Thousands visit Stonehenge for winter solstice in what could be mildest December day

Thousands gathered at Stonehenge to witness the winter solstice sunrise on what could be the mildest December day on record.

A crowd of almost 5,000 people were at the prehistoric Wiltshire landmark for the latest dawn and the point when the sun is at its lowest in the sky.

Crowds gathered to witness the latest dawn bringing in the shortest day of the year. Credit: PA wire

The Met Office said it was "finely balanced", but sunshine in the afternoon could break the 105-year record for the warmest December day.

The Greater London area is the most likely to beat the record of 16.1C set at Hoylake, Merseyside, in 1910.

The solstice is the annual event that marks the point when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun, making it the shortest day of the year.

This year's solstice was at 4.49am, and the sun rose over Stonehenge at 8.04am.

Druids enjoy a mild winter solstice at Stonehenge. Credit: PA wire

The sun sets between the trilithon on Stonehenge, which is where two vertical pillars stand next to each other, supporting a horizontal stone on top.

The monument is seen as a sacred site for people from druid and pagan religions who mark both the winter and summer solstices as part of their spiritual tradition.

A person dressed as a unicorn to mark the winter solstice at Stonehenge. Credit: PA wire

Senior Druid, King Arthur Pendragon, who has marked the solstices for 30 years, said it was "always a very special event".

People arriving at Stonehenge on the shortest day of the year. Credit: PA wire
Thousands of people, many in costume, witnessed the sunrise. Credit: PA wire

A spokesman for Historic England said people travel to Stonehenge on the winter solstice because of the monument's alignment with the sun.

It is believed the solstice was of huge importance to Stonehenge's prehistoric users.

Women play drums to celebrate the winter solstice. Credit: PA wire
A woman dressed in medieval costume plays the guitar while leaning on one of the monument's stones. Credit: PA wire

Archaeological evidence found at the site suggest that the site was a burial ground in its earliest beginnings before becoming a sacred site.

The winter solstice is thought to have been more important to the people who constructed it than the summer solstice. It was a time for feasting as cattle were slaughtered and the majority of wine and beer was fermented.

To many, Stonehenge is a sacred site. Credit: PA wire

The monument is believed to have been constructed in three phases between 3000 BC to 2000 BC.