5 ways you can celebrate the summer solstice in the UK

By Lily Martin• Last updated: Oct 30, 2023
5 ways you can celebrate the summer solstice in the UK
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In 2021, the summer solstice falls on June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere, and is celebrated as the longest day of the year.

Although restrictions have hampered making the most of those long summer days, there’s still plenty of ways you can celebrate this traditional festival.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the date of the summer solstice falls between June 20 and 22. This year, people in the UK will enjoy 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight.

The solstice also marks the start of the astronomical summer, which ends on the autumn equinox on September 22.

Here, we explore five ways to celebrate this ancient holiday in the UK.

Where do solstice traditions in the UK come from?

There are two solstices a year, one in the summer and one in the winter. The summer solstice is the longest day, and the winter solstice is the shortest day.

The summer solstice would traditionally fall between planting and harvesting, allowing people who worked the crops to relax and celebrate. 

This is thought to be why June is a traditional month for weddings in the UK, and by extension North America.

The solstice is rooted in ancient tradition and folklore. In Neolithic cultures in North and Central Europe, it was used in relation to crop cycles, which formed the foundations of the yearly calendar.

Celtic, Slavic, and Germanic people lit bonfires to encourage a healthy harvest. It is also thought that stone circles were built around the movement of the sun during this important period of the year, although there’s no definitive evidence.

Over thousands of years, the British people have celebrated the summer solstice in distinct and interesting ways.

1. Visit Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the UK’s oldest and most mysterious landmarks.

Thought to have been built between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, it is oriented towards the sunrise on the summer solstice. This makes it an important prehistoric monument in the celebration of the festival each year.

The site, and the surrounding area, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, although it has been a legally protected ancient monument since 1882.

Folklore relating to Arthurian legend says that Stonehenge was brought from Ireland with the help of the wizard Merlin. The site is also a place of religious significance in the Pagan and Druid faiths.

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2. Light a bonfire

Bonfires are a traditional way of celebrating the solstice in the UK.

Hundreds of years before Christianity reached the shores of Britain, villages would light fires and candles and dance through the night. There would be a feast, as well as rituals celebrating the sun.

Today, many people still celebrate through bonfires and dancing, especially in rural communities.

3. Explore the countryside

Midsummer and the summer solstice are all about celebrating the countryside and nature surrounding you.

So what better way to celebrate than to explore your local countryside, parks and stately homes. The UK is full of historical homes, parkland and gardens - many of which throw special events to mark the summer solstice.

The National Trust, English Heritage and private historic houses host thousands of visitors on the summer solstice each year.

4. Visit the Golowan Festival

The Golowan Festival is held in Cornwall each year to celebrate Midsummer.

The festival usually includes firework displays, parades, traditional music and dancing as well as food. It lasts around a week and is a fun and diverse way to celebrate the solstice.

Cornwall is one of the UK’s most stunning destinations, with a rural and mining history and strong local roots and traditions.

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5. Watch the sunrise and set

A little closer to home, celebrate the summer solstice this year by spending some time watching the sun rise and set. 

The day is at its core a celebration of the sun and its importance on our day-to-day lives. Spending a few minutes just appreciating the beauty of it in some quiet and reflection sounds like an idyllic way of marking the date.

You could even make a flower crown to wear!

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summer solstice
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