Thousands gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice

Crowds gathered at Stonehenge on Sunday morning to mark the winter solstice and witness the sunrise after the longest night of the year.

Druids and dancers were among the crowds celebrating the occasion despite the cold — with temperatures barely reaching 6C (42.8F) when the sun rose at 8.05am.

One man was seen drinking mead from an animal horn inside the stone circle while others banged on drums and sang.

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice

Michael DeAngelo, who was visiting the historic Wiltshire sight from New Jersey, told the PA news agency: “I don’t think anything made me connect more with my humanness than seeing that. And the planet and mankind in general.”

The solstice marks the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun, and begins the gradual lengthening of days and shortening of nights.

Randolph Fields said: “It was quiet, very personal, the number of people walking there and looking the same way was a very communal, unspoken communication.

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice

“Lots of families, pets, people making their way there from all different directions in ones and twos as well as the stream of people on the roads leading to it.

“It was my first time going and it didn’t disappoint, the size of the stones dwarfing the people was impressive but it was as much about the people touching the stones and watching the daybreak that made it an event worth visiting.”

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice

Rachel Taylor and her two children, Elliott and Seren, visited Stonehenge from their home in Twyford.

She said: “We saw the most beautiful moon in the clearest sky. We went to touch the stones and feel the energy. We listened to the druids humming and drumming.

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice

“We felt the energy between the stones. To be honest, there was a lot of anger in amongst the humming. We felt privileged to be there.”

English Heritage opened the site for those celebrating, with around 5,000 people turning up.

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice

Peter Dewbery attended the celebrations from the Cotswolds.

“It was actually quite an electrifying moment, a cheer went up as the sunrise happened and you could feel an energy from the crowd — it was amazing to be among such a historic moment,” he said.

For those living below the equator — where the seasons are opposite to those in the UK — December 22 marks the summer solstice, with the days gradually getting shorter.