The Best Time to Visit the United Kingdom

Peak District morning view, Hope valley, England.
john finney photography / Getty Images

The best time to visit the United Kingdom is in the spring or fall. In April and May, the countryside bursts into bloom with a chaos of wildflowers; if you avoid the Easter school vacations, you'll find many of the best spots uncrowded and the prices reasonable. It's still mild in September and October, but if you don't mind cold weather, you can't beat December. The British do Christmas and New Year like nobody else—the festive buzz is irresistible.

This guide will help you plan to get the best of every season.

Popular Events and Festivals

Music festivals and special events happen all year round, but some of the biggest attract an enormous international following. Glastonbury and The Isle of Wight festivals are very popular summer music festivals. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the biggest arts festival in the world, takes over Edinburgh for all of August. Accommodations are booked up a year in advance for these.

The Weather in the United Kingdom

The weather in the UK is relatively temperate year-round. Snow is rare, except in the mountains. Winter temperatures throughout the country rarely fall below freezing, even in Scotland; however, during the winter months, rain, humidity, and wind can make temperatures of 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit seem much colder. Older, charming accommodations are often drafty and cold for American tastes. Bring layers: They were invented for Britain's climate.

Summer has been warmer in recent years with record highs in the 90s and even 100s. As a rule, June, July, and August average in the high 60s to mid-70s. Scotland can be as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than London.

Peak Season in the United Kingdom

It's easier to identify the "off-season" in the UK than it is to define the peak season. From mid-January through March, the weather is awful, so prices do tend to be at their lowest. A lot of attractions close for annual maintenance. Otherwise, popular seasons extend from mid-March to early January. School vacations are the busiest; if crowds bother you, avoid coming during Easter and the months of July and August. However, prices don't change much throughout most of the year.

January

Once the Christmas and New Year's festivities die down, this is the true off-season. Prices are down and the weather is grim. On the upside, many of the museums stage special exhibitions at this slow time of year.

Events to check out:

  • Hogmanay: The Scottish New Year celebrations kick off the month with torchlight parades, fireworks, and indoor and outdoor concerts that last for days.
  • Up Helly Aa: A mad Viking fire festival ends the month in Lerwick, Shetland, one of Scotland's many January Fire Festivals.

February

Find yourself a place to curl up with your significant other by a fireplace and forget the not-so-great outdoors. Temperatures average between the mid-30s and 40s Fahrenheit. The rainiest months are behind us now, but sunny days are still pretty rare. This is a good time of year for an indoor break in a romantic hotel.

Events to check out:

  • The Jorvik Viking Festival: This is a celebration of York's Norse heritage with reenactments, parades, craft workshops, and fireworks.
  • Guinness Six Nations Rugby: The annual rugby competition between England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Italy, and France kicks off in February with matches in Cardiff, London, and Edinburgh.

March

The first signs of spring cheer everyone up. Days are noticeably longer, crocuses are blooming, daffodils appear, and urban magnolias bloom. The temperatures range from the low 40s to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Events to check out:

  • St Patrick's Day: In the UK, this is as big an event as it is in other major cities of the Irish diaspora. There are festivals and parades in London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Edinburgh.

April

April weather is unpredictable in the UK. While the average is mild and in the mid-50s, temperatures can drop into the 40s, feeling much cooler in windy rain.

Events to check out:

  • The Grand National: England's most iconic steeplechase race takes place at Aintree in Liverpool. People who never gamble often put a small "flutter" on a horse for this race.
  • Shakespeare's Birthday: April 24 is celebrated with festivities in Stratford-upon-Avon.

May

Poets may say that April is the cruelest month, but we think that honor belongs to May. The month is a teaser, almost always marked by long stretches of "unseasonably" warm, sunny weather and finishing with a cold, wet June. Nevermind—this is the best time of year to see English bluebells carpet forest floors.

Events to check out:

June

Most of the weather guides will tell you that June is warm and comfortable with temperatures averaging in the high 60s. However, they can drop into the low 40s, leaving locals and tourists alike wondering what happened to summer. Because June sees the longest days of the year, you can expect 20 hours of daylight in much of the UK.

Events to check out:

  • Royal Ascot: It's a great social and sporting event with ladies in amazing hats and gents in top hats and morning suits cheering on their favorite nags.
  • The Isle of Wight Festival: One of England's big camping and music festivals. With some of the biggest names in music performing, tickets are scarce.
  • Glastonbury: One of the world's great music festivals. In 2020, Taylor Swift headlines and Diana Ross plays the "Legends" slot.
  • Wimbledon: The grand slam lawn tennis championship, two weeks from the end of June.

July

Summer is here at last. Expect reliably warm weather and lots of dry sunshine. Temperatures range from the mid-70s to the mid-80s.

Events to check out:

August

August is slightly cooler than July. Daytime temperatures reach the 70s, while mornings and evenings are cool. If you don't need a sweater or a light jacket in the morning, you know the day will be a scorcher. The month is dry and bright.

Events to check out:

  • The Edinburgh Fringe: The world's biggest, open-access multi-arts festival takes over most of Edinburgh for most of August.
  • Cowes Week: As many as 1,000 sailboats crowd Isle of Wight's harbors to take part in up to 40 races a day during the world's biggest regatta.
  • Bristol International Balloon Fiesta: If you can get a spot, stand on Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge to watch this fab event.

September

September is mild and autumnal. Daytime temperatures average between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with evenings turning chillier.

Events to check out:

October

It's a bit colder and a bit wetter, especially in the west of Scotland and west Wales. Average temperatures are between 44 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

Events to check out:

November

This is one of the coldest, wettest months, with constant gray skies and days so short people turn their lights on by 3 p.m.

Events to check out:

December

Daylight lasts under 8 hours between sunrise and sunset on average—even less in Scotland. This is a very dark month. All the better to enjoy the sparkly big deal that's the British holiday season. All of Britain's cities have fabulous Christmas lights, spectacular shop windows, and big Christmas markets.

Events to check out:

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