Summer sunsets to warm your evenings

Skies swept with pink, orange, red, yellow and sometimes even lilac — the long summer evenings give us the gift of the golden hour. It also means you can take in the beauty of nature while the sun is still out. Get some top tips on summer photography, read about the summer wildlife that emerges at dusk and discover the joys of walking in the countryside with the setting sun as your backdrop.

In this article:

The longest day of the year, on 20 June in 2020, is when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky and appears to stand still. Traditionally, this was commemorated by lighting and jumping over bonfires, a custom dating back to pre-Christian pagan times. This was thought to keep demons away, encourage a healthy harvest and bring good luck to lovers.

Everything seems to change when the light streams down through woodland trees of many shades of green. On summer walks the evenings are balmy, and you can feel the joy that beams down on you from the setting sun.

The latest that the sun will set this year is at around 9.20pm. The lighter evenings can be a great time to get out in nature and soak up the warmth of the season.

This year there won’t be any solstice events at our places. This is to comply with the government guidelines around social distancing and to ensure safety in response to coronavirus.

We hope to inspire you to take a moment to enjoy the beauty of sunsets for yourself, wherever you live.

Sunset on the beach at Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, East Sussex

Spending time in nature lifts your mood

Daily moments in nature can have a huge impact on wellbeing and now we also know how nature has helped us during lockdown.

Our recent findings show that more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of adults either agreed or strongly agreed that spending time noticing the nature around them has made them feel happy. It was also found that since lockdown, interest in nature has risen by a third. A strong connection with nature is an important reminder of the comfort our favourite places can offer us. Why not embrace the nature around you? Find out how exploring the world as the sun sets can make you feel uplifted.

 Sunset over Bossington Beach on the Holnicote Estate, Somerset

The joys of an evening stroll 

An evening walk can restore a sense of calm at the end of a busy day. During summer, there's more daylight hours to take a long stroll in a green and open space. A quiet stroll at dusk in your favourite place can do wonders for your wellbeing. Read on to find out where our rangers love to walk when the sun is setting.

Photography tips for sunsets

That beautiful glow from the summer sun in the evenings is known as golden hour. If you venture out in the extra hours of the day to take some photos of your favourite parts of nature, remember these tips from award-winning photographer Justin Minns, who regularly photographs places we care for around East Anglia.

The sound of birds twittering and chatting in your garden can be uplifting when you need a break from the everyday. During summer, why not use the extra hours in the day to listen to nature’s orchestra and spot birds in your garden or on a walk? 

Wicken Fen - Male bearded tit with fledglings

Hear birdsong wherever you go 

The dawn chorus is the backing track to the sunrise. Make the most of the lighter early hours of the day and see if you can pick out your favourite birds, whether they're singing in your back garden, from a lamp post on your street or in the trees above.

Spot bats in the lighter evenings

Among other summer wildlife, bats come out during the longer evenings – the extra hours at dusk could be the perfect time for you to spot bats that live locally. Tom Clarke, Land, Outdoors & Nature Engagement Officer at Purbeck Estate, has some tips for spotting them in your garden or when you're out and about.

'Bats are everywhere. Look out for them at dusk when the sky is clear. You'll see them in gardens and parks – hedgerows are great places to spot these nocturnal creatures. Either lie on your back on a blanket, or go for a slow walk, checking the gradually darkening sky for movement. If you have kids, let them lead you – they have much younger eyesight and are usually much better at finding bats in the gloaming than you are.'

Top bat tip: make your own bat detector. Pick a long stem of plantain or grass that has a seed head and wobble it above your head. Bats will come and investigate thinking that the seeds are insects to eat.

" My solstice is marked by sunset point on a distant blue hill. For the whole of the first half of the year, I rush out to look at every decent sunset and mark the sun on the horizon as it marches northwards from its westerly midpoint in March. "
- Andy Beer, author of Every Day Nature
Interested in Every Day Nature? View the book now

50 things to do during sunrise and sunset

Dawns and sunsets for armchair viewing

The sun and the sky: interpretations and traditions

Codger's Fort on the estate at Wallington, Northumberland

National Trust Podcast episode 79: Midsummer magic and mayhem

For millennia, midsummer has been steeped in tales of mystery and magic. It inspired the construction of great temples, the lighting of bonfires and was even said to have caused people to act in strange and surprising ways. In this episode, we explore the meaning behind the legends of the summer solstice. And we discover why so many people feel a mystical connection to this time of year.

Nature's palette – what makes the sky go red?

The phenomenon that results in red skies at sunrise and sunset is called scattering.

When the sun is low on the horizon the light travels through more of the atmosphere towards us than it does during the rest of the day. Because of the nature of the molecules, more of the shortwave blue wavelengths are scattered aside than other wavelengths in the colour spectrum, and the light appears red or orange to us.

The same effect occurs whenever light takes a long path through the atmosphere before it reaches our eyes. For example, if a layer of cloud extends almost to the horizon, the distant strip of sky that remains visible just below it will frequently look orange or red.

Curious about the weather? Check out How to Read the Weather by Storm Dunlop on our online shop.

Gatekeeper butterfly on a leaf

Support nature and wildlife 

From butterflies to blossom, the places we care for are home to a huge amount of diverse nature and wildlife that needs our support. Give today and together, we can help nature recover, bring people closer to it, and ensure our shared history continues to inspire us all. Thank you for your continued support.