Sunscreen, ice cream, beach towels... purveyors of these heatwave essentials are celebrating this week as Britain masquerades as the Med. Even the travel industry – which, this year, is synonymous with gloom, doom and despondency – is wearing its sun-hat at a jaunty angle.
Holiday companies are complaining that 2009 has proved the latest-booking summer market in living memory. But the sun has emerged just in time to stimulate an area of high pressure over Britain's travel agents as July begins, and they are expecting to cash in.
Warm weather works some subtle psychology on the British. Of course, it cheers us up – and makes us think we could feel happier still with an enticing holiday to look forward to. We live a lot closer to the North Pole than we do to the Equator, and so when there is a rare surfeit of sunshine we realise how good it feels, and are inclined to invest in a holiday to the Med to secure the near-certainty of some more. And, bluntly, "Good weather puts people out on the streets," says Stephen Bath, managing director of Bath Travel and former president of Abta. "And that's where our shops are."
That's where our beaches, meadows and mountains are, too. Britain's tourist industry is expecting its best summer for years: even though sterling appears to have finished its free-fall against the dollar and euro, the UK remains one of the few places (along with Gibraltar and the Falklands) where your pound is still worth £1. Better still, research by The Independent reveals that Britain has far more inches of shoreline per head of population (11.5) than traditional holiday destinations such as Spain (4.8), Portugal (3.5) and France (2.2). And you need not to subject yourself to the undignified scrutiny prevailing at our airports to take advantage of Britain's bounteous beaches.
Yet the national appetite for foreign travel is undimmed: this morning, no fewer than four round-the-world cruises go on sale for dates between September next year and January 2011. And as if to prove that the travel industry does indeed occupy a different planet from the rest of Britain, the UK's largest holiday company, TUI, chose the hottest day of the year so far to launch a big new skiing programme for the coming winter. In the meantime, make the most of the blistering domestic bliss with our hints on what to do, read, wear and listen to as you soak up the subtropical climate...
Take a dip in the great outdoors
Brockwell Lido, London
This is where Londoners head for a metropolitan swimming experience in this restored art deco building. Brockwell-lido.com
Serpentine Lido, London
It's right in the centre of town, but the city seems miles away. This is wild swimming with great facilities. Serpentinelido.com
Lumb Falls, West Yorkshire
Go river swimming under beautiful waterfalls in this peaceful spot that's very much off the beaten track.
Warleigh Weir, Bath
Just 10 minutes from the city centre, the Weir is packed in the summertime, but there's plenty of room in the field by the picturesque weir.
The River Thames, Oxfordshire
Upstream from London, enter the river at Day's Lock and meander through the fields.
For more swimming places, go to Outdoorswimmingsociety.com
Enjoy culture in the open air
The Minack Theatre, Cornwall
An open-air amphitheatre on a cliff edge; productions change weekly. This weekend, catch 'The King of Prussia'. minack.com
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Not just Hepworth and Moore: see Peter Randall-Page's huge limestone artworks on the Bretton Estate, Wakefield. Ysp.co.uk
Kenwood House Picnic Concerts
Enjoy established acts in one of London's grandest locations. This weekend's performer is James Morrison – a touch MOR, but with a hamper, who's complaining? picnicconcerts.com
This swanky London hotel's courtyard hosts musicians on the Modular label. Tomorrow, Jeremy Warmsley's electronica. 020 7300 1444 to book a table.
Spinningfields open air movies, Manchester
Free outdoor cinema on Thursdays. This week it's 'Man on Wire'. 'The Graduate' and 'Grease' are to come: Spinningfieldsonline.net
Get instant summer style
Wave Spray watch
Plunging headlong into the North Sea, discover how much of this hot afternoon you've got left with this water resistant (to 30m) watch. £19.99, Urbanoutfitters.co.uk
The Ray-Ban is back with a re-issue of the Club Master, which is taking fashion's finest by storm. £108, Net-a-porter.com
Hermes beach towel
Sling a wildlife-inspired towel over your shoulder and inspire poolside envy. £340, Hermes.com
Straw trilby hat
British straw-hat panache plus the edginess of an American trilby, and can be worn by girls or guys – at a rakish angle. £20, Topshop.com
In black and gold, these are a cute alternative to the now-ubiquitous gladiator sandal. £65 (sale price), Kurtgeiger.com
Stay healthy in the heat
Avoid the midday sun
Try to stay indoors or out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its skin-frying fiercest.
