Stonehenge at the Winter Solstice – what you need to know to attend

Stonehenge has quite a big feature on this blog – it’s one of the top attractions in Britain for so many people and it’s one of my absolute faves! Most people know that the position of the stones at Stonehenge is connected to the solstice, but did you know that you can visit at this time and get up close?

This post will be about the Winter Solstice, which is a little less of a big event than the summer one at the stones. The information that you’ll need if you’re planning to visit Stonehenge at Winter Solstice is also going to be be a bit different to regular trips.

So if visiting for the Winter Solstice event at Stonehenge is on your mind this post will show you how to get there, costs and any rules for this time. I’ve found it quite hard to get a good overview in one place so I hope this post will help you!

A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m probably Stonehenge’s biggest fan and expert on visiting – I’ve been so many times over the past few years!

I love encouraging people to come and see and really make the most out of their visit. Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about visiting Stonehenge and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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2023 Note: This post is written using information from previous years so you can get a view as to what will likely happen. As soon as updated and confirmed information from English Heritage and the transport companies are released for 2023 I’ll add notes so you know the information is current and correct.

Stonehenge at the winter solstice
Stonehenge when we visited last year (just a few days after the winter solstice)

This post will focus solely on just visiting for the winter solstice. If you’re looking for general advice on visiting Stonehenge then look for my (many!) other articles:

Visiting Stonehenge at Winter Solstice in 2023 – what you need to know

  • Visiting Stonehenge is FREE for a certain time for the solstice in Winter. English Heritage, who run the site, have a policy of it not being ‘pay to pray’
  • The ‘event’ only lasts a few hours rather than all day like it does in the summer.
  • Later on in the day, from around 1pm, the site will be open as usual for paying visitors.
  • It’s one of the only times you can get up close to the stones. Normally you are restricted to the pathways around unless you get an inner circle tour, but at solstice you can get right up and touch the stones – amongst many others it should be said!
  • It can be busy – around 4500 people visited in 2022 although prior to this it had been less.
  • Pets are not allowed – only service dogs are able to be on the monument field
  • If you can’t get there in person you can catch it on the English Heritage YouTube channel where they livestream it.

What happens at the stones at the winter Solstice

  • The main event is the sun rising on the morning of the solstice.
  • Sunrise at Stonehenge is 7.35am on 22nd December 2023
  • In the winter solstice the sun set lines up with the stones rather than at sunrise but it’s still a sight to see and to be with others celebrating the return of the longer days is something special!
  • You can arrive at the stones early in the morning of the solstice – unlike at the summer solstice, there is a specific time to make your way to the stones (in 2022 the car park opened at 6am and the site opened at 7.45am and stayed open until 10am)
  • It will be cold in the morning so warm clothes are a must! Waterproof items also make sense and sturdy shoes.
  • There will be coffee and refreshments available to buy from official outlets and toilets
  • If weather is particularly bad the site could be closed if it’s thought that the stones could get damaged – I imagine that’s if it could get very muddy or in torrential rain.

How to get to Stonehenge at the winter solstice

The roads around Stonehenge can be congested at the best of times but on the morning of the winter solstice it’s can be extra busy. With dark roads, bad weather and others heading to work definitely take care.

If want convenience then it’s worth trying to take your car to the car park there. Be aware though that when it’s full it’s full. Back in 2022 the demand was so unprecedented that the car parks filled up early and they had to warn people not to come if they weren’t already on their way.

If you want to guarantee being there and also ease the pressure on the roads around Stonehenge you’ll want to do public transport from Salisbury or Amesbury. It’s the greener option as well!

Buses from Salisbury and Amesbury

Salisbury Reds is the local bus company that can get you easily from both the city of Salisbury and Amesbury to Stonehenge

They run a specific service for the winter solstice:

(2022 times – I’ll update as soon as 2023 times are out)

333 – runs from 5.30am until 6.40am, returning between 9.15am and 10.15am

See the 2022 full timetable here (pdf)

Fares in 2022 were:

  • Salisbury – Adult: £7 single, £12 return
  • Salisbury – Child (up to 14 years): £3.50 single, £6 return
  • Amesbury – Adult: £4 single, £6 return
  • Amesbury – Child (up to 14 years): £2 single, £3 return

Parking at Stonehenge for the solstice

The English Heritage owned car park is open for people visiting for Stonehenge for the Solstice. But be aware that while it’s free to visit the stones they do charge for the car park.

In 2022 the official car park was open from around 6am.

Cost for car parking in 2022 was:

  • £5 for cars, motorhomes and minibuses
  • £2 for motorbikes

What should I bring to Stonehenge when visiting at the winter solstice?

It’s important not to bring too much with you to Stonehenge at the winter solstice – your bags will be searched and security can and will be tight.

Here are some general rules that you should follow:

  • no sleeping bags or blankets, but you can bring a mat or a picnic rug
  • no pointy items that could potentially be weapons
  • small bags only – don’t bring huge rucksacks
  • bring a torch as it will be dark!
  • small umbrella – large ones will not be allowed in
  • layers are a good idea as it will be cold in the morning
  • a waterproof jacket is essential for downpours or for sitting on wet ground

You can find out more about the rules about what to take on the English Heritage site here

I’d love to hear your experiences of visiting Stonehenge at the winter solstice – let me know your tips in the comment section below!

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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