Where to watch the Summer Solstice in Dorset

Sunrise at Maiden Castle, an Iron Age hillfort near Dorchester in Dorset

Maiden Castle, an Iron Age hillfort near Dorchester - Credit: Tony Gill Dorset AONB

Earlier risers can celebrate the summer solstice on Tuesday June 21, if you’re up for the 4.56am sunrise. Here are some stunning Dorset locations to celebrate this turning point of the year.  

Dawn at the Stones: Many ancient monuments are aligned to key solar events such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire, but some have shifted or collapsed over time. The Black Down Stone Circle at Portesham is a modern interpretation of the ancient monuments of the South Dorset Ridge, and was built to accurately align with the summer and winter solstice. A clear sunrise will be seen through the window that looks towards Portland and setting through the window towards Golden Cap.  

Join acclaimed performance artist Lorna Rees and friends on June 21, at the Black Down Stone Circle. Situated high up on the ridgeway with views across Dorset, the circle consists of five ‘totems’ built from local Forest Marble stone. One is aligned with true north and the other four with the midwinter and midsummer solstice sunrises and sunsets. The Sun’s full disc shines through an opening in one of the totems, lighting up a central rock of Portland stone. Events start at 4:30am and run until 6am. This event is part of Dorset AONB’s Dawn to Dusk Festival running over June and July where they invite you to see Dorset in a new light by heading out to enjoy our outstanding landscapes from early morning through to the ‘golden hours’ of summer evenings. Join artists, story-tellers, wildlife experts, archaeologists and more on their summer programme of free dawn to dusk events across the county. 

Other good solstice watching spots: 

Nearby to the Black Down Stone Circle, Abbotsbury Hill offers vistas of the sunrise over Portland. Or for the very fit, scale Golden Cap for panoramic views, it’s the highest point on the south coast of Britain (access via Seatown).  

Swyre Head is the highest point on the Isle of Purbeck, and offers views towards Corfe Castle and Kimmeridge on the Jurassic Coast. Corfe Castle is a romantic spot to see the solstice sunrise with its dramatic hill-top ruins. Further along the coast the chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks are another memorable location for a sunrise or sunset experience.  

Inland, any of Dorset’s hillforts are good places to watch the sunrise or sunset– such as Hambledon Hill, Maiden Castle, Hod Hill and Eggardon Hill. Another great spot is Colmers Hill just outside Bridport. Or for a bit of the mystic and pagan, watch the solstice sunrise in the company of the Cerne Abbas Giant.   

Click here for a circular walk at Golden Cap 

Click here to find out where to spot the Summer Triangle in Dorset's dark skies 

Click here to find out about St Wite Dorset's patron saint