Summer solstice 2020: when is the longest day of the year?

The longest day of the year, known as the summer solstice, is celebrated throughout the UK every year. Our guide explains when and why the summer solstice occurs and how to livestream the event from Stonehenge.

Stonehenge at sunset, Getty

From watching the sun rise at Stonehenge to a summit solstice at the peak of Ben Nevis, here’s our guide on the longest day of the year and inspiration on the best places* in the countryside to experience the summer solstice in 2020.

*Travel is still restricted in many areas of the country due to the Covid-19 crisis, so please follow government guidance at gov.uk/coronavirus.

Advertisement

What is the summer solstice?

The term summer solstice is derived from Latin and means ‘the sun stands still’. The solstice – also referred to as Midsummer – is often thought of as a day-long event, but in fact represents a single moment in time: when the sun is at northernmost point from the earth’s equator during a single year.

When is the Summer Solstice in 2020?

In the UK in 2020 the summer solstice takes place on 20th June. In the northern hemisphere, the sun will rise at around 4:44am and set around 9:20pm. While Stonehenge in Salisbury will feel the day’s first rays at 04:52 and bid them farewell at 21:26. In 2019 the summer solstice occurred on Friday 21st June.

In daylight hours this is around 8 hours, 50 minutes longer than the December Solstice.

Despite being the longest day of the year, the summer solstice isn’t actually have the earliest sunrise of the year. Generally, the earliest sunrises of the year occur before the summer solstice.

Wild camping Outer Hebrides

Best places to experience the summer solstice in the UK

The summer solstice is celebrated all over the UK and in many different ways. The truth is, if you have the stamina to stay awake and welcome midsummer, you can’t go wrong. Here is some inspiration for places to experience the summer solstice, from a solstice of solitude to Midsummer from a mountain.

*Travel is still restricted in many areas of the country due to the Covid-19 crisis, so please follow government guidance at gov.uk/coronavirus.

1

Stonehenge, Wiltshire

Stonehenge is an atmospheric spot to celebrate the summer solstice as the first beams of sun rise behind the Heel Stone to shine into the heart of the stones.

Advertisement
Stonehenge at dawn/Credit: Getty Images
Stonehenge at dawn/Credit: Getty Images
In 2020, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, English Heritage has announced that it will not be able to host the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge this year. Instead, the occasion will instead be live streamed for free on social media and can be watched online anywhere in the world. To watch the live steaming, simply follow English Heritage social media channels.


2

Saltwick Bay, North Yorkshire

During summer, a small yet particularly photogenic section of the North Yorkshire coast has the distinction of hosting both sunrise and sunset over the sea. Head for Saltwick, where the sandy beach is flanked by the Northern and Southern Shelves, whose textured rock formations and mirror-like pools make for breathtaking reflections. As the sun sets, it picks out the whale-shaped silhouette of Saltwick Nab. On rising, the Black Nab rock stack and the twisted wreck of the Admiral Von Trump take centre stage. Just make sure you check tide times.

iStock_000003700751_Small-1663adc
3

Place Fell, Ullswater

Place Fell isn’t notably lofty, but the views from its cairn-riddled plateau contradict its 657 metres. It’s cradled to the north and west by Ullswater. The Helvellyn range to the west is especially brilliant at sunrise, while Hartsop and Kirkstone Pass to the south are at their best as the evening rays steal across them. The 90-minute walk up from Patterdale is relatively easy and you can follow sunrise with a seven-mile circuit back along the lakeshore path, which, according to Wainwright, was “the most beautiful and rewarding walk in Lakeland”.

Sunset over Buttermere
The sun sets over Buttermere, one of a wealth of spectacular locations from which to experience Midsummer in the Lake District
4

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

 

The exposed, almost polished rock at the summit of Arthur’s Seat is a surprisingly wild spot just a short walk from Edinburgh’s old town. At 251m, this is the highest of Edinburgh’s seven hills and as such offers clear views of the other six, as well as Leith and across the Firth of Forth to Fife. The viewpoint is popular for sunrises and sunsets regardless of the solstice, so expect to share the space with a lively crowd.
A couple looking out over the City of Edinburgh from Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park.
5

Glastonbury Tor, Somerset

 

After Stonehenge, Glastonbury Tor is surely the second most obvious place in Britain to celebrate the summer solstice and, arguably, it has the better views. Crowned by the ruins of 15th-century St Michael’s church, the tor rises 158m above the Somerset Levels to give a timeless 360° view of Wells, the Bristol Channel, Wiltshire, the Polden Hills and Exmoor. It’s one of Britain’s most spiritual sites, so you’ll be part of a crowd drumming and chanting as they have done here for millennia.

The historic Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, England.
6

Avebury Henge, Wiltshire

 

Avebury is often thought of as Stonehenges quieter cousin. Not so at Midsummer as druids and other sun worshipers converge on the small village en masse. Visit England’s largest Neolithic henge, making the most of the long evenings with a walk to the Bronze Age burial gounds or just bring a picnic and watch the sun rise.

John Aubrey noted that Avebury far surpassed Stonehenge “as a Cathedral doth a Parish Church”. Then again, he didn’t have to pay the car-park charges. On 20 June, the car park will be open from 9am and parking costs £7 (£4 after 3pm). It fills up quickly and there is no  street parking for non-residents. Avebury is 30mins bus journey from Swindon BR. Local accommodation is likely to be full if you leave it too late.

GettyImages-114449571_small-6d210cc
Sun rises over Averbury, Wiltshire

Best summer walks in Britain

Make the most of the longer days and warmer weather with our pick of the best summer countryside walks in the UK.

Valley of Rocks, Exmoor National Park

Distance: 3 miles | Duration: 1.5 hours

Valley of the Rocks and Wringcliff Bay at sunset in Exmoor National Park, Lynton
Valley of the Rocks and Wringcliff Bay at sunset in Exmoor National Park, Lynton/Credit: Getty

Exult in towering sea cliffs where feral goats clamber skilfully between Devonian crags on our short circular walk around the Valley of Rocks in Devon.

View walking route

Sunlit valley and hillwalker; English Lake District, U.K

River Stour, Suffolk

Distance: 3 miles | Duration: 1.5 hours

Willy Lott’s House – the subject matter for Constable’s The Hay Wain
Willy Lott’s House – the subject matter for Constable’s The Hay Wain ©Alamy

A short walk along the marshy banks of the River Stour, running from the Suffolk town of Dedham to Flatford Mill – once home to painter John Constable – and back again.

View walking route


Greenlee Lough, Northumberland

Distance: 3 miles | Duration: 2.5 hours

Cotton grass
Cotton grass on the banks of Greenlee Lough ©Getty

Lying to the north of the Great Whin Sill, and easily visible from Hadrian’s Wall, Greenlee Lough is the largest natural lake in Northumberland.

View walking route

See more great British summer walks