Warm weather set to stay for most of UK

Much of the UK will stay very warm this week after the country sweltered on its hottest day of the year.

Temperatures reached a high of 30.9C (87.6F) at Gravesend in Kent yesterday, putting conditions on a par with Mediterranean holiday resorts and hotter than the holiday island of Bermuda's 29C (84F).

Forecasters have said much of England will remain warmer than average for the rest of the week, especially in the south east where the mercury will stay in the high 20s through to Friday at least.

Elsewhere temperatures will see return to normal from tomorrow onwards, with parts of north west England and Wales experiencing some rain.

More than 100,000 people packed onto the beaches of Bournemouth and Brighton yesterday to enjoy the hot weather, with some city dwellers taking to fountains to keep cool.

London and the south-east of England saw the warmest conditions, with St James's Park in central London reaching 30.1C (86.2F) and Heathrow Airport a high of 30.6C (87.1F).

Music fans also enjoyed the "hottest ever" Glastonbury festival in Somerset - ditching their wellies for the duration for the first time in years.

Before yesterday, the hottest day of the year was May 24 when the temperature reached 28.8C (84F) at Heathrow Airport and the Olympic Park in east London.

The sweltering conditions prompted bookmakers to cut the odds of a record-breaking summer as thousands flocked to beaches or soaked up the rays with barbecues and parties in the garden to watch the World Cup.

Ladbrokes offered 3/1 that the highest ever UK temperature of 38.5C (101.3F) recorded at Brogdale, near Faversham, Kent, in 2003 will be beaten.

William Hill were meanwhile odds on at 5/6 that there will be no rain delays on Court One for the whole of the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Weather forecaster Gareth Harvey, from MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said temperatures would drop slightly compared to yesterday, with rain predicted for tonight.

He said: "It looks as though it's going to stay very warm into next week, especially across the south-eastern quarter of the UK.

"Temperatures during Monday will be 28C or maybe 29C in the London area."

While much of England will remain settled and dry, Mr Harvey said showers - and possibly torrential rain - would affect some northern places tonight and tomorrow.

"The south east will hang on to the best of the sunshine and temperatures will remain above average," he said.

"It's looking like it will return to the average elsewhere from Tuesday onwards."

As retailers reported rushes on barbecue food and bikinis, a survey revealed 60% of women own more than one pair of sunglasses compared with 38% a decade ago.

The poll of 1,015 by Sheilas' Wheels car insurance firm found females spend an average of £51 on their summer shades.