The United Kingdom has a predominantly oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb). Much of Scotland has a subpolar oceanic (Köppen Cfc) climate along with the interior uplands of the rest of the United Kingdom. Scottish highlands have a continental subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc), and mountains experience tundra climate (Köppen ET). The United Kingdom lies off the northwestern coast of continental Europe and includes England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and many small islands. The Atlantic Ocean surrounds the United Kingdom to a large extent, with the North Sea, the English Channel, and the Celtic Sea to the east, south, and southwest, respectively. The Atlantic Ocean and temperate latitudes have a significant influence on the climate of the region.
The United Kingdom lies in the high latitudes between 49°N and 61°N and has a massive coastline of 11,073 miles. Much of England has a flat terrain, with the highest point at 978 meters on Scafell Pike. The Thames, Humber, and Severn are the major rivers of England. Scotland has a mainly mountainous topography in its north and west, and lowlands in the south and east. Ben Nevis is the highest point in Scotland and the British Isles at 1345 meters. Wales is mountainous in the north, which has the highest peak of Snowdon at 1085 meters. The Irish Sea and North Channel separate the mostly hilly Northern Ireland from the island of Great Britain. Slieve Donard is the highest peak at 852 meters in Northern Ireland. Lake Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the British Isles with an area of 150 square miles.
The Polar Jet Stream frequently collides with the United Kingdom and causes frequent changes in weather. A single day can see many weather patterns, yet the climate is mainly cold, cloudy, and rainy. Summers are warm in Scotland and Northern Ireland but tend to be hot in southern England. Temperatures above 27.2°C (81°F) occur in many places and reach above 30°C (86°F) in London and southeast England. Winters are cold and wet in the United Kingdom, with cloudy skies and windy conditions. Much of the country receives light snowfall except for the Scottish Highlands and the Pennines, where it is significant. Temperatures remain mostly between -10°C (14°F) to 15°C (59°F), and the Atlantic Ocean waters are at their coldest of the year. Spring is cool and calm, with a fair chance of snow in the early season. Freezing temperatures are not unusual in March, and early spring occasionally experiences the coldest temperatures of the winter. Autumn frequently produces unsettled weather due to the mixing of the cold and warm air masses. An Indian Summer sometimes occurs in September when the conditions feel like an extension of the summer.
The rainfall varies significantly by latitude and altitude in the United Kingdom and is more on the western coasts. The precipitation occurs throughout the year but is maximum during the autumn and winter seasons. The driest regions, such as Essex and South Suffolk, receive between 381mm (15") to 508mm (20") of rain annually. The wettest place is Crib Goch, in Snowdonia, with an annual average precipitation of 4470.4mm (176"). The average annual sunshine in the United Kingdom is a lowly 1340 hours due to the high latitudes and influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The warm Gulf Stream current is responsible for raising the temperatures by -9.4°C (15.1°F) to -6.7°C (19.9°F) in the winter. Foggy nights are standard in the interior during the winter. The western shores are windy and rainy compared to the eastern coasts. Strong winds prevail mostly from the southwest and are strongest near the western coasts of the United Kingdom.
The highest recorded temperature in the United Kingdom is 38.7°C (101.7°F), set on July 25, 2019, in Cambridge, England. The lowest recorded temperature of -27.2°C (-17°F) occurred on January 10, 1982, in Braemar, Scotland, and December 30, 1995, in Altnaharra, Scotland.
The best time to visit United Kingdom
The best time to visit the United Kingdom is during the warm summer season from June to August. June is an excellent month across Great Britain, with less rain and a cool atmosphere. The country is in full bloom, and there are frequent sunny periods along with cloudy ones. July and August are pleasantly warm in the mid-summer season in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Atlantic Ocean is cold, with average sea temperatures at 12.8°C (55°F) in Scotland and 17.2°C (63°F) in the English Channel. The second half of May also has fair weather in the central and southern regions.
