Britain will enjoy a heatwave later this week with temperatures set to reach 30C - but it's not all good news so don't start dusting down the barbecue or planning a trip to the beach.
Although the mercury could reach its highest point so far yet this year, forecasters said the heat will be accompanied by high humidity and heavy, thundery showers. Words:PA
Temperatures will start to rise from Thursday, peaking on Friday when the 30C barrier could be reached for the first time this year, with the most likely location somewhere to the north-west of London.
Forecasts suggest Britain will be slightly warmer than European holiday destinations such as Barcelona, Ibiza and Nice.
The hottest day so far in 2014 was July 4, when 28.7C (83.7F) was detected in Norfolk and Essex.
Met Office forecaster Helen Roberts said most places in England and Wales will feel "hot and humid", with temperatures generally around or higher than the 25C (77F) mark.
But she added that there was the potential for "thundery downpours" alongside the hot, sticky weather on Friday and Saturday.
"Most people won't enjoy these conditions," said Ms Roberts. "It can be difficult sleeping during the hot humid nights.
"Although it probably is shorts and T-shirt weather, you will need a brolly at the same time."
The conditions, which should ease when a band of fresher air sweeps in on Sunday, are not expected to trigger the Met Office's official threshold for a heatwave.
The top temperature today was 25.2C (77.4F) recorded at Heathrow as the south east enjoyed the best of the weather.
Tomorrow dry and fine spells are expected with most places feeling "pleasant and warm".
But the bad news for the superstitious is that there is a chance of patchy rain for St Swithun's Day tomorrow, which, according to folklore, means wet weather will continue for a further 40 days.
On Wednesday the bulk of England and Wales are likely to remain dry and enjoy some sunny spells, but parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland are likely to see some rain.
The world's sunniest destinations
UK weather: Downpours to dampen heatwave
The islands of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean are some of the sunniest islands in the world. They straddle the Equator and are located close to the patch of the ocean that absorbs more rays than any other piece of water on Earth. Lie on the white sand beaches, try your hand at world-class fishing and visit the numerous WWII ruins, all while soaking up the sunshine, of course!
With over 300 sunny days per year, Andalucia in Spain is one of Europe's sunniest destinations and a centre for 'sun and sand' tourism. The region sees 12 hours of sunshine a day in July, its sunniest month. Ecija in Seville is known as 'The Frying Pan of Andalucia' as it records the highest summer temperatures in Spain. In the winter, Seville, Andalucia's capital, experiences just seven to eight days of rain too, leaving plenty of clear weather and around six hours of sunshine a day.
Looking to hit the ski slopes AND top up your tan? "One of the best places for sunny skiing in Europe is on the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain," says Leon Brown at The Weather Channel. "The resort is 3,400 metres high and often above the clouds! On a clear day you can see the Atlas Mountains to the south in Morocco." With the mountain range located in Andalusia, you can enjoy a high number of sunny days in the winter and ski under blue skies with warm temperatures in the morning, before heading for the beach and sunbathing in the afternoon. It's no wonder Sierra Nevada has been dubbed the world's sunniest ski resort.
With its vast desert landscapes, it's no surprise that the Middle East is a seriously sunny spot on Earth. The Weather Channel's Leon Brown says: "Globally the sunniest places and resorts all year are Dubai, Muscat and resorts in North East Oman, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Kuwait with 13 to 14 hours of sunshine in the summer and 10 hours in the winter." Abu Dhabi (pictured) sees 3,609 hours of sunshine a year.
Not only is Las Vegas one of America's sunniest spots, with the sun shining 85 per cent of daylight hours, it also has an average of 210 clear days in the year and sees little cloud, with only Phoenix and Yuma, both in Arizona, enjoying more clear days. Las Vegas has an annual average of 3,825 sunshine hours and when the sun finally goes down, there's the famous nightlife to enjoy and countless casinos to visit.
The sunniest month of the year worldwide is May and Eureka on Ellesmere Island, northern Canada sees the most of the sun, with an average of 16.5 hours of sunshine a day throughout May and 512 hours during the month. But you may not want to visit this icy destination for a summer getaway as the average temperature in May is -7C! Alert, also in Ellesmere, sees the most sun during April with 377 sunny hours a month and 12.6 hours a day. With it being so far north, the daily hours of bright sun account for just 55 per cent of Alert's daylight.
With up to 10 hours of sunshine a day and 3,863 hours a year, Aswan in Egypt is one of the planet's sunniest places. July is when you'll see the most sunshine in Aswan and there's 375 hours of it to enjoy. Set on the East Bank of the Nile, you can stroll along the Corniche, eat freshly-caught fish in one of the floating restaurants and visit ancient temples.
Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory experiences an average of 146 sunny days a year, as well as 10 hours of sunshine a day during summer. The best part is that the Australian summer is our winter so you can enjoy temperatures of up to 36C in January while your friends at home are wearing their woollies! Leon Brown at The Weather Channel says Alice Springs sees up to 14 hours of sunshine in the summer months and up to 10 in the winter.
