Winter solstice celebrations in Scotland

Revellers watch the sunrise before leaving Stonehenge on Salisbury plain in southern England...

Revellers watch the sunrise before leaving Stonehenge on Salisbury plain in southern England December 22, 2011. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, and the longest night of the year. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty

ILONA KAUREMSZKY, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

Q: Do you know anything about an unusual winter solstice experience on a Scottish island?

-- J. MacDonald, Markham

A: Many places around the world have winter solstice celebrations on Dec. 21 including Scotland's Orkney Islands, where there are Neolithic structures and ruins. On Mainland Orkney, people gather at Maeshowe to view a spectacular phenomenon that occurs during the solstice. As the sun sets, the light travels through the inside of the 5,000-year-old chambered cairn, illuminating it for a few minutes. Those unable to see this in person can check out local photographer Charles Tait's live webcam at maeshowe.co.uk.

UNESCO has called Maeshowe a Neolithic masterpiece. The structure is part of a collection of other sites such as the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae, the Standing Stones of Stenness, and other unexcavated sites that form the heart of Neolithic Orkney, which is a designated World Heritage Site.

Q: Is there a way to find out which companies offer city tours and wine tours in France?

-- A. Mallick, Brampton

A: The France tourism office -- ATOUT France -- publishes a list of Canadian tour operators and their areas of expertise, which you can view at ca-en.franceguide.com.

For city tours, there are more than 30 Canadian tour operators listed. Among them are Adventure Abroad; Allegro Holidays; Gateways International; Global Journeys; Insight Vacations; and Trafalgar Tours.

Wine tours are popular, too, with more than 15 Canadian tour operators listed. See Senior Tours Canada; Longitude 180 and Wines Travel.


Videos

Photos