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Avebury stone circle
Photograph: Shutterstock Avebury

9 places to celebrate the summer solstice in the UK

The summer solstice, which falls on Tuesday June 21 this year, has been cause for celebration for millennia. Find out why and where you can mark midsummer in the UK

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott
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What is the summer solstice? 
The summer solstice, or midsummer, is when the sun travels the longest path through the sky. It’s when the earth (or, more accurately the hemisphere of the earth you are in) is most tilted towards the sun, meaning maximum daylight. This celestial movement happens once a year and results in the shortest night and the longest day out of allllll 365 of them. 

When is the summer solstice? 
This year it falls on Tuesday June 21 2022 in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s usually celebrated across the entire day, but if we’re being specific it’s actually an exact moment in time that falls upon that day. This year it’s at 10.13am BST.

How can you celebrate the summer solstice? 
The summer solstice isn’t just for dedicated Druids and hippies; everyone can celebrate the earth getting up-close and personal with the sun. Here’s where to make the most of the mystical sunrise and all that glorious daylight around the UK. Astronomical summer, we’re coming for you. 

UK places for celebrating the summer solstice

Avebury, Wiltshire
Photograph: Shutterstock

Avebury, Wiltshire

Thought Stonehenge was the UK’s only significant stone circle? It might be the most famous, but it is far from alone. Our ancient landscape is dotted with incredible neolithic momuments, and Avebury is home to, well, more than it’s fair share really. Not only is the village of Avebury literally inside a huge stone circle (the largest in Britain) the surrounding area also features an avenue of standing stones, neolithic burial sites and the UK’s answer to the pyramids: Silbury Hill, which is the largest artificial mound in Europe. It’s clear why the sacred landscape, a Unesco world heritage site, is a popular destination to mark the longest day. 

Glastonbury Tor, Somerset
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Glastonbury Tor, Somerset

This atmospheric hill, topped by a fifteenth-century tower, is one of the most spiritual sites in the UK. The site is steeped in mystery and legend, and is popular with pagans and the spiritually-curious all year round. It’s also an incredible viewpoint from which to watch the sun rise over the Somerset countryside – so naturally it’s a pretty dreamy vantage point from which to celebrate the summer solstice. 

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Bryn Celli Ddu, Gwynedd
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Bryn Celli Ddu, Gwynedd

Bryn Celli Ddu (which translates atmospherically as Mound in the Dark Grove in English) on the island of Anglesey is probably the most famous Neolithic monument in Wales. It’s an ancient tomb that really comes into its own for the summer solstice. As the sun rises on the longest day, the tomb’s opening is aligned so that rays of light shine directly into the inner chamber. 

Shetland, Northern Isles
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Shetland, Northern Isles

Head north for some serious sun worshipping on June 22. Darkness barely falls on the Shetland Islands around the summer solstice. It’s known as the ’simmer dim’ – a special kind of twilight that fills the sky as the sun dips beneath the horizon, only to appear again shortly after. 

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Castlerigg, Cumbria
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Castlerigg, Cumbria

Set in the Lake District National Park, the Castlerigg stone circle boasts a pretty stunning backdrop. The otherworldly location is a popular but low-key destination for those wanting to immerse themselves in nature and watch the sun rise over the mountains. 

Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire
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Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire

Made up of three groups of monuments, the oldest of which dates back to at least 3,500 BC, the Rollright Stones are hidden in greenery on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border. They’re open to the public all year round for a small donation fee, and usually draw in quiet and contemplative visitors to watch the dawn on midsummer’s day. 

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Ben Nevis, Scottish Highlands
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Ben Nevis, Scottish Highlands

Where better to watch the sun rise on the longest day than from the highest point in the UK? The highest mountain in Scotland and the UK, Ben Nevis is 1,345 metres above sea level. It’s advisable to book onto a guided event, if you’re new to night climbs. That way you’ll safely make it to the summit to welcome the sun at 4.27am. 

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Photograph: Pajor Pawel/Shutterstock.com

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

You might imagine Milton Keynes to be a somewhat unlikely spot to celebrate the summer solstice, but the new town, which was founded in the 1960s, was actually designed around the movement of the sun. The town was built around a neat grid pattern that aligns with the sunrise on the longest day: the sun rises at the east end of the town’s Midsummer Boulevard on the morning of the solstice. The Light Pyramid, a more recent addition to the town, also marks the point where the solstice sun rises. 

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Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Photograph: John Kotlowski/Shutterstock.com

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

The biggie. The longest day of the year attracts crowds in their thousands to the ancient standing stones on Salisbury Plain. On the summer solstice, druids and pagans gather to see the sun rise behind the Heel Stone, before rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the circle. Magic. 

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