Britain braced for Arctic storm with 90mph gales and snow

Britain is bracing itself for a short, sharp Arctic plunge from Wednesday that will bring snow, 90mph gales and bitter blizzards.

The north of England and Scotland will bear the brunt of it, but temperatures across the UK will drop to around -4C, and snow could hit in many parts by Friday.

According to the Daily Mail, the Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for gales on Thursday for northern areas of the UK, and a yellow snow warning for Scotland into Friday.

Leon Brown, meteorologist at The Weather Channel, told Aol Travel: "A short Arctic blast will end this week, then dry and frosty next week.

"A deep area of low pressure will move eastwards past northern Scotland to southern Norway on Thursday. Gales for northern Britain on Thursday morning and severe gales for a time over the north and west of Scotland. Gusts may reach 80mph, and over 100mph over the higher mountains in Scotland. Blizzards over the Highlands in Scotland too.

"The gales moving out over the North Sea on Thursday afternoon.

"Snows showers over northern Scotland on Thursday night and Friday, and a few sleet and snow showers for north Wales and north west Midlands. Accumulations as much as 5cm to 10cm over the north of Scotland but very little elsewhere. Much of the UK enjoying a clear, cold and sunny day on Friday.

"A widespread frost on Saturday morning as winds become light and skies clear. Temperatures as low as -2 to -4C central and southern Britain, but -8 to -12C is possible in central Scotland where there is snow on the ground.

"Less cold in the north by next Sunday, but southern Britain may see an even colder night with temperatures as low as -4 to -6C on Sunday morning.

"Next week looks like staying dry and frosty across the UK under a large high pressure system covering west Europe."

Speaking to the Express, Dan Williams from the Met Office said many parts of the UK could see snow by Friday: "A low pressure system is set to move across the UK with a large part of the country in for strong winds from Wednesday.

"Nowhere should be surprised to see some snow or hail by Friday with up to 20cm (8ins) expected over high ground. Cold air is being pulled down from the Arctic direction from Thursday."

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Britain braced for Arctic storm with 90mph gales and snow

Why go? Direct flights from the UK now make it an easy hop across the Atlantic to this palm-fringed island, which boasts 300 beaches. Antigua has a rich colonial heritage, too, best explored at the carefully preserved 19th-century naval complex at Nelson’s Dockyard at English Harbour. While you're there, don't miss the views from Shirley Heights (pictured), for spectacular views across to the neighbouring island of Montserrat.

Try this: Western & Oriental is offering seven nights at Nonsuch Bay from £1,125 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick, private transfers and accommodation in a one-bedroom apartment. 

This Indian Ocean island has a formidable reputation for great service wherever you go. Its white-sand beaches, sparkling in the heat in December, are hard to leave, yet there’s so much more to see. This island was an important trading post for merchants - and pirates - over the centuries and the influence of a league of nations lives on, from the bustling streets of Chinatown, in the capital Port Louis, to the serene shores of the sacred Hindu lake Grand Bassin. 

Try this: Turquoise Holidays is offering seven nights at Shanti Maurice from £1,730 per person, based on two sharing, a saving of £1,680 per couple, including return flights from Heathrow, transfers, and half-board in a Junior Ocean View Suite. Valid until 22 December.

This is the start of gorilla-watching season in Uganda. It’s easier to make the difficult trek through the mountains to see these friendly giants now that the rains have abated (though still pack waterproofs, you’re heading into serious jungle). Deep in the Bwindi National Park - part of the Impenetrable Forest - discover the home of half the world’s endangered mountain gorillas that still live in the wild. They number barely more than 300. Watch in awe.

The Exceptional Travel Company () is offering the seven-day Uganda Safari - Gorillas, Wildlife & Chimps for £3,575 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow to Kampala, transfers, accommodation including four nights at the Volcanoes Lodge, the services of an expert guide, fees and permits, and a $100 contribution to the Volcanoes Partnership Trust. 

Think Canaries, think bring on the Full English? Think again. Lanzarote, an island of brooding volcanoes, has  managed to contain its tourist development, allowing its natural beauty to break through. Black volcanic fields, deep green cacti, whitewashed cottages: it’s a landscape to gladden the cool designer’s eye. This may be the beginning of the rainy season but don't let that put you off! The island experiences less than 20 days of rain in an entire year. Stick to the south for warm sunny days on the beach. Don't miss the intriguing sculptures of feted local artist César Manrique, on display around the island. And raise a glass to the excellent local wine produced here, too.    

