Five things you didn't know about the Summer Solstice

The sun rises over Stonehenge on the longest day of the year Credit: ITV News

Thousands of people cheered the sunrise at Stonehenge and on Exmoor on Thursday morning to celebrate the summer solstice.

Crowds were treated to near-perfect conditions as the sun rose at 4:52am, marking the longest day of the year.

The pagan tradition of celebrating summer solstice dates back thousands of years, but here are some interesting facts you may not know:

  • The summer solstice marks the beginning of summer, giving us nearly seventeen hours of sunlight. Unfortunately the days now begin to get shorter.

  • It happens when the earth's axis tilts at its furthest point. Giving one hemisphere the longest day of the year, and the other its shortest.

  • It has spiritual significance. Paganism dates back to a time before Christianity and has always used the solstice as a time for reflection, celebration and a chance to cleanse away bad spirits.

  • The word 'solstice' derives from the Latin words 'sol' which means sun, and 'sistere' which means to stand still.

  • Alcohol was banned from the Stonehenge site a few years ago to prevent anti-social behaviour and substance abuse during the celebrations.