The worst time to visit United Kingdom
The worst time to visit the United Kingdom, if there is any, is during the cold winter season. The skies are gray and often cloudy from December to February, and the daylight lasts for only a few hours. The low temperatures occasionally drop below the freezing mark, with periods of snow and frost. Scotland and the highlands need layered clothing, with gloves, a hat, and a scarf. The early part of winter sees gusts of wind that blow at speeds above 50 miles per hour on the western coasts. Ski-lovers love the winter and take advantage of the heavy snow in the mountains.
The United Kingdom is vulnerable to weather hazards in the form of wildfires, floods, droughts, blizzards, hurricanes, storms, and earthquakes. Heatwaves and droughts occasionally occur, such as those in 2003 and 2006. Forest fires regularly occur during the summer in the dry parts of the south. Mountains often face polar lows that deposit heavy snow and experience blizzards, particularly in Scotland. Frost and ice can damage flowering plants in the spring. Hurricane-force winds, with speeds more than 74 miles per hour, frequently blow in the autumn. Late autumn is particularly prone to storms, such as the Great Storm of 1987 or that in October 2002.
Weather in January
January is the coldest month of the year in the United Kingdom, with cloudy skies and rain. Precipitation is in the form of rain, snow, and ice in most of the country. London, the capital, in the south-central region, sees cold and foggy nights, with a fair amount of rain. Glasgow receives the highest rainfall of the year at 154.9mm (6.1") in January and registers average temperatures in the cold 1.1°C (34°F) to 6.1°C (43°F) range. Winters are relatively mild south-western England and free of snow. Plymouth, Devon, and Cornwall are candidates for a winter sojourn, with temperatures in the 3.9°C (39°F) to 8.9°C (48°F) zone. Expect moderate snowfall in many regions and heavy snow deposits in the highlands. Much of the United Kingdom receives less than a couple of hours of sunshine in January.
Weather in February
February is a cold winter month in the United Kingdom, with cloudy and gray skies amid less than 2 hours of daily sunshine. Belfast, on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, is cold and rainy, with average temperatures in the 2.2°C (36°F) to 7.8°C (46°F) zone. Sea temperatures are below a cold 7.2°C (45°F). Newcastle, in northeast England, registers average temperatures in the range of 1.1°C (34°F) to 6.1°C (43°F) and has many freezing nights in February. The CairnGorm Mountain in Scotland registers freezing temperatures in the -6.1°C (21°F) to -2.2°C (28°F) zone but has plenty of snow for ski-lovers. The adjoining national park is the best place to watch and even feed reindeer herds in the winter. Pack a sweater, rain cum wind jacket, gloves, a hat, and a scarf for the highlands. Winter surfing is adventurous in Cornwall, with hollow, fast waves that excite daredevils. Drink something warm and curl up indoors. Expect cold and wet weather in February that generally keeps visitors away from the United Kingdom.
Weather in March
March arrives in the United Kingdom with a hope to end the cold winter. The spring season begins during the period of the Spring Equinox, which usually falls on March 20. The temperatures are warmer than the winter but cooler than the summer. Liverpool, on the west coast, registers average temperatures in the 3.9°C (39°F) to 8.9°C (48°F) range, with daily sunshine of 3 hours. Cardiff is slightly warm in the zone of 3.9°C (39°F) to 11.1°C (52°F) with 4 hours of daily sunshine. The seawater temperatures in Swansea and much of the Atlantic Ocean are not favorable for swimming and remain below 8.9°C (48°F) in March. Wildflowers begin to bloom in the countryside and hilly regions. Although the sun appears in the sky frequently, there are many wet periods followed by cold ones. Rain jackets offer protection during outdoor activities in the spring season. Budget travelers find the shoulder season of early spring full of mouth-watering discounts on travel and accommodations. The temperatures rise gradually to end March in mild conditions in the United Kingdom.
