Thousands cheered the sun as it rose over Stonehenge this morning for the summer solstice, just days after the ancient monument was attacked by Just Stop Oil.

Those who woke up early to observe the spectacle at the neolithic structure in Wiltshire encountered a chilly morning accompanied by misty fields as the sun glinted over the horizon at 4.52am.

Stonehenge is a monument built on the alignment of the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset. 

On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the Stone Circle. Rays of sunlight are then channelled into the centre of the monument.

It is believed that solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years – any many people travel to the ancient site from around the world. The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol – ‘sun’ – and sistere – ‘stand still’.

The display follows the heritage site having been targeted by Just Stop Oil eco zealots earlier this week.

Normally, visitors aren’t allowed to touch the sacred stones but this rule is lifted on the Summer Solstice, when around 8,000 people normally attend.

Members of the public and modern-day Druids gathered for the Summer Solstice this morning

Members of the public and modern-day Druids gathered for the Summer Solstice this morning

People gather around the Heel Stone ahead of sunrise, as they take part in the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in Wiltshire this morning

People gather around the Heel Stone ahead of sunrise, as they take part in the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in Wiltshire this morning

Gorgeous views of the sunrise this morning as people gathered at Stonehenge

Gorgeous views of the sunrise this morning as people gathered at Stonehenge

People gather at Stonehenge in Wiltshire during sunrise, as they welcome the Summer Solstice this morning with enthusiastic cheers

People gather at Stonehenge in Wiltshire during sunrise, as they welcome the Summer Solstice this morning with enthusiastic cheers

People watch the sun rise, as they take part in the Solstice at Stonehenge this morning

People watch the sun rise, as they take part in the Solstice at Stonehenge this morning

Normally, visitors aren't allowed to touch the sacred stones but this rule is lifted on the Summer Solstice, when around 8,000 people normally attend

Normally, visitors aren’t allowed to touch the sacred stones but this rule is lifted on the Summer Solstice, when around 8,000 people normally attend

Those who woke up early to observe the spectacle at the neolithic structure in Wiltshire encountered a chilly morning accompanied by misty fields but gathered to take photos

Those who woke up early to observe the spectacle at the neolithic structure in Wiltshire encountered a chilly morning accompanied by misty fields but gathered to take photos

Thousands from all over the globe attended this morning, with many dressing up in honour

Thousands from all over the globe attended this morning, with many dressing up in honour

A person touches one of the stones as they take part in the Summer Solstice just a few days after it was coated in bright orange paint

A person touches one of the stones as they take part in the Summer Solstice just a few days after it was coated in bright orange paint

People gathered in the centre of Stonehenge last night in preparation

People gathered in the centre of Stonehenge last night in preparation

Wiltshire Police said a man in his 70s and a woman in her 20s were bailed after being arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, damaging an ancient monument and deterring a person from engaging in a lawful activity.

Many of the attendees at the event expressed frustration and disapproval at the protest.

Sally Ann Spence, an archaeology enthusiast who dressed as a shaman dug up from the Mesolithic period which pre-dates Stonehenge, said the solstice is ‘incredibly important’.

‘I understand their cause, I respect their cause. I just wish they hadn’t done that on Stonehenge,’ she said.

‘I think to put anything on the stones is slightly misguided, there are very rare lichens on the stones, it’s a world heritage site.’

She continued: ‘Being here for the solstice and representing a shaman – admittedly, from a different period of time – is a brilliant experience.

‘It’s exciting. It’s very busy at the moment and I’m loving it because I’m using as a chance to talk to people about actual archaeology.’

Laura Debane, who was attending the solstice at Stonehenge for the fifth time, said Just Stop Oil spraying the monument was ‘awful’.

People gather during sunset at Stonehenge as they wait to welcome in the Summer Solstice

People gather during sunset at Stonehenge as they wait to welcome in the Summer Solstice

A man dressed as Arthur Pendragon watches the sun rise, as people take part in the Summer Solstice at dawn today

A man dressed as Arthur Pendragon watches the sun rise, as people take part in the Summer Solstice at dawn today

Crowds seen leaving Stonehenge on the summer solstice after the sunrise today

Crowds seen leaving Stonehenge on the summer solstice after the sunrise today

Summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge as the sun set last night

Summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge as the sun set last night

Thousands gathered in Wiltshire overnight and this morning for the views

Thousands gathered in Wiltshire overnight and this morning for the views

Walter Ross marries Laura Cummings as the sun sets at Stonehenge

Walter Ross marries Laura Cummings as the sun sets at Stonehenge

Revellers gather at Stonehenge, Wiltshire, the evening before the summer solstice

Revellers gather at Stonehenge, Wiltshire, the evening before the summer solstice

People gather during the evening at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, as they wait to welcome in the Summer Solstice at sunrise

People gather during the evening at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, as they wait to welcome in the Summer Solstice at sunrise

People make their way towards Stonehenge in Wiltshire, as crowds cheered on the sunrise

People make their way towards Stonehenge in Wiltshire, as crowds cheered on the sunrise

This year's solstice comes just 24 hours after Just Stop Oil shamelessly desecrated the site

This year’s solstice comes just 24 hours after Just Stop Oil shamelessly desecrated the site

‘If you want to make a protest go somewhere it’s going to mean something, not in a historical place like this because there’s no oil here, it’s sacred ground.’

Ms Debane said she was glad the protest did not ruin the event and people were still able to come out and enjoy it.

Stonehenge is a monument built on the alignment of the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset.

On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone -the ancient entrance to the Stone Circle – and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

It is believed solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.

Summer solstice takes place as one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the sun and the sun reaches its highest position in the sky, ensuring the longest period of daylight for the year.

Video footage posted on social media showed two people, wearing white shirts with Just Stop Oil emblazoned on the front, running up to the ancient monoliths with canisters and spraying paint all over them.

In a heroic attempt to stop the group desecrating the stones, one woman was seen desperately trying to drag the protesters away before other members of the public piled in to help her.

People make their way from the car park to gather during sunset

People make their way from the car park to gather during sunset

Revellers gather at Stonehenge last night in preparation for the solstice

Revellers gather at Stonehenge last night in preparation for the solstice

On the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun rises in perfect alignment with the Heel Stone and Altar Stone of Stonehenge's 5000-year-old circle

On the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun rises in perfect alignment with the Heel Stone and Altar Stone of Stonehenge’s 5000-year-old circle

Visitors have their photo taken as the walk to the stones at Stonehenge

Visitors have their photo taken as the walk to the stones at Stonehenge

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has condemned the attack as a ‘disgraceful act of vandalism to one of the UK’s and the world’s oldest and most important monuments.’

The Prime Minister continued: ‘Just Stop Oil should be ashamed of their activists, and they and anyone associated with them, including a certain Labour Party donor, should issue a condemnation of this shameful act immediately.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ‘Just Stop Oil are pathetic’ after activists from the group targeted Stonehenge.

In a tweet, he wrote: ‘The damage done to Stonehenge is outrageous. Just Stop oil are pathetic. Those responsible must face the full force of the law.’

Historian Tom Holland, who has previously hailed Stonehenge as one of Europe’s most precious prehistoric sites, also criticised the attack.

He wrote on X: ‘Parade your concern for the planet by destroying endangered lichens. Sympathy transmuted into utter loathing.’

English Heritage said experts were assessing the ‘extent of the damage’ on the stones.

A spokeswoman said: ‘Orange powdered paint has been thrown at a number of the stones at Stonehenge.

‘Obviously, this is extremely upsetting and our curators are investigating the extent of the damage. Stonehenge remains open to the public.’

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