Thousands turn out to welcome the summer solstice at Stonehenge

The sacred sunrise was watched by 37,000 people who gathered around the ancient stones overnight

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The Independent Online

An estimated 37,000 revellers flocked to Stonehenge to watch a stunning sunrise this morning on the longest day in the calendar year.

The Summer Solstice has a long history of drawing crowds to the popular tourist attraction on Salisbury Plain, off the A303.

It is known as one of the most important dates on the calendar for latter-day Druids, who believe the stones allow them to commune with ancient ancestors in a sacred setting.

Stonehenge was built between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC. Its original purpose is still the topic of heated debate for ancient historians.

Read more: Everything you need to know about the longest, and sunniest, day of the year


Wiltshire Police said that 25 people were arrested at the event, mainly for drugs-related offences.

A spokesman said: "We are pleased that the Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge and Avebury have been enjoyable events for the majority of people attending.

"The road system worked well with minimum delays and many people used the public transport as we advised people to do. Every year there are new challenges for us at Solstice but it is always a pleasure to see so many people enjoying the event."

What is the summer solstice?

‘Solstice’ literally means stopping or standing still of the sun. It is used as a name for the longest day of the year – 21 June – when the sun is at its highest point in the northern hemisphere. It is celebrated by thousands of pagans across the world, but recent celebrations at Stonehenge only started in the 20 century.

On the day of the Solstice, the central Altar stone at Stonehenge aligns with the Heel stone, the Slaughter stone and the rising sun to the north east.