Northern Ireland has recorded what is thought to be its hottest temperature ever – with the mercury hitting 31.2C (88.1F) in County Down.
The temperature was recorded in Ballywatticock at 3.40pm, the Met Office says.
Previously, 30.8C was the highest temperature recorded in Northern Ireland, reached on 12 July 1983 and 30 June 1976.
Today is provisionally the hottest day ever recorded in Northern Ireland 📈 😮
Ballywatticock in County Down reached 31.2 °C at 15.40 🌡️
— Met Office (@metoffice) July 17, 2021
Crowds have hit beaches on what is provisionally the hottest day of the year in all four UK nations.
- 30.7C was recorded at Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire
- 29C was reached in Usk, Monmouthshire
- 28.2C was recorded in Threave, in the Dumfries and Galloway region
Temperatures could still rise slightly higher over the next hour or two, and the mercury is expected to rise even higher tomorrow.
England and South Wales are forecast to see temperatures as high as 33C on Sunday, as hot air blows up from the Azores.
Today, Wales moved to COVID restriction level 1, meaning that rules on how many people can meet outdoors have been lifted.
However, only up to six people can meet inside homes or holiday accommodation.
Speaking from a sunny Rhyl beach in north Wales, Sky correspondent Sadiya Chowdhury said: “The beaches are not quite as packed as you might expect it to be. But it is quite filled out.
“There are groups I’ve seen of 10 or 12 people. Of course that’s perfectly allowed – as of today here in Wales because they’ve moved to COVID alert level one.”
She added: “The thing that isn’t changing is masks – they will still be required to be worn indoors and on public transport.
“All these easing of restrictions bring Wales more in line with Scotland and England.
“But that’s quite surprising because Wales actually has the lowest COVID rate out of the UK, 145 cases per 100,000.
“And it also has a very successful vaccination programme – roughly 75% of the adult population have been double jabbed.”
The soaring temperatures are set to continue into Monday – England’s so-called “freedom day” from COVID restrictions.
Tom Morgan, a meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “We have got quite an extended hot spell of weather to come through the next several days lasting much of this week, nighttime temperatures will be in the high teens Celsius and daytime temperatures will be in the high twenties or low thirties.
“It’s going to mean that people are really going to feel the effects of the heat as we go through this week.”
And the RAC have warned that people should double check tyres, oil and coolant levels in the cars before heading to the beaches.
Public Health England has told people to stay hydrated, not to leave children or pets in cars, and apply sunscreen.