May is the last month of spring in the United Kingdom, and it's the month that's most likely to feel "spring-like." Although the weather is changeable in the UK, May is expected to be sunny and fine some of the time. The average temperature range is between 48°F and 59°F (9°C and 15°C), but this varies from the north of Scotland to the south of England. May is likely on the higher end of this range, if not occasionally warmer. London ranges between 50°F-64°F (10°C-18°C), Edinburgh 43°F-57°F (6°C-14°C), Belfast 45°F-59°F (7°C-15°C), and Cardiff 48°F-63°F (9°C-17°C).
The days are increasingly long, too. Although the year's longest day is in late June, late May isn't too far behind with 16 hours in London and Cardiff and 17 hours in Belfast and Edinburgh.
Crowds & Costs
May is a shoulder season month in the UK. Though it's nowhere near as busy as July and August when UK and European schools take their summer vacation, there is an uptick of like-minded visitors seeking good weather without any of the crowds. There are also a couple of public holidays (bank holidays) at either end of May, which UK residents make the most of by getting out and about in popular spots. Although prices are unlikely to be different from other times of the year, expect roads to be busier and attractions and events more crowded in May than earlier in the season.
Where to Go
To make the most of the increasingly long days in May, head north to Scotland, where there's even more daylight than in southern England. The Scottish Highlands are full of dramatic landscapes of the kind you can't see further south in the UK. At the same time, cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow in the Lowlands offer a wealth of cultural, historic, and culinary attractions. Head to the Cairngorms National Park to participate in a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, watersports, and wildlife watching.
If in Northern Ireland, head to the Causeway Coast to check out the UNESCO-listed Giant's Causeway, a swathe of thousands of interconnecting basalt columns, or explore Rathlin Island, where exiled Scottish leader Robert the Bruce once took refuge. And if you find yourself in Wales, take advantage of the cultural Hay Festival in late May, giving you all the more reason to visit the riverside book town of Hay-on-Wye on the northern cusp of the Brecon Beacons.
What to Do
With pleasant weather that's unlikely to be too hot, May is a great time to go hiking. Wales and Scotland are home to some of the largest hills and peaks in the British Isles, from Snowdon to Ben Nevis. The rolling landscapes of England are ideal for travelers, such as families, who want to get outdoors but don't want to embark on too strenuous an adventure. The Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Park in northern England, the coast of Cornwall in southwest England, and the Peak District in central England are all great places to enjoy walking with stops at small villages.
Take to the coast in Northern Ireland to brave the vertiginous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge connecting the wild island of Carrickarede to the mainland for a quick jaunt. Otherwise, consider hiking part of the 636-mile (1,024-km) Ulster Way to capture the country's charm by foot.
Events in May
May Day, UK-wide. As well as being International Worker's Day, May 1 is May Day in the UK. It's connected to other long-running traditions that predate modern times. At village fêtes in England, you might find locals, particularly children, dancing around the maypole in traditional clothing.
Leeds International Festival, Leeds, England. The northern English city of Leeds on May 1 hosts this arts and culture festival of ideas and innovation, with many talks and events featuring some of the country's brightest thinkers.
Chelsea Flower Show, London, England. London's Chelsea Flower Show takes place in late May. It's one of the most prestigious in the country, if not the world, and is renowned for its creativity and innovation. It's also very popular.
Bath Fringe Festival, Bath, England. This festival in the south-western English city showcases alternative music, dance, and theater, taking place toward the end of the month or early June.
Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales. This literature-focused event is held in the small town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales. It's one of the best-known literary events in the UK, despite the town's small size, and occurs from late May to June.
Traveling to the UK in May? Check out these great itineraries
Hike the Northern Cornish Coast - 6 Days. This six-day adventure follows a spectacular section of England's famed South West Coast Path. Starting in the seaside resort of Bude, you'll hike south along Cornwall's Atlantic coast.
Best of Scotland: Edinburgh & the Highlands - 7 Days. This six-day adventure combines Scotland's most memorable tourist destinations with a tour of the countryside in the magnificent Scottish Highlands.
Nature & History in Wales - 7 Days. Hike through the Brecon Beacons National Park, get wet and wild coasteering along the Pembrokeshire coast, and explore ancient Roman ruins. End the trip in the north in Snowdonia.
Hike the Antrim Coast: Ballycastle to Belfast - 7 Days. Welcome to the Antrim Coast, complete with dramatic coastlines, windswept cliffs, spectacular scenery, and quiet beaches.