The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge - The Rules Have Changed

A chance to catch the sunrise in a most magical place

Big Sky Stonehenge
••• Stonehenge under a big sky. © Ferne Arfin

Rules for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge Have Changed for 2016

As expected, English Heritage, managers of Stonehenge, have changed several of the rules for staying overnight at Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice.

In 2016:

  1. Alcohol is banned at the monument and in the monument field for the summer solstice opening.
  2. Parking is no longer free. In 2016, there will be a £15 parking fee for cars staying overnight for the solstice. Motorcycles will pay £5 and mini-buses £50.  After offering free parking on the night for years, English Heritage is trying to reduce the number of cars that visit the site by encouraging car sharing or use of local bus services.

    A magic night nevertheless

    The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge is a truly magical time to be there. It's an ad hoc celebration that brings together England's New Age Tribes (neo-druids, neo-pagans, Wiccans) with ordinary families, travelers and party people.

    Solstice nowadays is a peaceful and moving experience, but that wasn't always the case. For years, Wiltshire police fought pitched battles with the people who were drawn to see the sunrise on the longest day of the year at Stonehenge. Every year the news carried the numbers arrested.

    In 1985, in a notorious event named "The Battle of the Beanfield", Wiltshire police were accused by participants, journalists and other witnesses, of brutality against a convoy of New Age travelers heading for the site. The event resulted in law suits against the police that went on for years.

    At last the authorities saw the light

    In more recent times, everyone has seen sense.

    For many the impulse to arrive at Stonehenge in time for the Solstice is a little like all those people drawn to the strange rock in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's akin to a spiritual experience. Anyone who has witnessed the crowd become silent as the sky begins to brighten can attest to that.

    English Heritage, who manage Stonehenge, have establish a set of ground rules and now allow visitors to spend all night - From sundown to sun-up. By contrast to the wild and wooly 1980s, the atmosphere is peaceful and happy. There is usually impromptu music, sharing of picnics and the like and if you are in the UK for the Summer Solstice it is a fabulous way to see Stonehenge.

    English Heritage issue information for Managed Access rules for the Solstice, close to the date. They don't usually change much from year to year, but there are a few new conditions in 2016. Read the "Conditions of Entry" before you head out to the celebration.

    The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge 2016

    • When: Monday evening, June 20 to Tuesday morning, June 21
    • Parking:
      • There are now parking fees. Cars cost £15, motorcycles £5 and minivans and coaches £50.
      • The parking lot and the monument field open at 7 pm Monday evening. Cars will not be admitted before then.
      • Last admission is 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, June 21 or when the parking lot is full.
      • The car park must be vacated by noon on June 21.
    • Access to the monument field: from 7:00 pm Monday evening to 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
    • The shortest night: Sunset on Monday 20th June 2016 is at 9:26pm. Sunrise occurs at 4:52 am on Tuesday 21st June 2016.

    Missed the Solstice?

    If you are traveling with a group, it may be possible to book a private, out of hours visit to Stonehenge with permission to step inside the stones of the inner circle. Find out how to experience this rare privilege.