Summer solstice draws thousands to Stonehenge

Crowds gather at dawn amongst the stones at Stonehenge The sun rose at 04:52 although the cloud was too dense for people to see it

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Thousands of people have gathered at Stonehenge for the sunrise on the longest day of the year.

Spectators were joined by pagans and druids at the ancient monument in Wiltshire, but the dense cloud cover meant the sun remained hidden.

Police, who estimated 21,000 people attended, targeted the crowds with sniffer dogs and took 22 people into custody for drugs-related offences.

The solstice has had spiritual significance for thousands of years.

The word itself means a stopping or standing still of the sun.

Cannabis warnings

Pagan festivals: Summer solstice

  • Solstice, or Litha, means a stopping or standing still of the sun
  • The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and is celebrated by thousands of pagans across the world. In the northern hemisphere the Solstice usually falls around 21 June
  • Stonehenge is believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons 4,000 years ago. Recent pagan celebrations at the site began in the 20th Century
  • On Litha, the central Altar stone at Stonehenge aligns with the Heel stone, the Slaughter stone and the rising sun to the north east

A crowd had gathered to spend the night near the giant stones, with police reporting 2,000 people on site by 21:30 BST on Thursday.

The sun then rose at 04:52 on the longest day of the year.

Supt Matt Pullen, from Wiltshire Police, said: "The majority of people respected the conditions of entry and the amnesty bins provided were used.

"Approximately 70 cannabis street warnings were issued. As with previous years, the passive drugs dogs proved very effective."

Twenty-two miles away (35km) at Avebury, where there are three stone circles, the crowd peaked at some 500 people.

BBC Radio Wiltshire reporter Rachel Royce said: "There are some very serious druids here in their long cloaks, taking it very solemnly. There are also some party-goers, and ordinary visitors who love the atmosphere.

"It really is a very peaceful and nice event."

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