Stonehenge crowds gather to mark winter solstice

  • 21 December 2012
  • From the section Wiltshire
Druids celebrate winter solstice at Stonehenge in Wiltshire
Image caption Five times as many people gathered for the solstice compared with 2011

More than 5,000 people have gathered to mark the winter solstice at Stonehenge.

The attendance was equivalent to five times the number that turned out at Salisbury Plain for last year's event.

More people had been predicted to congregate, as the date coincides with the end of the 5,125-year "long count" cycle of the Mayan calendar.

Druids and pagans are among those who head to Stonehenge each December to watch the sunrise on the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

'Absolutely packed'

Wiltshire Police said "well over" 5,000 people had gathered to watch the sunrise over the giant stones at 08:05 GMT.

The force said one person was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, and given a fixed penalty notice.

BBC Wiltshire reporter Annie Weston, at the scene, said: "This is the only time when people are allowed into the circle of stones.

"It is absolutely packed. People are cheering and chanting and everybody was looking towards the sun for that special moment.

"There are flags flying, druids here too and people of various religions and faiths."

She spoke with Shelby McCabe, from Honolulu in Hawaii, who said it was "the perfect day".

Image caption More than 5,000 people gathered to watch the sunrise at 08:05 GMT

"All my friends are very jealous that I am here. They would love to be here. They told me to take 1,000 photos which I think I've done," she said.

Donna Nicholson, from Swindon, woke up at 03:00 GMT to get to the stones on time.

She said it was "exciting" to be there for the "new birth of a new era".

This year's solstice date also marks the conclusion of the long count cycle of the Mayan calendar, which some people believe indicates the end of the world.

Although the exact time of the solstice this year - when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun - is at 11:11 GMT, English Heritage provided access to the stones earlier in the morning.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites