Where is the best place to go for weather in Britain?

Now I live in and love Scotland, but I do feel meteorologically disadvantaged here. I reckon that the southeast of England the best place to be (on average) for exciting weather. Here's why.


Where to go for:

The warmest place overall in Britain. Go to the Scilly Isles, with a mean annual temperature of 11.5C.

The coldest (low-level) place overall in Britain. Go to Braemar, with a mean annual temperature of 6.5C.

Summer hot spots. Go to the south of England, particularly the southeast. Not too close to the coast (full of nasty cooling sea breezes). City centres give you urban warming but then who wants to live there? Heathrow airport is reliably warm. The Avon valley, around Cheltenham to Worcester, seems reliably good too: look how often Cheltenham turns up in the records. And then the Thames valley in Oxfordshire often seems to do well. Raunds in Northants turns up in my British extreme weather event pages quite a bit. My native Southampton is good too.

Reliable summer heat (but not too hot). The southwest of England, in the shelter of Dartmoor. No wonder it's called the English Riviera.

Sunny weather. The east. The west is cloudier (prevailing winds). In summer the longer hours of daylight mean that on a good day, the further north you go, the more sunshine you'll get. St Helier on Jersey averages 1917 hours a year; Shanklin on the Isle of Wight 1887 hours; and Worthing (Sussex) 1821 hours. And of course the adverts on the streets here say that Dundee is Scotland's sunniest city (as well as the first city in the UK to use electric lighting, apparently).

Thunderstorms. The south east. I remember reading somewhere that Essex is the best place to be, but Norwich claims to be the thunderstorm capital of Britain. If you want no thunderstorms, go to the northeast. Newcastle is the non-thunderstorm capital of England. Northwest Wales and the far north of Scotland are even worse off.

Winter warmth. The north Welsh coast - the area around Prestyn and Bangor. With a southerly wind this area is reliably warm (and holds the January record) owing to the Fohn effect. Similarly the NE coast of Scotland - the Moray Firth - can have some very warm winter days. Overall though the further south and west you go, the warmer it is. The Scilly Isles and Cornish and Devon coasts will be mild and tend to have fewer frosts than most locations.

Summer cold nights. The famous frost hollow at Rickmansworth, Herts., is the place to go - unless you want a trip to the valleys of the Scottish mountains and Scottish Glens.

Winter snow. The Scottish mountains. Some parts of the Cairngorms reliably keep some snow all year. Tomintoul is supposed to be snowiest settlement in the UK, with around 100 snowfall days a year.

Winter cold. You'd think the further north the colder wouldn't you? But for winter cold, you usually find that the southeast, more prone to incursions of cold continental air, is better. Again, stay away from the coast, where the sea this time has a warming effect. For record cold, the Welsh borders and Scottish glens are good bets. (See Braemar, below.) Rickmansworth (Herts.) is another notorious frost pocket.

Overall warmth. Penzance and the Isles of Scilly average 11.5C across the years.

Overall cold. The coldest regularly habited place in Britain is probably Braemar in the Grampian region of Scotland. It's in a nice little frost hollow. This has twice set a British all time low record (-27.2 on 11.2.1895, and 10.1.82). On the latter of these two dates the maximum the following day was only -19.1. Furthermore, the year average is only 6.5C.

The driest place. Easy: the southeast again, and East Anglia. The driest place in the country is supposed to be Lee Wick Farm, St. Osyth (Essex), near Clacton, averaging just 513 mm. Grays Thurrock (Essex) and south of Wisbech (Cambs.) have similar averages. All these claims about very specific locations should be treated with a grain of salt; some places might be drier (or wetter), but have no station there; the accuracy of measuring devices might vary; and there might be some variation in the way in which measurements are taken.

The wettest place. There is a west-east gradient, so the west tends to wetter than the east. Mountains are good too: try the Lake District, or southwest Scotland. The Western Isles rarely suffer from prolonged drought, either. The wettest place on average is Styhead Tarn (Cumbria), averaging 4,391 mm. The wettest place in England is in the hills of SW Cumbria; in Wales, it is in the NW, near Blaenau Ffestiniog (Gwynedd) and Capel Curig (Conwy), and in Scotland, somewhere around Ben Nevis. The wettest sizeable habitation is Seathwaite near Borrowdale in the Lake District (with 3,300 mm a year), and the wettest large city is probably Swansea. Among the larger English cities and towns, the rainiest places are Rochdale, Burnley, and Bolton; and in Scotland, Greenock, Paisley, and East Kilbride.

Wind. Exposed headlands (particularly in the west) and mountains.

So where would I live in Britain for the most interesting weather? Scotland is too cold in summer for my liking, and doesn't have enough thunderstorms. The east of Scotland has the further disadvantage of not having enough heavy rain. I am torn between two locations: Southampton and Cambridge. I've lived in both, and commend them to you for the weather: for summer heat, winter cold, drought, heavy rain, and thunder.

And where is the least interesting? I have a sneaking suspicion that it's where I live right now.


The best place to live in Britain for the weather