When is the best time of year to visit Great Britain?
The weather can vary greatly from day to day, but generally summer (June-August) is around 14-30 °C, and winter (December-February) can drop to -5°C and not usually climb higher than 5°C. There is quite a difference in temperature between Scotland and Southern England. The Scottish mountains will have snow throughout most of the winter whereas other parts of the UK can see little to no snow at all. Generally, the further south, the warmer you will find it!
Whatever the season, the British weather is liable to change from day to day. This means if the sun’s not out when you wake up, you may still see it later in the day. Britain is beautiful to visit at any time of year but the tourist season peaks out in July and August due to the warmer weather. However, our driest and in some ways the nicest overall time to visit is early Autumn (September).
Spring (March - May)
In spring, it’s easy to think that summer has arrived one day and winter has returned the next. You can enjoy wonderful sunny weather, but it can also be cool, wet or even snowy! Temperatures fluctuate on average from around 6 - 13 °C. Although April and May can have very warm days - up to about 20 °C or higher. Our clocks change towards the end of March onto British Summer time. This makes the evenings much longer and by April time it won't be dark until 8-9pm at night.
Summer (June - Aug)
Most days in summer are warm to hot, but evenings can be cool. Temperatures average around 14 - 30 °C, although it can be up to around 35 °C on some days. Our climate is very humid so warm days can feel much warmer than they really are and many hotels, especially in London are very hot and sticky during the summer so paying that bit extra for air conditioning is recommended. Although often warm, we also get a lot of rain during the summer. Unlike a tropical climate though, it's impossible to predict when, where, how much and for how long. Over the last few years we have had July heatwaves lasting several weeks and July floods which has wreaked havoc on some towns and villages. Travelling in the summer makes warmer, dryer weather likely, but by no means guaranteed.
The great thing about our summers are the long days. On a hot day in July it can be as late as 11pm before it is completely dark which provides these long summer evenings to sit outside and have a drink. The disadvantage is that dawn breaks as early as 3am at some point so you need a good pair of curtains or blinds to stop the light in the morning, especially if you have young children!
Autumn (Sept - Nov)
In autumn there can be very warm days, but equally there can be cool ones too. Temperatures fluctuate around the 7 - 18 °C mark, but are likely to be much warmer and dryer in September than November. Autumn is a beautiful time to visit as the leaves begin to change and fall and it's an incredible time for budding photographers as the light can create spectacular views. In October our clocks change and go back for 1 hour. This provides you with more early light in the mornings but it will begin to get darker much earlier (around 5pm) so this is something to consider for the evenings.
A plus of the dark early evenings into the Christmas season is that by November many Christmas lights will be up and this can provide a really romantic and enjoyable different sort of experience.
Winter (Dec - March)
Winter sees Britain's shortest and coolest days (about 7-8 hours of daylight) but these can be crisp, bright and some of the most beautiful days. Temperatures fluctuate from around -5 to 5 °C. Snow is more likely the further north and away from the coast you go but it's completely unpredictable as to whether a winter will be a 'bad' one with plenty of lovely snow or fairly mild and dry. Be warned though, because snow is not certain and climate is humid, it only takes a few centimetres of snow to bring the entire country to a complete standstill. Our vehicles are not prepared for it with snow tyres so everyone has to travel very slowly and the humidity makes the snow very slushy and slippy unlike the nice fine powder they enjoy in northern Europe. So if travelling in winter and it does snow, be prepared for delays and cancellations. Having said that, if travelling in winter you take time, book into some beautiful country hotels and go with the flow then there is nothing more romantic or beautiful in the world than Britain with a fresh covering of snow, especially around Christmas time!
If you can avoid the British school holidays then we highly recommend that you do. Prices will be lower, all attractions will be considerably less busy and the experience will be all around more enjoyable. London is probably the only place in Britain that has generally better availability and prices during the summer school holidays. Parents who take children out of school for holidays are fined so most parents don't do this making the school holidays very busy.
Although the actual holiday dates vary year on year, by school and by local education authority, the general rules are as follows.
The school year begins at the start of September and runs until a few days before Christmas with a single week off for half term mid-late October.
Winter term begins a few days after new year and runs until Easter (this is usually the biggest variation in dates. Many schools now choosing dates based on term length rather than Easter weekend). Most schools will close towards the end of March for 2 weeks with a single week off mid-late February.
Summer terms usually run mid April until mid-late July with a single week off beginning the last Monday in May.
Other significant dates to consider
National Holidays are always a very busy time of year when prices will naturally increase and attractions will get full much quicker. To make things more complicated, the UK doesn't have the same national holidays throughout so a national holiday in Scotland isn't necessarily the same in Wales!
- New Year's Day*
- 2nd January* (Scotland only
- 17th March, St Patricks Day (Northern Ireland only)
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday (not Scotland)
- First Monday in May
- Last Monday in May
- 12th July, Battle of the Boyne (Northern Ireland only)
- First Monday in August (Scotland only)
- Last Monday in August (not Scotland
- 30th November, St Andrew's Day (Scotland only)
- Christmas Day*
- Boxing Day*
* this is substituted for next available working day if falling on a weekend
Other factors to consider are less predictable such as special events and festivals making particular places busy at particular times. For example, Wimbledon takes place each year for 2 weeks at the end of June, start of July. During this time hotels in the East side of London always go up in price and availability becomes very limited. Equally visiting Edinburgh in August is massively advised against unless you're planning to visit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or Military Tattoo. The same of course is true of New Year as prices in Edinburgh during summer at Hogmanay can more than triple and availability is incredibly limited.
If you're unsure when is the best time to visit and have some flexibility with your dates be sure to chat to our team before booking your flights. We often arrange tours in such a way as to avoid busy dates or events and our team will know how best to make this work for you.