Thousands mark summer solstice at Stonehenge

media captionThere was a glorious sunrise as the summer solstice was marked at Stonehenge

Thousands of people have gathered at Stonehenge to mark this year's summer solstice.

Police said 23,000 attended the neolithic site in Wiltshire to watch the sun rise at 04:52 BST, while others gathered at the nearby Avebury stone circle.

The figure was down on the estimated 36,000 who attended last year and the 30,000 expected this year.

Wiltshire Police said the celebrations were "positive and peaceful".

image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
image captionPolice said fewer arrests were made at this year's celebrations than in previous years
image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
image captionRevellers gathered at Stonehenge and the neighbouring Avebury stone circle
image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
image captionThe summer solstice usually occurs on 21 June, but can occur on 20 and 22 June
image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
image captionNext year's summer solstice will occur on 20 June
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionRevellers welcomed the dawning of the summer solstice at Stonehenge

The summer solstice usually occurs on 21 June, but can occur on 20 and 22 June.

Police said arrests were lower than in previous years, with nine people being held for drugs offences at Stonehenge and a handful being cautioned for possession of Class A drugs, while no arrests were made at Avebury.

Next year's summer solstice will occur on 20 June, but the next 22 June solstice will not occur until 2203.

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

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