People from all over the country - England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales - and people from abroad all gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire in the early hours of yesterday morning to welcome in the longest day of the year. 30,000 were at the prehistoric site, the largest crowd since 2003.

But - putting a dampener on those who believe in Global Warming - yesterday was a cold, wet, and miserable day for most parts of Britain....

The soggy solstice: Britain braced for a washout weekend as 30,000 gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the longest day

By Chris Laker
21st June 2008
Daily Mail

Heavy wind and rain failed to dampen the spirits of around 30,000 people from descending on Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice today.

The dismal, soggy conditions may have obscured the view, but the usual mix of Druids, hippies and sun worshippers still joined hands to welcome the rising sun on the longest day of the year.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage said it was the first time for five years that the famous event had attracted such a high number.

The sun tries to break out at the start of the longest day of the year

People meditate in the early morning drizzle on the morning of the summer solstice

As the sun rose at 0458, a cheer went up from the brave crowds who had taken up their positions overnight at the stone circle on the desolate (and eerie at night) Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

Clad in ponchos, black cloaks and makeshift waterproof jackets made from bin-bags, revellers gathered at the Heel stone - a twisted, pock-marked pillar at the edge of the prehistoric monument.

Peter Rawcliffe, 26, cycled to Stonehenge from his home in Oxfordshire more than 50 miles away.

'I've done this for the last three years, I suppose I'm a bit of a closet druid', he said.

Music and dance was just part of the entertainment as thousands waited in anticipation of the mystical moment when the sun rises over the stones

'Summer Solstice brings out the hippie in me. It's a really magical experience.'

A man dressed in a black hooded cloak, who gave the name Cathbad, added: 'It's a beautiful experience.

'It's about celebrating nature, life and what makes the world goes round.

'It's a little bit too heavily organised, with too much intervention from the establishment but I'll still keep coming back. It's all about the feeling you get when the sun bursts through the stone.'

Revellers took to chanting in a bid to beat the damp conditions

However, the bad weather did force some revellers into a rethink and many gave up and left the ancient stone circle well before the sun emerged.

Kate Hawkins, who took her two children along, said: 'We had such a lovely time but the rain got too much. The kids are soaked and we're all a little cold now.

'The thought of bed and a warm bath waiting at home was too tempting.'

The spokeswoman said: 'It's been very wet and soggy. There was a few disappointed people, many streaming out before sunrise, because it was so wet and cold.

'I don't think it will discourage people from coming again, a lot of people still want to come every year. Quite a few people come every year, and are quite hardy.'

The forecast for the coming days is not scheduled to get much better, with a severe weather warning in place for the North West of England today and potential for gusts of up to 65mph in some parts of the country.

Unsurprisingly, the change in weather coincides with the start of this year's Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

While conditions for Monday's opening day of play are set to improve, heavy showers are predicted to return and disrupt play later in the week.

The mist descended on Stonehenge, along with 30,000 revellers
People danced and beat drums as they waited for Saturday's 4.58am sunrise, which starts the longest day of the year