Thousands of travellers, gypsies and tourists have arrived in the picturesque town of Appleby-in-Westmorland for its annual horse fair, which takes place this year from 2-8 June.

The world's biggest gathering of its kind, the Cumbria-based fair is expected to attract about 5,000 travellers and thousands of visitors.

The Appleby Horse Fair has existed under the protection of a charter granted by James II since 1685, and is nowadays one of the key gathering points for the Romany, gypsy and travelling community, particularly those from the British Isles. The fair is attended by around 5,000 travellers who come to socialise and to buy and sell horses.

The fair is held in the Cumbrian market town every year in early June. Travellers come from all over the isles to buy and sell horses, meet friends and potential wives or husbands, and celebrate Romany culture. The horses are washed in the River Eden and groomed before being ridden at high speed along the 'mad mile' for the viewing of potential buyers. This year's fair gets under way today, and IBTimes UK shares some of the sights from the first day.

Appleby horse fair
Jeff Nesham rides Bentley through the River Eden during the Appleby Horse FairChristopher Furlong/Getty
Appleby horse fair
Under a clear blue sky, members of the traveller community lead their horses into the River EdenPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
A young traveller washes a horse in the River Eden during the horse fair in Appleby-in-WestmorlandPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
A traveller washes his horse in the River Eden in Appleby-in-Westmorland, CumbriaChristopher Furlong/Getty
Appleby horse fair
A woman rides a horse through Appleby-in-Westmorland during the annual eventChristopher Furlong/Getty
Appleby horse fair
Members of the traveller community ride horse drawn buggies into Appleby-in-WestmorlandPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
Members of the traveller community ride into Appleby-in-Westmorland in a traditional caravanPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
Members of the traveller community ride a horse-drawn buggy during the horse fair in ApplebyPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
Members of the traveller community wash their horses in the River EdenPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
A farrier shoes a horse in Appleby-in-WestmorlandPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
Members of the traveller community bring their horses to the River Eden during the horse fairPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
Members of the traveller community and their horses are reflected in the River EdenPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
Travellers and their horses gather outside a fish and chip shop in Appleby-in-WestmorlandChristopher Furlong/Getty
Appleby horse fair
A member of the traveller community rides a horse along the road during the annual fair in Appleby-in-WestmorlandPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
Members of the traveller community talk as they stand by a traditional caravan during the horse fair in Appleby-in-WestmorlandPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
A man and two children ride into Appleby on a pony-drawn buggyPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
A man bathes a white pony in the River EdenPhil Noble/Reuters
Appleby horse fair
Men rest in the shade during the Appleby Horse FairChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
Appleby horse fair
Travellers arrive in Appleby with their bow top caravansChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
Appleby horse fair
Children ride a pony and trap through ApplebyChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
Appleby horse fair
A man enjoys the warm weather as he carries his baby daughter during the Appleby Horse FairChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
Appleby horse fair
Members of the traveller community allow their horses to cool off in the River EdenPhil Noble/Reuters