When you do go out, wear long, loose clothing and a hat.
Beware of heat exhaustion
Symtoms are headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, muscle weakness, pale skin and high temperature. Drink lots of water and cool down with a lukewarm bath or shower. If symptoms worsen or there's confusion, fitting or loss of consciousness, hot, red skin, or intense thirst, it could be heatstroke. This can be fatal, so don't hesitate: call 999.
Keep your home cool
If it's cooler inside than it is outside, shut up shop: keep windows closed, and open them at night when the air is cooler.
Have soft drinks
Dehydration is a risk for young children in particular. Drink plenty of water or juice.
Keep the children entertained
Longleat Safari Park and Gardens, Wiltshire
The biggest safari park in the UK boasts a broad range of beasts big and small, has beautiful gardens, and a maze that will engross little ones for hours. Longleat.co.uk
Drayton Manor Theme Park, Staffordshire
Suitable for all ages, this park offers big thrills for older kids and calmer child rides – plus one for all the Thomas the Tank Engine fans. Draytonmanor.co.uk
Sandbanks beach, Dorset
Regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Britain, these golden sands are clean and child-friendly with lifeguards until 30 September. Sandbankspoole.com
Princess Diana Memorial Playground, London
This playground is perfect for children up to the age of 12 with fab adventure play equipment. Royalparks.org.uk
Hever Castle, Kent
The former home of Anne Boleyn offers lots of open air fun, including a water maze, falconry displays and boating. Hevercastle.co.uk
Be cool while travelling
The Daihatsu Copen
Cheekier than a Golf, cheaper than a Ferrari (just over £10k), this little number has a press-button folding retractable metal roof. Eat your heart out, Wimbledon.
Specialized Expedition Elite Bike
Not a racer, not a mountain bike – it's better. The 2008 model, in lovely summery champagne, is on sale at £299 at evanscycles.com.
Walking is the most stylish way to travel in the open air. Flat sandals cause blisters, chunky Asics are ugly, but the skateboard brand is far cooler than Converse...
The wind in your hair, waves lapping at the hull, or bow or whatever it's called. If you live in London or Liverpool, go port out, starboard home on your commute. Merseyferries.co.uk; tfl.gov.uk
Hot Air Balloon
Silent and romantic, sailing the sky in a wicker basket underneath a gas-filled balloon is the best way to survey the countryside in the summer. Fly with Virgin's balloon flights, available across the country, on a weekday morning and pay £109 instead of the usual £150. Virginballoonflights.co.uk
Read some heatwave literature
The Drought by JG Ballard.
"...while the remorseless sun beats down on the dying land, civilization itself begins to crack."
The Go-Between by LP Hartley
Classic story of transgressive love in the boiling summer of 1900 when young Leo becomes the unwitting postman between posh totty Marian and her lover, farmer Ted Burgess.
Snake by DH Lawrence
A menacing encounter between man and serpent in the Mexican desert, in Lawrence's famous poem.
Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
The Indian climate stirs English ladies' blood to fury. If only they'd go up-country, where the good girls go to escape the heat...
Heat Wave by Penelope Lively
Densely atmospheric study of suspicion and infidelity set in Worlds End, a summer cottage sweltering in the heat of the rural midlands.
Listen to warm-weather tunes
Summertime – Nina Simone
The living is easy but how do those fish find the energy to jump? A sultry take on a summer standard.
Hot in the City – Billy Idol
When it's sizzling in the city do as Billy does and spike up that hair – it will form a follicular parasol if it's long enough.
Heat Wave – The Hit Crew
Even in this heat you might want to dance to this Motown classic. Hotpants, anyone?
Summertime Clothes – Animal Collective
When your head starts to melt, this modern pschedelic trip will suit the mood.
Summertime – Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
Cheesy can work. Pretend you're on the stoop in Eighties Brooklyn.
Hear the playlist at Independent.co.uk/mixtapeReuse content