Thursday, 12 November 2009

Springtime in England

Sonja's thinking of coming to the UK next year, and wants to know when would be a good time of year to come. Here are my thoughts, but I know there are other Brits who read this blog, and I'm sure she'd appreciate your thoughts too if you want to leave a comment.

You can NEVER guarantee the weather over here, but we quite often have good weather in late spring or early autumn. This year we had an absolutely rotten summer, but we had mini-heatwaves in both April and May, and September and October were also very pleasant. Spring is beautiful in many of the tourist areas, with places like Bath and York absolutely bursting with daffodils. The colours of autumn are also beautiful, especially once you get out of the cities.

If you want to avoid peak travel times, try to avoid Easter. All the schools are off for two or three weeks then, and we get loads of visitors from the Continent as well – London is crawling with huge crowds of German, Spanish and French teenagers for a couple of weeks at Easter, and for quite a lot of July and August.

Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays, so lots of places will be shut. We also have national holidays on the first and last Mondays in May. Most British people spend the majority of their time on those bank holidays sitting in their cars in traffic jams, because everyone tries to head for the same places as soon as they have a day off work. This is particularly true if the sun is shining, when everyone packs a picnic and tries to head for the beach.

Different local authorities have slightly different dates for school holidays, but with Easter falling on 4 April next year, I would avoid the first two weeks of April. Some schools don’t go back until 20 April.

Also, try to avoid half-term, which is usually the last week of May or first week of June – again, the schools are off then (just for a week), and tourist areas can get very crowded. Most local authorities have already published their term dates online, so you could google the dates once you’ve sort of decided on them, just to make sure you’re not hitting any school holidays.

Another time of year when rain is almost guaranteed is the last week of June and first week of July. This is Wimbledon fortnight, and almost invariably the tennis is disrupted by rain. We quite often get some good sun in between the rain showers - and therein lies the biggest problem with a holiday in England. If you're here in the summer, you need to pack shorts, t-shirts, long trousers, sweaters, a raincoat and a brolly and be prepared for all eventualities.

Maybe this is why I think late spring or early autumn are the best times to come - when the sun is shining, both seasons are beautiful, and it's all the more appreciated because the sunshine is not guaranteed.

Come here for the history, the beautiful countryside, the theatres, the famous British sense of humour, to listen to our cute accents, even for the food - but don't come here for the weather.


  1. Okay, our first plan was to come right after Easter because DH has the week off (say April 5-16ish). Perhaps we will need to readjust. Do you know if it is equally as crowded in Scotland or Ireland during those first 2 weeks of April? If not, maybe we could start there and move to England on the later half of the trip? Our other thought was to push it to September but I had been wanting to see the green, flowering spring that I have heard is so gorgeous.

  2. A lot of people do come in the Easter holidays, so if that was your plan, I'm sure you could have a wonderful time then. The crowds of European teenagers turn up wherever there are lots of language schools - London, York and Bath are the main places I can think of, as well as various places on the south coast. Scotland is a long way for them to go, so possibly not as bad from that point of view.

    A lot of families go abroad for the Easter holidays, but any sort of family-friendly attraction is likely to be crowded during school holidays. Plus you may find the cost of flights higher then, because it's a time when a lot of people want to travel. If you were flying over here just after Easter, that might coincide with a large number of UK families flying home a few days before the start of term, and that would push the cost up.

    Spring is lovely, though - I don't think the crowds are enough to warrant changing your plans altogether.