SALISBURY, England -- For the first time in more than a decade,
Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle a few miles from this medieval
market town, will be opened to the public for next month's summer
solstice celebration, said English Heritage, the London-based
British government unit charged with protecting historic sites.
The decision to allow full public access is an effort to avoid a
repeat of the riot that broke out during summer solstice 1999, when
hundreds of New Age travelers stormed the protective barrier around
the stones to protest a limited-access policy in place since the
In addition to being a top tourism draw, the site is especially
important to druids and pagans, who plan special celebrations to
mark the dawn of the longest day of the year.
Some druid, pagan and other groups were given special solstice
access last year, prompting the melee in which dozens were arrested
and some police officers injured.
"With this open-access arrangement, there will be no reason for
anyone or any group to mount a challenge," said an English Heritage
spokeswoman, who added that no parties, fires, music, camping or
pets will be allowed anywhere on the Stonehenge landscape.
"We hope people will come in the right spirit this year -- for
an opportunity to celebrate peacefully," she added.
From the late 1980s to 1998, there was no access to Stonehenge
during summer solstice; in fact, local police traditionally set up
a no-access zone in a four-mile radius around the stones.
According to English Heritage, visitors to Stonehenge for this
year's summer solstice will have free access starting at 11:30 p.m.
on June 20 through 7:30 a.m. on June 21.
"English Heritage staff will be on site to manage the flow of
people," the spokeswoman said.
Stonehenge, one of Great Britain's -- and Europe's --
most-visited tourist attractions, is a World Heritage site.
Public transportation to Stonehenge is available from the
Salisbury bus station.
The site is about a 90-minute drive from London. Rail service
also is available from London to Salisbury.