Britons could shiver through the coldest Early May Bank Holiday weekend on record as temperatures plunge close to -6C with snow, sleet, ice and widespread frost.
It will be soggy elsewhere, with the Arctic blast set to bring some heavy rain, hail and strong winds as temperatures peak in the low teens in the daytime.
The miserable conditions will strike the entire country just a year on from the hottest May Day Bank Holiday weekend ever recorded, when beaches and parks were filled with sunseekers.
Snow is expected mainly over the mountains in Scotland but it could also spread to lower levels there, and over higher ground in northern England and Snowdonia in North Wales.
The lowest temperature ever recorded on the Early May Bank Holiday was – 6.4C in Grantown-on-Spey in Scotland in 1981, and the same temperature was recorded on the same weekend in Kinbrace in Scotland in 1988.
Met Office forecaster Steven Keates said: "I don't think we'll get lower than that, but I wouldn't completely rule it out, so we'll keep an eye on that one."
Last year, the mercury hit 28.7C in Northolt, west London, making it the hottest Early May Bank Holiday Monday and weekend since records began.
On Friday, there will be sunny spells and scattered showers before a band of cloud and rain over central areas slowly moves south.
Some showers will be wintry in the north, which will see some sunshine as well.
More rain is expected overnight, especially along North Sea coasts, and showers will fall as a wintry mix over hills as temperatures drop towards the freezing mark.
Frost will develop in sheltered, inland spots, the Met Office said.
Some heavy showers with hail are expected on Saturday, the heaviest over east and southeastern England.
Sunday and Monday will remain cold with showers in the north and east, and overnight frosts.
Mr Keates said a small amount of snow is expected over the weekend, adding: "In the grand scheme of things, it's probably nothing to get too excited about in terms of the amounts.
"But nonetheless, it's the first week of May, and in contrast to the recent pretty warm weather we've had, particularly over Easter, it will be a bit of a shock to the system."
Mr Keates said snow is expected mainly in the mountains of Scotland and maybe higher ground in northern England.
He said lower levels in northern Scotland may also see snow.
Mr Keates said the snow is expected from Thursday night and could last through to Sunday in the far north of Scotland.
He said any snow will struggle to settle, with a covering being a possibility in the Grampians and north Highlands, and potentially a slight covering in parts of the Pennines, Peak District, Chilterns and Snowdonia.
He added: "Widespread disruptive snow is not really expected, but there could be some ice around as well overnight, particularly where we've seen showers.
"It will feel a bit like winter to be honest, for some of us, over the next couple of days."
The average maximum temperature for this time of year in northern Scotland is around 11C, in southern England it is around 16C, and on the Yorkshire coast it is around 12C or 13C.
But on Saturday there will be highs of around 5C or 6C in Shetland, while the eastern coast of England will see highs of between 7C and 9C.
"It probably won't be the best beach weather," Mr Keates said, adding that it will feel not much higher than freezing for people in the wind and the rain.
The forecaster said people can expect widespread sharp frosts at night, with the possibility of – 5C in Northern Ireland, Wales and south west England into Sunday morning.
The RAC is warning that 13million leisure trips by car are expected to be taken, making it the busiest weekend in three years.
RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said; “The advice is to try to use the roads when they are quieter, which primarily means avoiding Friday afternoon and evening if possible, and setting off earlier on Saturday if possible, especially if travelling any great distance.”
He added: “The colder nights could be enough to cause problems with older car batteries – seriously disrupting plans for a getaway.”
After the Bank Holiday weekend, the weather is expected to become more unsettled, perhaps with spells of wet and windy weather across southern and central areas at times, the Met Office said.
A spokesperson added: "Brighter conditions could remain in the far north, but there is still some uncertainty about exact locations and durations.
"Temperatures are expected to slowly increase to more typical values for the time of year, although it is likely to remain rather cold in the north for most of the coming week."
Met Office five-day weather forecast
A band of cloud and showery rain over a central swathe of the UK will edge slowly south.
Ahead of this, sunny spells and scattered showers.
Sunny spells to the north too, but some of the showers will be wintry.
There will be further showers overnight, especially along North Sea coasts.
The showers falling as a wintry mix, mainly over hills.
Some frost forming in sheltered, inland spots.
Showers for many areas away from the far west and southwest.
Some heavy showers with hail, and heaviest over east and southeastern England.
Windy, and feeling cold in the wind.
Sunday to Tuesday
Remaining cold with showers in the north and east, these wintry in the far north.
Drier in the south and west with overnight frosts.
Turning more unsettled on Tuesday.
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