Lonely Planet Writer

Britain shivers in moderately inclement weather - what you need to know


In the time I’ve been working for Lonely Planet I’ve had a few snowy assignments. Prague when it was so cold that three-foot icicles were hanging from buildings springs to mind. As does a treacherous bike ride across London to open up the LP stall at Destinations Travel Show a few years back. I made it – but the tube didn’t. The lack of custom meant I was able to listen to John McCarthy's inspiring talk about his travels since being a hostage in Lebanon rather than do very much work. More recently a visit to Oslo in the snow showed off the city’s breathtaking new Opera House at its best.

But, if you believe the media coverage of the past few weeks, all of that pales into insignificance before the Great Freeze of 2010. Britain – and much of northern Europe – is shivering under a stubborn ridge of high pressure which is locking in Arctic conditions. Schools and businesses are paralysed. People are sleeping in their cars at ice-bound roadsides. Flights and train journeys are delayed, disrupted or cancelled.


Visitors from countries more used to this kind of weather are bemused at Britain’s problems at getting to grips with the snow. In fact, Scots and those living in northern England are having a good old chuckle at Londoners who insist on microblogging their ‘struggle’ into work through patches of grit with some ice mixed in. The thing is, chaps, that we southerners don’t get snow very often. And to get it in this volume is pretty much unheard of. You’ll forgive us then if Gatwick Airport isn’t equipped with the 69 snowploughs you find at Calgary International. And by the way, have you got any spare shovels and gritting trucks?

If you’re lucky enough to be in Britain at the moment then you may encounter a few problems getting around to enjoy the beautiful scenery. But contrary to what you may think, it's still possible to move around much of the country, with the far, frozen north of Scotland being the most tricky to get to.

Check your travel arrangements ahead and stick where possible to the main routes if driving. Consider postponing inter-city travel if there's any doubt about completing your journey. And join us in putting time usually dedicated to working to sledging down hills that see big dumps and weeks of freezing weather once in a lifetime, hiking through icy-white fields before warming up in a pub with an open fire, or just enjoying that most British of pleasures of having the weather as the first item on the news all day, every day.


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- Tom Hall