What is the weather like in the UK?

| February 22, 2023
UK Weather

Weather Across the United Kingdom

Broadly speaking, the weather category across the United Kingdom can be described as being temperate oceanic, but this is a broad classification, and there can be significant differences between regions. The United Kingdom is not a single country but a collection of four and includes England and Wales in the southern portion and Scotland and Northern Ireland to the north.

As the United Kingdom stretches approximately 600 miles from the southernmost part of England to the islands off the north coast of Scotland and is alternately mountainous and flat, the weather varies significantly from region to region and from season to season.

Oceanic Influences

The fact that the United Kingdom is basically one large island (with the exception of Northern Ireland, which is geographically part of the island of Ireland) means there are oceanic effects to take into consideration as these will affect onshore winds, temperature and rainfall.

The island of Britain (the United Kingdom without Northern Ireland) is surrounded by various bodies of water, and each of these plays its part in influencing the British weather:

  • The North Sea lies to the east of England and Scotland and is particularly influential on the weather in Scotland and the north of England.
  • To the west, the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea, and most importantly, the North Atlantic Ocean all play a role in weather conditions in Wales and the southwest of England.

Of the four UK countries, it is Scotland’s weather that is most affected by the oceans as the country is exposed to the North Sea along the east coast and the wild Atlantic Ocean to the north. Scotland is also the closest geographically to the arctic and is often subjected to cold snaps and winds as they come down from the polar ice caps.

The southern part of England is generally warmer than the rest of the UK as it is not exposed to any major oceans and is protected by distance from any arctic influences. The English Channel runs along the south coast between England and France but plays no significant role in the weather of the area.

Regional Differences

It would be impossible (and incorrect) to give an exact description of the weather in the United Kingdom as a single entity, as there are many geographical, geophysical and regional differences from south to north. For this reason, it is probably best to divide the United Kingdom into smaller regions and try to ascribe the weather that can normally be expected at different times of the year.


Because England is mostly sheltered from oceanic effects it is generally warmer in both winter and summer than in other parts of the United Kingdom. Further south than other UK countries, England is also sunnier and has less rain on an annual basis. Winters are milder, although storms are not uncommon as the tail ends of Atlantic storms and hurricanes blow in from the North Atlantic.

Summer: Temperatures range from 9 to 18 °C (48°-64°F) with a maximum high of 30°C (86°F). Except under unusual circumstances, summertime weather in England is generally warm and pleasant, with showers not uncommon. July is usually the hottest month of summer which runs from June to the end of August.

Winter: Temperatures can occasionally drop to freezing point (32°F) and below but generally remain between 2°C (36°F) and 7°C (44°F). January is usually named as being the coldest month, but February often sees the lowest temperatures and more cold snaps.


Colder, wetter and windier than the other three UK countries, Scotland’s weather is mainly at the mercy of the surrounding oceans and the cold winds of the Arctic. Classified as having an oceanic climate, it is not unusual for this to be changed to sub-polar oceanic during extreme weather. During winter, the temperature is only slightly above zero Celsius (32°F) on most days, while the summer months see the temperature rise to an average of 17°C (63°F). Temperatures are slightly higher than this in the Central Lowlands, where the oceanic effects are significantly lower. January sees the heaviest rainfall, which can be significantly higher than in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Summer: The months of June, July and August are usually the warmest in Scotland. Daily temperatures average 16°C (60°F), although higher temperatures are not unusual. Due to the northerly location, days are longer in Scotland, with the Shetland Islands receiving almost four hours or more of midsummer daylight than the south of England. However, rain can be expected at any time and particularly on the coast and in the highlands, as Scotland has a higher average rainfall than other parts of the United Kingdom.

Winter: With average temperatures of 5°C (41°F), Scotland is coldest from December to February. Rain can be expected on most days, and snow is not uncommon, particularly in the mountains and highlands, where skiing and snow sports can be enjoyed.


As Wales is further south than both Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is no surprise that the country is warmer and drier than both of those two countries. Summers are warmer, and winters are milder and are comparable to those of England. However, as the country is exposed to the North Atlantic on the western side, Wales experiences higher average annual rainfall than neighbouring England and is more susceptible to strong winds, gales and storms. The Welsh coastline is particularly prone to strong winds, and the mountainous regions of the country receive less sunshine and higher rainfall than the coastal areas.

Summer: Summers are short and mild in Wales, with the best months being July and August. Temperatures hover around the low twenties Celsius (around 70°F) but can reach 27°C (80°F) and over on occasion. Rain can be expected almost any day, especially along the coast or in the mountains, but is usually limited to light showers or drizzle.

Winter: Winter temperatures are typically a few degrees above zero Celsius (32°F) but can dip as low as minus 3°C (26°F) occasionally. Winters are usually described as cold, dark and wet, and rain can be an almost everyday occurrence.

Northern Ireland

The annual average temperature in Northern Ireland is slightly higher than that of Scotland but not quite as high as that of Wales. Rainfall is heaviest in January, but the small country is drier than Wales and Scotland even though rainfall is more frequent, and Northern Ireland experiences more rainy days than any of the other three UK countries. Summers and winters can be described as mild, although cold and rainy spells can (and do) occur due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and polar cold fronts.

Summer: The weather in any part of Ireland, north or south, can best be described as changeable. Summer temperatures usually average around 18° (63°F), but this can vary radically from day to day, with significantly higher temperatures always a distinct possibility. Rain can occur on any day at any time (particularly in July) and should always be expected regardless of the temperature.

Winter: Similar to Wales, winters in Northern Ireland are dark and cold, with average temperatures generally remaining above freezing. However, rain is an almost daily event, and snow is also a possibility in December, January and even February.

In Short

On a yearly basis, the best weather to be found in the whole of the United Kingdom is in the southern part of England, from just north of London to the south coast. As one moves north up through England and Wales to Scotland, average temperatures decrease and rainfall increases. The northern parts of Scotland are the most exposed to the elements and therefore experience the coldest, wettest and harshest weather conditions.