Sun starved Britons have flocking to beaches and parks this morning as the mercury looks set to hit a scorching 86F with parts of the UK basking in temperatures warmer than the Caribbean.
Forecasters are predicting today could be the hottest day of the year – and it could be surpassed on Sunday with highs of 88F.
The balmy weather, driven by a blast of warm air coming in from the Azores in the North Atlantic, has prompted health officials to issue warnings about the dangers of extreme heat.
The sunshine is due to last until so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday, the day when the last of the Covid-19 restrictions are due to be lifted.
London and the South East can expect clear skies and highs of 29C on Saturday with the mercury climbing to between 31C and 32C on Sunday.
And, for a change, it is being shared across the country – with the North Midlands and South Yorkshire hottest today, followed by the South East tomorrow. Meanwhile Monday is expected to see the highest temperatures shift to the West Country.
The heatwave is expected to beat the previous high of 29.7C (85.5F) on June 14 in Teddington, south-west London.
But we are still a long way away from record temperatures for the time of year – 38.7C was recorded at Cambridge Botanical Gardens on July 25 2019.
Top up the suncream and stoke up the barbecue – sunseekers flock to Bournemouth Beach as Britain enters a sweltering weekend which will be as warm as Barbados this weekend
A graphic shows how a sweltering African plume of heat will make its way across the continent this weekend, bringing high temperatures to much of the UK
Early morning beachgoers head to Bournemouth beach on the hottest day of the year, with temperatures expected to soar to 30C (86F)
Early risers take a dip in the sea at Tynemouth Longsands, North Tyneside, on Saturday morning ahead of the hottest day of the year
Early risers relax on sun loungers as Britain prepares for a three day heatwave with temperatures soaring to over 31C (88F)
Met Office meteorologist Simon Partridge told the PA news agency the weather may take people by surprise ‘because so far this summer has not been that great’.
‘Temperatures have generally been below average for quite a while – it’s the difference in temperature in such a short space of time that is the most noticeable.’
He continued: ‘But it will affect most of the UK and that is a little bit more unusual – Scotland and Northern Ireland just got their warmest day of the year.
‘Northern Ireland might get closer to its highest-ever temperature, which to be fair is only just above 30C.’
But a mini-heat wave is definitely on the cards, the Met Office said, before things turn cooler and thundery from the middle of next week.
Early morning sun lovers enjoy Branksome chime beach in Bournemouth on the hottest day of the year on Saturday
Toddler Ellie Phillips enjoys the hot weather in Blackpool on Saturday, expected to be the hottest day of the year with temperatures of 30C
A mini-heat wave is definitely on the cards, the Met Office said, as things turn cooler and thundery from the middle of next week but it has not stopped paddle boarders making the most of the hot weather
Two women enjoy an early morning paddle board, catching the early rays of the sun on what is expected to be the hottest day of the year
Early morning sunseekers enjoy relaxing on Bournemouth beach ahead of the hottest day of the year on Saturday
Two women go paddle boarding as they enjoy the first rays of sun on Tynemouth Longsands as a heatwave spreads across the UK
Alfie the donkey takes 2-year-old Ellie Phillips for a ride down Blackpool beach as Britain experiences a mini-heatwave
For London and the South East to record a heatwave, temperatures must exceed 28C for at least three days, while this drops to 27C in the Midlands and 26C in the South West.
In Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Devon and Cornwall and the North East it is 25C.
It comes as Waitrose reported surging sales of suncream, picnic blankets and barbecue tools as well as paddling pools, vegan ice cream and rose wine.
Warnings about the extreme heat have been issued by both medical authorities and vets, urging people to keep the vulnerable and animals safe.
People hit Branksome beach, Bournemouth for an early morning paddle board as temperatures are set to soar to 30C (86F)
Swimmers enjoy an early morning splash in the North Sea as the sun rises over Tynemouth Longsands as temperatures are expected to soar across the country over the weekend
Early risers enjoy a paddle board and dip in the sea at Tynemouth Longsands on Saturday, with temperatures expected to reach 30C
People enjoy the sunrise at Cullercoats Bay in North Tyneside on Saturday morning as they prepare for temperatures to reach 30C (86F)
PHE advised people to look out for those who may struggle to keep cool and hydrated, such as older people and those who live alone.
Emergency animal care provider Vets Now also warned rising temperatures could increase the risk of heat stroke in dogs.
The vet service sees a spike in callouts as the weather warms up and has warned that temperatures above 20C put dogs at risk, and that survival rates for dogs with heat stroke is just 50 per cent.
The warnings come after a week of flash flooding in the south east of England, causing disruption to transport in London.
Early morning beachgoers enjoy the sun on Bournemouth beach ahead of the hottest day of the year on Saturday
Kayakers take advantage of the early morning sun on Bournemouth beach at the start of a three-day heatwave across the UK
Beachgoers set up for a day of relaxing in the sun on Bournemouth beach as they enjoy their first taste of summer on Saturday
Britons flocked to beaches and parks across the country to enjoy the hot weather ahead of ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday, July 19