Ok, so we know the UK is nowhere near one of the world's sunniest places but we know you're wondering which part of the British Isles does see more sunshine than others. The Weather Channel's Leon Brown tells us the "sunniest places tend to be the south coast around the Isle of Wight to Eastbourne with 16 hours of sunshine in mid-summer." Not bad, eh? Leon adds: "Sometimes the Channels Islands are sunnier, plus in the spring the Western Isles of Scotland can be the sunniest."
Yuma in Arizona is the sunniest place in the world, according to Guinness World Records. The city enjoys sunshine 91 per cent of daylight hours and a mean of 4,055 hours per year. Yuma is also the sunniest city in America, as well as the driest and the least humid. The average rainfall is around three inches a year, but despite having the most sunshine, Yuma is not the hottest place in America and is beaten by Miami and Key West in Florida.
Saint Lucia? This is Vatersay beach in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, the southern-most inhabited island and one of the most scenic and beautiful in the archipelago. With vast white sandy beaches and turquoise waters comparable to those found in the Caribbean, time spent on this idyllic island will be memorable for a long time to come. It has great views towards the now uninhabited islands of Sandray, Pabbay and Mingulay and is home to some of the largest colonies of seabirds including razorbill, gannet, guillemot and puffin.
The crystal clear water at Port Gaverne near Port Isaac could be easily mistaken for a Caribbean beach. The sheltered, narrow cove has plenty of sand at low tide and may be the quaintest cove in North Cornwall nestling in under the cliffs. At high tide, it is an excellent diving spot and the sunset is as dreamy as you'll find in Antigua.
Wow! Look at that powder white sand. It could be mistaken for a secluded spot in the Virgin Islands, but this stunning stretch of sand is in Shetland. The Sands of Breckon is a white sand beach in the North of Yell, which has the largest area of shell sand dune and dune grassland in Shetland. The beautiful blue flag beach is sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly winds and provides a wonderful view of the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
This breathtaking beach in Wales reminds us of the idyllic sands of St Barts or Grenada. Harlech’s huge, peaceful beach is not just flat sand – the beautiful sand dunes here are a prized feature, the reason behind the area’s designation as a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. The beach is an ideal place for children to play and an even better spot for adults to sit back and relax. Near the beach there’s a shop, café and the internationally famous Royal St David’s Golf Club, one of Britain’s finest links courses.
This spectacular sandy beach forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim coast. In this secluded location, even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation. Whitepark Bay is backed by ancient dunes that provide a range of rich habitats for bird and animal life. The Caribbean-esque beach has a golden stretch of sand, perfect for lazy summer days, picnic and long walks.
Rhossili Bay boasts a three-mile sandy beach, overlooked by National Trust holiday cottage, the Old Rectory. Visible on the beach at low tide are the remains of the Helvetia, a ship wrecked in 1887. From the top of Rhossili Down, the highest point on Gower, views of the peninsula can be seen as well as across the sea to West Wales, Lundy Island and the north Devon coast. The stunning beach fought off competition from many beaches in the Caribbean to be named one of the world's best in a 2013 TripAdvisor survey.
Secluded Kynance Cove on Cornwall's Lizard Peninsula is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world - and you can see why! Its defining features are the serpentine rock formations with a distinctive pinnacle to the north of the beach. The beautiful beach, with its Caribbean-style sand and crystal clear water is one of Cornwall's most photographed spots.
A small bay backed by dunes and pine trees, accessible only by a half-mile walk from the nearest car park, Barafundle Bay has been voted many times as one of the best beaches in Britain and the world. Swathes of golden sand and crystal clear waters, it is often likened to a Caribbean beach. If you're looking for an isolated spot, this pristine beach is the place and has no facilities.
The beaches on small Outer Hebridean island Berneray are so beautiful that one was once mistakenly used in a campaign by the Thailand Tourist Board to promote the Asian country's beaches! The picturesque West Beach (pictured) is a three-mile stretch of machair bordered by white sand.
The superb tidal sands and beautiful shallow lagoons at Pedn Voudner in Treen make it a fantastic option for beachgoers looking for a taste of the Caribbean. Set between Logan Rock and Porthcurno, the beach is accessible by boat or from the coasta foot path along the cliffs. It is also an unofficial naturist beach - the perfect spot to strip off!
A favourite among locals and visitors, Portrush Whiterocks Beach is famed for its limestone cliffs, grassy knolls and incredible views. The sandy beach is a popular place for surfing and bodyboarding, and is home to a labyrinth of specatacular caves and arches including Shelagh's Head, the Wishing Arch and Lion's Paw.
Running from the pier at Ballycastle Marina at the western end to Pans Rock in the east, Ballycastle Beach is a fabulous 1.2km beach with beautiful sand and some shingle. A lovely spot for bathing and walking, in the distance you can see the Pans Rocks rock formation jutting out into the sea and the hidden Devil's Churn, with its underwater sea tunnel.
With its white sand and turquoise waters, Alchmelvich is a pretty beach popular for water skiing and kayaking. In the summer you can spot porpoisess swimming and the blue flag beach attracts fishermen, with cod, haddock, whiting, pollack, saithe and mackerel being common catches.
Described by visitors as a paradise, Porthcurno, located in the far west of Cornwall is famed for its gorgeous fine soft white sand washed by a sea that turns turquoise in the sun and high cliffs on both sides. The oasis of stunning natural beauty is popular with families and has a stream that flows down one side.