Was Stonehenge a Druid temple, some kind of astronomical calendar or healing centre? The UNESCO World Heritage site on Salisbury Plain has long been a topic of speculation and debate. It is one of the most famous places in England and, indeed, on the planet.
Unfortunately, enjoyment of this mysterious ancient site has long been marred by the sight and sound of traffic from the nearby busy A303 road. Hopefully, this will soon to be a thing of the past with a project to build a 2.9 km tunnel that will get rid of the constant noise of traffic and peace will reign at the Wiltshire site with its famous bluestone construction, which required a mind-boggling thirty million hours of labour.
Nobody knows for sure why it was built, but people have speculated that it could have been anything from human sacrifice to astronomy. It is thought to date to 3100 BC. The site is still a magnet for ‘religious’ types such as Druids and Pagans who flock to Stonehenge in their tens of thousands, staying on the Wiltshire plain to watch the sun rise on the morning of the longest day of the year.
This is a night when Pagans and Druids hold “handfasting” ceremonies, the Pagan equivalent of weddings. Husband and wife vow that they will stay together “for a year and a day, eternity and beyond or for however long love will last”. Sounds romantic, but serious archaeologists are irritated by all this mumbo-jumbo, pointing out that these beliefs have nothing to do with the origins of Stonehenge. The monument dates from 2,000 years before the druids and its original purpose would have been as enigmatic to them as it is to us.
Not everyone who celebrates the summer solstice at Stonehenge goes there to frolic about and chant. The event is becoming increasingly popular with families who want to spend a warm (if they are lucky) peaceful evening outdoors. Of course, you can expect to see plenty of youngsters beating drums and dancing around the stones, probably fuelled by some alcohol.
If you are looking to enjoy some peace and quiet enjoying the atmosphere at Stonehenge, best pick a less popular time of the year… after the tunnel is open!