When is the best time to visit UK & Ireland?
It’s no secret that the British love to talk about the weather! Despite being a nation that can experience sun, rain and wind all in one day, it’s rare to see extreme conditions in the UK. A mild climate makes it possible to visit all year round, although summer is by far the most popular time.
What you hope to experience will likely influence when you book your trip. July through August is the busiest period, as it’s when locals are on vacation and when many big events and festivals take place. December is also one of the best times to visit the UK & Ireland thanks to festive markets and big New Year’s Eve celebrations in the cities.
While it may be one of the chilliest months, January is also the best time to visit Scotland thanks to numerous celebratory events.
- Enjoy Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (New Years Eve)
- Celebrate Mark Burn’s Night in Scotland by eating haggis, enjoying a wee dram of whiskey and reciting poetry by Robert Burns
Cooler weather often brings snow across the UK and Ireland in February. It tends to be one of the quietest months to visit, so why not take advantage of fewer crowds at popular city attractions?
- Escape the chill at a spa retreat at Bath
The climate can still be quite cold and rainy in March, although there’ll be a few sunny spells.
- Celebrate St Patrick’s Day Festival on March 17 at Dublin, Ireland
The official start of Spring in the UK and a wonderful time to view blooming daffodils and tulips, especially in rural idylls like the Cotswolds. It’s also calving season and the countryside is brimming with little lambs!
- Witness the annual London marathon with 40,000+ participants
May is ideal for discovering the UK and Ireland in relative peace and quiet before the official start of high season in June. Two Bank Holiday weekends and the promise of sunshine can make cities and coastal regions extra busy in May.
- Visit Ireland’s famous fortresses in Kilkenny and Killarney
June, as well as often being warm and sunny, hails the beginning of the UK festival season. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets for Glastonbury, combine a weekend of music with an excursion to Stonehenge and Salisbury. London’s leafy parks and castles also host many exciting events.
- Sway to the rhythms of the Glastonbury Festival
- Witness outdoor theater performances and shows at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival – London
Sports fans will be in their element in July thanks to three major events that take place at this time. It’s also a great month to enjoy the sunny outdoors, especially at the Lake District.
- Watch the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament live in London
- Travel to Northamptonshire and watch the British Grand Prix
August is typically the hottest month of the year and a great time to travel to Edinburgh for its world-famous Fringe Festival. You could also escape the city heat for sightseeing and punting in Oxford and Cambridge.
- Witness the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – the largest arts festival in the world
- See the sound systems and parade bands at the Notting Hill Carnival in London
- Witness the purple Scottish Heather blooms in the Highlands
Temperatures usually start to drop in September, however, it’s not uncommon for the UK to experience an Indian Summer.
- Sample authentic Scottish cuisine at Loch Lomond Festival
- Enjoy coastal walks and wild swimming in the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
While heavy rain isn’t uncommon in October, it’s a great month to admire colorful fall foliage in places like the stunning Lake District. If you’re a fan of all things spooky, you’ll find many UK and Irish cities hold exciting Halloween events, including Derry that’s home to Europe’s largest celebration of All Hallows’ eve.
- Celebrate Halloween in Derry with parades and fireworks
Don’t miss the St. Andrew’s Day Torchlight Parade in Glasgow or Guy Fawkes Night on November 5. A big date in the British calendar, it sees impressive firework shows in cities and large bonfires lit up in towns and villages across England. Great for keeping warm when the temperatures begin to dip!
- See the night sky lit up on Guy Fawkes Day / Bonfire Night in England
- Witness the color, celebration, markets and fireworks at St Andrew’s Day Parade in Scotland
The weather is usually quite mild in December, although you may experience a few cold days. Get in the festive spirit with a visit to London’s Winter Wonderland or experience the more traditional charms of Edinburgh and Bath’s Christmas markets. If you’re keen to see the Northern Lights, you should journey north to Inverness and the surrounding Highlands.
- Go ice skating at Somerset House in London, England
- Eat, drink and make merry at Christmas Markets
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Climate in the UK and Ireland
Like most European regions, the UK – made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and Ireland, experience four distinct seasons. The warmest is between May and August when temperatures are usually around 70°F during the day. It’s possible for it to either be overcast or for there to be hot weather that lasts for several days. Spring is the most picturesque season, as you’ll see beautiful flowers blooming in fields and gardens across all five countries. Autumn is also a very colorful season and a pleasant time for a vacation, especially if the UK is having an ‘Indian Summer’, when the warmer weather lasts into September and October.
While the climate is similar throughout the UK & Ireland, there can be some differences depending on which region you choose to visit.
London and England’s southern counties are typically warmer than the rest of the UK. They get some of the hottest weather during the summer and typically less snow in the winter.
Central and North England
As a general rule, it’s usually always cooler further north. Summers are milder and rain is common throughout the year. Fresh breezes are typical in coastal cities like Liverpool, while you’ll see snow in the middle of winter in more rural areas.
The smallest country in the British Isles is also a hotspot for hikers, thanks to its beautiful scenery and temperate weather. Temperatures never get too hot in the summer, but there can be a lot of rain around Snowdonia National Park.
Scotland typically has a cooler climate than the rest of the UK, however, you can still expect some warm days in the summer. It usually snows in the winter, especially in more mountainous regions. You’ll need to keep an eye on the forecast if you’re planning a trip to the Highlands or islands during this period.
In general, you’ll find Ireland has quite mild spring and autumn seasons, while winter brings icy conditions and often means many attractions are closed.
The weather here is very similar to neighboring Ireland, with July and August the hottest months. Summer can be quite humid, so late spring tends to be the best time to visit if you want fair yet comfortable weather. It can rain at any time in Northern Ireland cities like Belfast, although, due to coastal breezes, winters are usually mild.
What to Pack for UK and Ireland
If you’ve decided to visit the UK and Ireland in the summer, the slightly unpredictable climate means you should pack for every kind of weather just in case. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat if you’re going to be outdoors, as the UV can be strong, even through clouds.
As rain can fall at any time of the year in the UK, make sure you bring a raincoat and an umbrella. Comfortable and sturdy shoes are essential, whether you’re exploring London, walking on the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh or in the rugged Irish countryside. In winter, you’ll want warm clothing, hats, boots and scarves.
If you’re still not sure what the best time to visit the UK and Ireland is for you, we’re always happy to help you decide. Discover the best of the UK and Ireland on a private and tailor-made tour with us.
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