Thousands gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice

STONEHENGE, England, Dec 21 (Reuters) - More than five thousand pagans, druids and revelers gathered at Britain's ancient monument Stonehenge on Wednesday to celebrate the winter solstice.

The sun rose at the sight of the famed standing stones in the southwest English county of Wiltshire at 08:09 GMT, beginning the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

People played musical instruments, while others sang and took photographs of the rising sun which will provide just under eight hours of sunlight on Wednesday, said English Heritage, which protects the historical site.

Thursday marks the start of longer days before the summer solstice in June.

"I am from South Africa, I came for the solstice, especially for the solstice. I am a Pagan, a witch and this is about the best place to be," one woman said. (Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Tom Heneghan)