The UK’s sunniest cities revealed as Brighton shines way ahead of the rest

Bright start: Another clear day dawns over the Royal Pavilion in Brighton (Simon Calder)
Bright start: Another clear day dawns over the Royal Pavilion in Brighton (Simon Calder)

One UK city outshines all others in terms of sunlight: Brighton.

On the average day between 1991 and 2020, the South Coast resort enjoyed exactly five hours of sunshine.

The Independent has analysed data from the Met Office covering three decades, which places Brighton well ahead of its rivals.

The three closest cities are also on the south coast of England: Plymouth (4h45m), Southampton (4h40m) and Exeter (4h30m).

Bristol (4h27m) takes fifth place, with Oxford only a minute behind (4h26m).

Among English cities, Manchester performs poorly, with only 3h44m – placing it 26th in the top 30.

Swansea is the sunniest city in Wales, and seventh-brightest in the UK at 4h24m; Cardiff, in 10th place, has five minutes less sunshine.

London enjoys 4h23m of sunshine per day on average, meaning that taking the one-hour train from London to Brighton increases the daily prospect by 37 minutes.

Northern Ireland does not fare brilliantly. Belfast is 25th out of 30 with an average day’s sunshine of 3h46m. The second city, Derry, is last-but-one in the list, at 3h15m.

Of the 30 cities included in the survey, the highest placed Scottish contender is Dundee – also the only place in the nation that exceeds four hours of sunshine on average each day (4h01m) – takes 18th place. Aberdeen (3h59m) is 20th, while Glasgow and Stirling fill 27th and 28th places respectively

The UK’s least sunny city, Inverness, is also in Scotland. Unlike almost everywhere else in the UK, it averages less than three hours of sunshine per day (2h53m).

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “The Moray Firth coast, with Inverness located on the western end, is often referred to as being the ‘Sunshine Coast’ and benefits from relatively warmer weather and lower rainfall than many other places in the UK. This makes a great place to live, work and visit.”

Sun-starved Invernesians can fly in 100 minutes to the UK’s sunniest airport, Gatwick, and take the half-hour train journey to Brighton.

Councillor Bella Sankey, leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, said: “I’ve always felt that the sun shines more in Brighton and Hove and so it’s great to know that’s true! There really is nowhere quite like Brighton and Hove – no day is the same and there is so much to do and see.”

Jane Austen ascribed to a character in Pride and Prejudice: “A visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness.”

The Met Office stresses that average figures do not imply the weather will be consistent year after year. A spokesperson said: “The UK’s weather patterns are often dictated by the position of the jet stream, a ribbon of air high up in the atmosphere.

“Subtle difference in its position can influence the dominant weather for the UK, bringing sunshine for some or cloud and rain for others.”

30 key UK cities – average daily sunshine 1991–2020

  1. Brighton: 5h00m

  2. Plymouth: 4h45m

  3. Southampton: 4h40m

  4. Exeter: 4h30m

  5. Bristol 4h27m

  6. Oxford: 4h26m

  7. Swansea 4h24m

  8. London 4h23m

  9. Lincoln 4h21m

  10. Cardiff 4h19m

  11. Cambridge 4h18m

  12. Hull: 4h16m

  13. Norwich 4h14m

  14. Hereford 4h10m

  15. Birmingham 4h07m

  16. Liverpool 4h06m

  17. Sheffield 4h01m

  18. Dundee 4h01m

  19. Leicester: 4h00m

  20. Aberdeen 3h59m

  21. Newcastle 3h56m

  22. Nottingham: 3h53m

  23. Edinburgh 3h48m

  24. Leeds 3h47m

  25. Belfast 3h46m

  26. Manchester 3h44m

  27. Glasgow 3h37m

  28. Stirling 3h16m

  29. Derry 3h15m

  30. Inverness 2h53m

All figures extracted from data provided by the Met Office.