Try this: Lanzarote Retreats offers eco-friendly accommodation at its complex of yurts at Finca de Arrieta. Prices from €110 per yurt per night. Return flights are available from a number of airports UK-wide with a variety of airlines, including Ryanair and Easyjet, from around £70.

Away from the fleshpots of Bangkok, Thai life is still rooted in the calm backwater atmosphere of the farming village and fishing community. Among its sights are some of the most stupendous Buddhist shrines - the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is an awesome 15 metres high and 43 metres in length. Thailand's rainy season has passed, but keep to the west coast this month for the best weather. 

Kuoni (kuoni.co.uk) is offering seven nights on Phuket from £1,199 per person, based on two sharing, a saving of up to £713 per couple, including return flights from Heathrow with Thai Airways and B&B at Angsana Laguna. Quote FE351.

Get away with friends and family to a self-catering cottage this Christmas or New Year. Prices rise for this sought-after slot in the annual calendar, but the rewards of neutral space - everyone chipping in with the cooking and clearing up - has got to be a serious bonus. Most cottage companies will do the job of decorating the property festively, too.

Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire (coastalcottages.co.uk) has properties sleeping two to 12 in its collection. Family-sized Ty Isaf, for example, a stone house in the village of Mathry with countryside views and a local pub in walking distance. It sleeps six in three bedrooms, has a large sitting room, kitchen-diner with farmhouse table for the big dinner on the day, and is kept cosy courtesy of a woodburner (and full central heating). Price £745 for seven nights from 21 December. For New Year, try Lavender Cottage in Sutton Poyntz, Dorset, through Blue Chip Holidays (bluechipholidays.co.uk). A Christmas tree, mulled wine and mince pies will be laid on at this three-bedroom cottage sleeping six. And with two living rooms, there’s plenty of space to make use of its flatscreen 3D TV, PlayStation 3 and Wii without any arguments. Available for a week from 28 December for £972. 

Leave your cynical side at home and fill up on Christmas cheer on a heart-warming pilgrimage to the icy north. A fun family trip to Lapland is a must-do on life’s bucket list. Go husky riding through the snow, pet reindeer, and meet Father Christmas and his army of elves as they prepare for the big day. 

Activities Abroad (activitiesabroad.com) is offering a four-night trip, titled Ranua - Polar Bears and Father Christmas, from £1,495 per adult and £1,295 for children aged 5 to 12 years, including return flights from Heathrow to Rovaniemi via Helsinki, transfers, full-board accommodation, all activities - including a husky safari, meeting Father Christmas and his reindeer, and breakfast with a polar bear - cold-weather clothing and guides.

Get there before the footie fans - everyone is talking about this South American city with the FIFA World Cup just around the corner. And December is a great time to go with eight hours of sunshine a day and highs of 30C. Scale the heights of Sugar Loaf mountain, take a helicopter ride around the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, sashay along the streets with the girls in Ipanema, even take a guided tour of the favelas. The landscape, the people - you’ll never forget your visit to this Brazilian city.

Real World Holidays (realworldholidays.co.uk) offer a 12-night Samba Special with five nights in Rio and a week on the beach in Buzios for £1,995 per person, based on two sharing, between 15 November and 7 December, rising to £2,250 until 15 December. The deal includes return flights from Heathrow, transfers and transport, B&B, tours, guides and entrance fees. 

ki slopes across Europe open for business in December.  But if you’re heading to the mountains early in the month, the snow-sure resorts to consider include Val d’Isère (pictured), Tignes, Val Thorens in France, Cervinia in Italy, Saas-Fee and Andermatt in Switzerland, Obergurgl, Ischgl, Lech, Zürs, Sölden and Hintertux in Austria.

Inghams (inghams.co.uk) is offering seven nights at Chalet Les Dolomites in Val d’Isère from £499 per person, based on two sharing, a saving of £100 per person, including return flights from Gatwick to Geneva, transfers, and catered accommodation. Departs 7 December.

Nowhere does a Christmas market quite like Germany. And Munich’s main one (there are 20 in the city in total) is a splendid example. Wooden huts cluster on the Marienplatz, in the shadow of the ornate town hall, a tradition dating back to the 14th Century. Shoppers sip mulled wine as they browse the displays of traditional Bavarian gifts such as wooden figurines and glassware, gingerbread and candy to the strains of the musicians playing festive tunes on the balcony of the ornate town hall that provides a magnificent backdrop. Check out the Kripperlmarkt, too, one of the largest in Germany specialising in accessories for nativity cribs.

Fred.\ (fredholidays.co.uk) offers two nights in Munich from £269 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick, transfers and B&B at the Creatif Hotel Elephant.

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