Weather in April
April brings comfortable spring weather to the United Kingdom, as the temperatures rise gradually. The average temperatures are in the mild range of 6.1°C (43°F) to 12.8°C (55°F) in Southampton and Brighton, in the far south. Much of the country sees light rainfall and partly cloudy skies. Spring is a great time to be in the countryside, with frequent sunshine, blooming flowers, and animal sightings. April showers are common due to the unpredictable nature of the weather that sees bright sunshine quickly giving way to cloudy skies. Bluebell woods are awash with blues, greens, and purples, and the best-wooded spots are in Stourhead in Dorset and Godolphin in Cornwall. Green rolling hills, bluebells, wildflowers, and medieval castles offer unmatched joy under the blue skies and warm conditions of spring. Scottish castles appear particularly elegant under the lazy sunshine. Most of the beaches remain cold for swimming, but sailing is an equally enjoyable alternative. April is a comfortable time for a visit to the United Kingdom.
Weather in May
May is sunny and beautiful in the United Kingdom, with pleasant conditions everywhere. Blue skies often greet the visitors as the rain takes a backseat. The long daylight hours are excellent to spend through the narrow, winding country roads in the heart of the country. Watch frolicking lambs across the countryside and spot badgers that are out of hibernation. Walking, bicycling, and hiking are popular in the sunny days of May, and there is always a hill close by to scale and view the green landscape below. The average high temperatures scale in the beautiful 10°C (50°F) to 21.1°C (70°F) in much of the country. The daily sunshine increases to at least 6 hours everywhere, and the daylight lasts for more than 14 hours. The spring season bubbles with events, festivals, and fun activities. The rain is light but not absent, especially on the western coasts. The northern regions and seawaters are cold even in the late spring season. Expect crowds everywhere by the second half of May in the United Kingdom.
Weather in June
June is a lovely month that begins the warm and relatively dry summer season in the United Kingdom. The average temperatures are in the pleasant range of 7.2°C (45°F) to 23.9°C (75°F) in most of the regions, with more than 7 hours of beautiful sunshine. Nights are cool in Scotland and Northern Ireland compared to Wales and England. Sea temperatures in the Irish Sea rarely go above 12.2°C (54°F), but those in southern England rarely fall below 13.9°C (57°F). Although the water is a little cold for swimming, surfing and water skiing attract many followers. Cruises ply with full capacity during the sunny days of June. Gusty winds occasionally affect the plans, but extended periods of calm weather are the hallmark of June. Festivals, such as the Edinburgh Fringe, abound the summer and bring cheer to the crowds. A light jacket is useful during brief showers that appear suddenly and go away quickly. The sunny weather in June is too good an opportunity to miss for visitors to the United Kingdom.
Weather in July
July is the sunniest month in the United Kingdom, with long days and mild to cool nights. The sunset occurs after 9 p.m. in many regions, especially in the southern parts of the country. The average high temperatures are in the range of 15.6°C (60.1°F) to 21.1°C (70°F) in many places and occasionally touch 32.2°C (90°F) in the south. London temperatures often soar past 23.9°C (75°F) during the day. July is among the driest periods in the country. The skies are mostly clear, and the rainfall is negligible but not absent. A trip down the Thames on a mid-summer afternoon is a perfect getaway in the summer. The countryside is full of ancient woodlands that offer pin-drop silence and verdant greenery that cherishes the soul. The climate is seldom harsh, but wear sun protection while wearing light and short summer clothes. Stargazing opportunities are abundant under the clear July nights in the United Kingdom.
Weather in August
August is warm and beautiful in the United Kingdom, with light rain showers in mostly sunny days. Cardiff is at its best in the warm zone of 12.8°C (55°F) and 22.2°C (72°F), with 6 hours of daily sunshine. The Scottish Highlands in Glen Ogle are cold and windy, with average temperatures in the 7.8°C (46°F) to 13.9°C (57°F) range. The seawater temperatures near the Shetland Islands reach 12.2°C (54°F) and 17.2°C (63°F) in the English Channel near Cornwall. The warm summer is a perfect time to explore the national parks and go for boat rides in the lake, river cruises, and ocean explorations. Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh is a comfortable hike, with unobstructed views of Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument in the bright sunshine. The weather is pleasantly warm, and the extended daylight increases the appetite. Go for an afternoon tea in Cornwall, Devon, London, or anywhere in the country to satiate appetites after outdoor explorations. Wear a jacket while hiking in the windy mountains. August offers beautiful weather to visitors to the United Kingdom.
