Midsummer’s Day - the longest day of the year - falls on 21 June. Associated particularly with ancient Celtic, druid, and pagan festivals, it is the point in the year when the sun reaches its zenith and brings us the most daylight hours. Here we explore the myths and rituals that surround this symbolic day in the seasonal calendar.
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
Stonehenge in Wiltshire is the most famous UK landmark associated with the summer solstice. Built 5,000 years ago, it is aligned with the midsummer sunrise. Whilst the true purpose of Stonehenge is debated, it does take us back to a time when people were governed by the seasons and in touch with the natural rhythm of life.
If you want to witness the summer solstice at Stonehenge, Blackwood Forest is just 40 minutes away. Although, with approximately 20,000 visitors and a very British chance of rain, it might not be quite the mystical experience you would be hoping for. A more fair-weather approach might be to use those extra daylight hours to soak up the atmosphere of the forest from your outdoor hot tub…
Did you know? Solstice comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (stay)! In mythology, the sun is a masculine power and many communities celebrated with competitions of strength and daring. Choosing "best lad" in the town is still a custom in many Scottish border towns at the solstice celebrations.
Forests and Fairies
“If we shadows have offended, think but this; and all is mended: that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear...”
Midsummer’s eve was believed to be a time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest – a time of powerful forces and magical happenings, when fairies were thought to be about and at their most powerful. This otherworldly sense underpins Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the fairies use their magic and cause mayhem in the forest. The magic gets mixed and at one point, Titania, queen of the fairies, falls in love with Bottom, who is unwittingly sporting an ass’s head.
So, if you are staying at Forest of Dean and you wake during the night and look out of your window, be careful; that fairy potion might have you falling in love with a wild boar!
Festival of fire
The lighting of fires has always been a prominent part of the midsummer ritual. In a somewhat glass-half-empty manner, rather than celebrating the longest day, our ancestors were heralding the shortening of the days from this point onward, and the fires were to keep the approaching dark at bay.
The fires have largely disappeared but there are still some events around the country which have revived this ancient tradition. Head for the Golowan Festival at Penzance – an hour and a half from Deerpark. Or failing that, you can always have a little symbolic fire in your wood-burning stove!
Let the sun rise over a Forest Holiday
Whatever the origins of the folklore surrounding the summer solstice, they are rooted in a time when our ancestors were in harmony with their surroundings and at one with the rhythms of the earth. Today, this feeling is harder than ever to capture, which is why, at Forest Holidays we offer a natural escape. As the summer solstice approaches come to the forest and watch the midsummer sun rise over a magical landscape, reconnecting you to a simpler, more natural way of life.
5 places to celebrate the Summer Solstice
Stonehenge summer solstice is one of experiences that we should all try at least once in our lives. Just 40 minutes from Blackwood Forest.
Avebury stone circle; bigger and older than Stonehenge but less crowded. The nearest Forest Holidays location is Blackwood Forest again.
Golowan Festival in Penzance, probably the biggest midsummer Festival in the UK and about 1½ hours from Deerpark.
Crannog Midsummer Music Festival; Watch the sun dip as you enjoy Scottish music around the fire by an Iron-Age loch-dwelling at Loch Tay. An hour and a half from Strathyre.
In the forest, in one of our cabins, where the magic is guaranteed and every day is long and happy.