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Salisbury/Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice: awful idea?

Salisbury/Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice: awful idea?

Dec 13th, 2009, 06:49 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 83
Salisbury/Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice: awful idea?

Hi all,
Putting the finishing touches on my itinerary for England next week. We arrive on the 17th and leave on the 24th around noon. Now, we are planning on doing Salisbury and Stonehenge on one day. I want if possible to take the tower tour of Salisbury cathedral, but unfortunately in the winter they only do the tour on the week of Christmas. Luckily, we'll be there, but unluckily, our options are limited. I'd like to stay in London on the 23rd so that we can coordinate our departure and generally not be rushed on our last day, and I'd like to do Sunday 12/20 in London because it seems that many places have shorter hours on Sundays and so I'd rather be in a bigger city with more options. Which means that on the week of christmas, our only options are 12/21 and 12/22-- the day leading up to and the day of Winter Solstice. So, my question-- how crazy might Salisbury be on the day of the winter solstice, or the day leading up? I have read that on this day Stonehenge attracts droves of visitors. Will we be stuck in line all day long with various worshippers? Or is it a neat enough experience that it is worth the extra lines to experience? Is it really the case that Stonehenge is just opened up for all to experience? We had planned on taking the tour, but its website says nothing about the tour not operating on the solstice. Any ideas? Right now I'm leaning towards the 21st.
cpilgrim is offline  
Dec 13th, 2009, 06:57 PM
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Eh and we're going to do Glastonbury on the 22nd, another sacred spot. We're about as far away from New Age-y as one could get so I am amused that the time would converge in this way for us!
cpilgrim is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 02:09 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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I've no idea how the winter solstice thing works. But it's all about sunrise, so the prime event's going to be over by about 9.

As for crowds - well, counting's never been a big New Age thing. But last year, they thought 1,800 people turned up sometime during the day.

That's fewer people than Stonehenge gets on an average day across the year. The site was built to handle serious crowds - and has been getting them for about 5,000 years.
flanneruk is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 03:31 AM
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You'll be fine. There will be some druids (despite Stonehenge having sod-all to do with druids) and a few crusties (they're not good at getting up early) and lots of film crews.

If you can get into the circle (it's been years since I went) it is a magical experience.

But nothing is put on especially.

If you're in the area - go for it.
Cholmondley_Warner is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 03:40 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 975
Hi cpilgrim,
I had the same question and this is what I learned from English Heritage:

"Thank you for your email.

The date for this year's Winter Solstice dawn ceremony is Tuesday 22nd December. Sunrise will be at 8.09am. Managed Open Access is available to everyone, and is free of charge to enter. Entrance to the Stone Circle will be permitted from around 7.30/7.45am and will last until 9.00am. Please note that entry to the monument is only permitted when it is light enough to ensure safe access, therefore entry time will vary depending on the weather conditions. The site is then cleared, for normal opening at 9.30am

Please do not hesitate to contact at [email protected] if we can be of any further assistance to you."

Hope you'll report back if you decide to do this!
nyse is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 03:58 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 12,582
Well then - you can get in.

Do it. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Back in the days of the free festival I used to watch the sun come up on summer solstice and I'm very glad I did. Mind you I was very very very stoned.

JR Hartley of this parish was also there at the time. Also stoned.

Then Hawkwind would play. It was always Hawkwind.

You have no idea who Hawkwind are do you? (you might recognise the singer - it's Lemmy from Motorhead) Stacia made my trousers stick out:


One day I will tell my tales from touring with Hawkwind (what little of it I can remember).
Cholmondley_Warner is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 04:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
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What time can you realistically expect to be there, having to travel by train (and bus?--the tour bus that picks you up from outside the station?)? Might be hard/impossible to get there by 8 or even 9 am from London, but I haven't run the times through any schedule engines. But sounds like the rest of the day would be fine.
texasbookworm is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 08:31 AM
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Alright, I'm nearly convinced. We can get a very early train and try to do this. However, my plan had been to take the Stonehenge Bus Tour from the rail station, which departs at 10:00. Now that I'm not taking the tour, how can I get to the site from the station?

Here's what I have from londontoolkit.com but I am hoping there's a better solution:

Stonehenge by Public Bus

"You can do Stonehenge by public bus, but it involves a walk up to Stonehenge from Amesbury, the nearest town to Stonehenge
Take the number 5 or 6 bus from Salisbury Bus Station to Amesbury, a 25 minute ride. Buses run approximately every 30 minutes Monday to Saturdays, every 2-3 hours Sunday.

The direct walk up to Stonehenge from Amesbury is about 20-30 minutes."
cpilgrim is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 08:50 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,157
Taxi from SAlisbury station(get them to wait & return, though it ain't going to be cheap) or check current local bus timetables at www.transportdirect.info.

Incidentally, go to Amesbury at www.openstreetmap.org to see the footpaths and sideroads that take you to Stonehenge, largely avoiding the unpleasant walk along the A303. Just ensure you have appropriate footwear. We've had a lot of rain in the past month, and unless there's solid frost for a week, paths are likely to remain muddy till well after Xmas.
flanneruk is offline  
Dec 14th, 2009, 09:27 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,313
Do keep in mind it's bloody cold and windy on Stonehenge, and dress appropriately. I've been twice, but never on a solstice. The second time I did the 'dusk' tour among the stones, and was there at the same time as a Wiccan group doing a ceremony - cool, but certainly not overwhelming, as there were only about 15 of them. I envy you the opportunity!
GreenDragon is offline  

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