking up the vibes.
Have you been to Stonehenge on a special access day? What did you think? How did you celebrate the solstice? Let me know in the comments below.