10 of the best places to celebrate the summer solstice in the UK and Ireland

10 of the best places to celebrate the summer solstice in the UK and Ireland

Glastonbury, Somerset

Celebrated in folklore and ancient traditions since the dawn of time, the summer solstice on 20 June is when the sun is at its highest, making it the longest day of the year. Midsummer refers to the days around the solstice period.

Enjoy sunrise with the druids at Glastonbury Tor, renowned as one of the most spiritual sites in the UK, with stunning views across the countryside. Known as the Isle of Avalon, it’s also where King Arthur is said to have retired after his last battle. Legend has it that beneath the hill on which the Tor is built, there’s a hidden cave through which you can pass into the fairy realm of Annwn. Enjoy a unique stay in a “tree tent” at Pennard Hill Farm, strung between two trees and overlooking the gorgeous Mendip Hills.
From £165 in peak season; pennardhillfarm.co.uk


Photograph: Cavan Images/Getty Images

Orkney is an enchanting place to visit before or after solstice, with the longest days in the British Isles anda sky that never really gets dark. Celebrate the “grimlins” (the local word for midsummer, from the Old Norse word “grimla”, meaning to twinkle or glimmer) at the St Magnus International festival (stmagnusfestival.com, 21-29 June). Running since the 70s, it’s a week-long celebration of the arts including music, theatre, dance, and literature in a stunning natural setting. Stay at the lovely Peedie Harray’s, Harray’s Hoose and Harray’s Little Bothy.
Double rooms from £125; visitscotland.com

East Sussex

Photograph: Helen Dixon/Alamy

Soak up the solstice atmosphere at Chanctonbury Ring, an Iron Age hill fort on the South Downs near Steyning, also used by the Romans as a religious site. With breathtaking views across the Sussex countryside, there are wonderful walks along and around the South Downs Way. Just make sure not to summon the devil (apparently achieved by running anticlockwise around the fort seven times). And perhaps don’t sleep there at night if you want to avoid the experience Robert MacFarlane details in The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, when he camped and was woken by unearthly screaming at 2am. Enjoy a far more comfortable night’s sleep at Springwells House at Steyning, an ivy-strewn historic Georgian house.
Double rooms from £150; springwells.co.uk

The Lake District

Photograph: John Finney/Getty Images

See in the longest day at Castlerigg Stone Circle, one of the earliest stone circles in the UK, dating back to about 3000BC, which has enchanted visitors for centuries, including Romantic luminaries such as Coleridge and Keats. For full dramatic effect, go very early in the morning at sunrise and, if you’re lucky, you’ll have the place to yourself. Stay at the elegant Grange Country House, with its impressive views across Keswick-on-Derwentwater and the surrounding mountains.
Double rooms from £165, minimum two nights; grangekeswick.com

Snowdonia (Eryri)

Photograph: Osian Rees/Getty Images

Head for the wilds of Snowdonia (Eryri) to celebrate the Welsh midsummer festival, “Gathering Day” – drawing its name from the time when druids traditionally collected mistletoe and other plants and herbs for use throughout the year – technically celebrated on the first Monday after the solstice (sticknstep.org). Stay in this secluded cabin set in rolling open countryside and enjoy a wild swim in your own lake (Powys, near Machynlleth).
From £79; canopyandstars.co.uk


Photograph: David Tomlinson/Getty Images

Celebrate sunrise on the longest day by crossing (at low tide!) the causeway to ethereal Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island,, an area of outstanding natural beauty steeped in spiritual significance. Sleep on the island and watch the crowds of daytrippers disappear. Eeand quiet that descends as the tide rises and cuts the place off from the mainland. Stay overnight at Eden cottage, with an outdoor space perfect for a midsummer night’s feast.
From £180 per night; hostandstay.co.uk

County Donegal

Photograph: Neil Carey Photography/Getty Images

Head to Donegal to visit Ireland’s very own Temple of the Sun, the ancient ruins of Grianán of Aileach, on a hilltop 250m above sea level with stunning views all around. Watch the sun rise over beautiful Lough Foyle nearby, Northern Ireland’s biggest estuary and a haven for birdlife. Walk the breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way and stay at Oul House, situated among the ash and sycamore trees at the foot of Coolcross Hill in Rashenny, overlooking Trawbreaga Bay.
From £172; govisitdonegal.com


Photograph: Andrew Michaels

For something a little different, enjoy an evening on Old Hunstanton beach in west Norfolk for “Gong Magic”, or sound bathing, on the sand (from 7pm on 20 June), an annual gathering that’s been going for a decade. Join Val, Emrys, David and other Gong masters for an evening of sound bathing. No booking required, just “turn up and enjoy the energy with a beach mat, blanket and an open heart and lots of love”. Located off Sea Lane, Old Hunstanton, directly behind the Mariner Inn.
Camp from £17 on the Sandringham Estate, and enjoy strolls around the secluded royal grounds; sandringhamestate


Photograph: Mathew Roberts

Move over Stonehenge and the teeming midsummer crowds, celebrate the solstice instead at the Merry Maidens – a late neolithic stone circle that, according to myth, was formed when some wayward women were petrified as punishment for dancing on the Sabbath (the two “pipers” who played the music are a short distance away). You could also catch a show at the open-air Minack Theatre, cut into the rock above the cliffs at Porthcurno, four miles from Land’s End. Stay at Treen Farm, a family-run campsite a 10-minute drive from the Minack, or a 50-minute hike, set a couple of fields away from five stunning sandy beaches known as the string of pearls.
From £29 for two; treenfarmcampsite.com


Few things say summer more emphatically than a barefoot dance on the sand, so head to First Light on Lowestoft’s South Beach (22-23 June), which marks the first sunrise of midsummer with a (free and unticketed) programme of events ranging from drumming to dawn DJ sets and silent disco (firstlightlowestoft.com). Try wild camping on the UK’s most easterly beach, a stone’s throw from the festival site. Wake up with a swim before breakfast.
From £50 for a four-person tent; citizenticket.com.

The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley is out now in hardback, published by HarperCollins at £18.99. Order it for £16.71 from guardianbookshop.com

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