Weather in September
September brings the beautiful autumn season to the United Kingdom, with a splash of colors across the landscape. The trees in the northwest hills and mountains begin to change colors by the second half of September. The southeast is the last region to witness the change in colors. The average temperatures drop to the comfortable range of 8.9°C (48°F) to 17.8°C (64°F) in much of the United Kingdom. The eastern and southern cities like Dundee, Glasgow, and Aberdeen are less windy than the northern and western regions. Precipitation registers an increase in most regions, and the daily sunshine lasts for less than 5 hours. Visits to national parks provide numerous sightings of wild animals in a natural environment. The hunting season is in full swing during the autumn, with the vast population of hare, deer, wild geese, and pheasants. Toast marshmallows, run through pumpkin mazes and pick apples from the orchards in the breezy weather of autumn. September sees a gradual fall in tourist numbers in the United Kingdom.
Weather in October
October is cold in the fall season of the United Kingdom, with increasingly cloudy skies amid a drop in temperatures. The average temperatures in Belfast fall in the range of 7.2°C (45°F) to 12.8°C (55°F), as the city receives only 3 hours of daily sunshine. Plymouth, in the south, is still mild, with temperatures in the zone of 8.9°C (48°F) to 15°C (59°F) and 114.3mm (4.5") of rainfall. The beautiful autumn paints the landscape with brilliant shades of color. A walk in the forest is full of fun over the carpet of red, orange, and yellow leaves. Get homegrown fruits and vegetables in the harvest season festival in rural settings. Carve pumpkins from the vast mazes for Halloween. Toast marshmallows, build campfires and narrate spooky stories. The Hunter's Moon is typically more orange than the full moon and great for spotting animals after dusk. Carry an umbrella and wear a sweater during outdoor walks. Expect warm days, breezy evenings, and cold nights for the majority of October in the United Kingdom.
Weather in November
November is cloudy, wet, and cold in the United Kingdom in the final phase of the fall season. The daily sunshine lasts hardly for 2 to 3 hours as the days become short. Sunset is earlier due to the quick fading of daylight hours. The average temperatures in Liverpool are in the mild 5°C (41°F) to 10°C (50°F), with 88.9mm (3.5") of precipitation. Glasgow receives more than 127mm (5") of rainfall as temperatures remain below 10°C (50°F) during the day. The highlands receive plenty of snow towards the end of the fall season. Kids enjoy the autumn as they get to jump on crisp piles of leaves in parks and gardens. Brace for cold fronts from the Russian north that travel even south of London. Wind gusts are standard on the western and northern shores. Wear warm clothes during the evenings and carry an umbrella for rain protection. November is usually a great time for budget travelers to visit the United Kingdom, as the weather is bearable, and accommodations are cheaper than the summer.
Weather in December
December is the start of the cold and wet winter in the United Kingdom. The average temperatures in Cardiff in Wales are in the cold zone of 2.8°C (37°F) to 8.9°C (48°F), with hardly 2 hours of daily sunshine. The sky is often cloudy and brings up to 127mm (5") of rainfall in Wales in December, the highest of the year. The Hay-on-Wye is an annual winter weekend festival in Wales, which also includes stalls with local produce. Sip a cider and roast marshmallows to keep warm in the cold weather. Hop into a car and drive to the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland for a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. Secluded bays and rocky lands pose a challenge similar to the cold weather. Wild winter walks in December in the Lake District in Cumbria find few takers in the mist and drizzle but offer unmatched bliss to the soul.