Four million sun-seekers are expected to be on the move, travelling to coastal resorts, festivals and airports. Forecasters predicted temperatures of 27C (81F), with the south of England enjoying the best weather. Umbrellas might be needed in some parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The M6 at Birmingham was among the first to experience traffic jams yesterday morning, with congestion developing on other routes across the country by late afternoon. "The early rush to get away has started and we expect coastal routes, shopping centres and roads leading to major attractions to be very crowded, said an RAC spokesman.
"The shopping phenomenon is something new at bank holidays. These days, people think nothing of travelling 50-100 miles for a good shop-up."
Bernard Jenkin, the opposition transport spokesman, used the expected queues as an opportunity to criticise the Government, saying scrapped bypass and improvement schemes had added to the misery. "The list of expected hot-spots ... this weekend contains many roads that were due to be improved. But Labour reduced the roads programme from 140 scheme to just 37. Britain's motorists are getting a raw deal," he said.
The more unusual events expected to draw crowds over the weekend include a bog snorkelling and mountain bike leaping championship at Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. Shark-spotters were heading for Cornwall after reported sightings of a great white off Padstow.
In London two million revellers were expected at the Notting Hill Carnival over the next three days.
Others events across the country include rock festivals in Reading and Leeds, the Edinburgh Festival and Tattoo, and a town and country event at Kenilworth, Warwickshire.
Airports were steeling themselves for an influx of 1.5 million passengers over the weekend break, with Mediterranean resorts proving the most popular. People bound for Florida were hoping that Hurricane Dennis - now threatening the Bahamas - would miss the state.Reuse content