Very early risers gathered at Castlerigg stone circle yesterday morning before the crack of dawn, to celebrate the longest day of the year.

The sun rose above Cumbria at 4.33am on the summer solstice – and was greeted by a carnival atmosphere as spectators from as far away as Manchester and Preston, as well as all parts of this county, came together to celebrate its appearance.

One of those among the crowd was Catherine Leary, 50, who has been there every year for the last 20 years.

“We had people from all different backgrounds,” she said: “You see some of the same faces coming and some new ones, all enjoying it.

“It’s got a really happy energy to it. People are together enjoying nature and this beautiful Lake District we live in.”

Catherine, from Frizington, was camping there with friends, so woke up just before the sun rose.

“We got to sleep at about three in the morning, and had about an hour’s kip,” she said.

“It’s tends to be busier when it’s close to a weekend. If it’s in the middle of the week it’s much less busy.”

But she finds the weather makes little difference to turnout.

“We’ve always had a mix of weathers. This year was one of the coldest for a long time.”

The celebrations are always popular with modern-day pagans, druids and others interested in ancient ways of looking at the world.

Catherine is a practitioner of therapeutic shamanism – a view that everything contains a spirit and so we are all connected.

“There was a druid this year who did a beautiful ceremony where everyone held hands around a circle. It was a lovely atmosphere to be part of.”

The sun didn’t set until 9.54pm last night, so was aloft for 17 hours and 21 minutes.

Daylight hours will now decrease by about 15 minutes per week until the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice on Sunday, December 22, when there will be only seven hours 11 minutes of daylight.