How I Celebrated the Winter Solstice by visiting Stone Circles and Wild Swimming

The winter solstice marks where the days begin to get lighter, the moment in the mid-winter where spring feels possible. 2019 the winter solstice fell for the first time in 4 years on the 22nd December rather than the 21st so there was something in my bones that made me feel like this would be the first year to really celebrate it.

What does Solstice mean?

“The world ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin solstitium meaning ‘Sun stands still’, because the apparent movement of the Sun’s path north or south stops before changing direction. At the winter solstice, the apparent position of the Sun reaches its most southerly point against the background stars”

How To Celebrate the Winter Solstice?

pagans in the stone circles at sunrise at Castlerigg winter solstice

You can see every year that 1000s of people descend on Stonehenge, the prehistoric monuments that are famous in the south of England. The stones are steeped in history and mythical properties, they are astronomically aligned with the sun and moon. No one really knows how this standing circle of stones got there or why. But throughout the UK there are other standing stone circles.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice Sunrise

sunrise at the winter solstice 2019 at Castlerigg

We visited Castlerigg in Cumbria, around a 2-hour drive from Leeds. Arriving just before dawn, there were a few people around the stones and it was eerily peaceful. As the solstice and the stones are connected to the Pagan religion there were people in ceremonial clothes. A couple were beating a drum to welcome in the sunrise on the shortest day.

We stayed around 1 hour and from the darkness emerged the stone circle as well as the spectacular views of the Lake District. I didn’t take my camera bit did manage to snap a few pictures on my phone. I wanted to be present at the moment.

The winter solstice is the stillness before the Suns strength builds, and the days grow longer.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice Sunset

Winter solstice open water swim at sunset

I ended the shortest how I started the longest day, buy swimming (just) in some very cold open water. The sunset quickly and we were wrapped up all cosy and warm again in the darkness.

There is something about wild swimming, it is cold and exhilarating. It releases all the endorphins and you feel alive afterwards. Only for the brave or the stupid, I am not quite sure. This time I joined in with a local community of wild swimmers who are truly wild as they swim in the cold water all year round.

I set my intentions for the new astrological year while in the water. Knowing it is the changing of the season and the return of brighter days are ahead.

girl getting into cold water winter solstice swim sunset

Castlerigg is maintained by English Heritage, it is free and there is a little bit of parking next to the field.

Castle Lane, Underskiddaw, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4RN