21/06/2017 08:28 BST

Summer Solstice 2017: Armed Police On Patrol At Stonehenge As Thousands Gather For Celebrations

One attendee was arrested for trying to sell a police officer drugs.

Thousands of people attended Summer Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge overnight to mark the longest day of the year amid a heightened police presence.

English Heritage livestreamed the sunrise, which took place at 4.43am over the ancient site in Wiltshire.

Armed police were on patrol around the site during the festivities as part of heightened security measures following recent terror attacks.

Superintendent Dave Minty from Wiltshire Police said ahead of the event: “At Stonehenge there will be an increased number of officers and staff this year carrying out high-visibility patrols, and as a further precaution visitors may see armed police officers in the vicinity.

“I must stress that this is not due to any increase in threat or change in the intelligence picture surrounding the event or the county as a whole.”

The Pagan Federation said it would “sadly accept” the measures.

The reason for gathering at Stonehenge is rooted in pagan traditions, although both pagans and non-pagans congregate there to watch the sun rise every year.

  • PA Wire/PA Images
    A woman celebrates the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    The sun rises between the stones of the ancient monument.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    A man records the scene on a mobile phone at dawn.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    A performer entertains people gathered at the heritage site.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    People watch the sunrise for the Summer Solstice.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    Thousands gathered for the event, which takes place every June.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    Armed police were on patrol for the event.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    People wait for the sun to rise.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    The sun rose at 4.43am on Wednesday morning.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    The event draws in both pagans and non-pagans,
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    People gather among the ancient stones for the event.
  • PA Wire/PA Images
    The summer solstice is often considered to mark the start of summer.

Police tweeted about two arrests made during the evening, including one for attempting to sell drugs to an officer. 

Druids also flock to Stonehenge for the occasion and some have been known to perform fire rituals.

Despite little knowledge surrounding the stone formations, some believe there is a spiritual or religious element to their construction.

The summer solstice is often considered as an event to mark the start of summer.

The reason we get long summer days is because the Earth’s axis is tilted towards the sun. During winter the opposite is true, which is why we get shorter days.

In the UK, the summer solstice day, which comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), has the longest period of daylight of any day in the year.

Solstice comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

The summer solstice varies each year, although it does take place between June 20 and 22 in the northern hemisphere.