Dandelion clock blowing in the wind

Where are the windiest parts of the UK?

The strongest ever winds in the UK have been recorded on mountains, and the strongest ever gust was 150.3 knots (173 mph) recorded at Cairngorm Summit on 20 March 1986. However, some very strong gusts have been recorded at low levels too , these mostly along exposed coastal areas.

These include:

  • 123.4 knots (142 mph) on 13 February 1989 at Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire.
  • 107.8 knots (124 mph) on 12 January 1974 at Kilkeel in County Down.
  • 102.5 knots (118 mph) on 15 December 1979 at Gwennap Head in Cornwall.

Most of the maximum recorded wind gusts given above have occurred in the winter. Winter is the windiest time of year in the UK. At this time of year, the jet stream tends to track further south allowing more Atlantic storms to affect the UK.

Top 10 windy places

The top 10 windiest counties1 of the UK, based on the 1981-2010 annual average wind speed (in knots) are:

Location Average Wind Speed (knots)
Shetland 14.6
Orkney 14.3
Western Isles 12.6

Argyll and Bute

Gwynedd 11.3
Tweeddale 11.0
Ross and Cromarty 10.9
Banffshire 10.9
Sutherland 10.8
Isle of Wight 10.7

1 Based on ceremonial (geographic) or preserved counties and lieutenancy areas of the UK

Mean UK wind speeds map

The UK map is coloured in different shades of blue, depending on each location's annual mean wind speed. The darker the shade of blue the windier the location. In general, the windiest parts of the UK are the north and west. This is because the prevailing west to southwesterly winds across the UK lead to northern and western areas being typically more exposed than the south and east.

Map of the UK showing the mean wind speed annual average between 1981 and 2010. The windiest locations are in the north and west of the UK, because these locations are more exposed to the west and southwesterly winds across the UK.

There are also a lot of localised effects with most hills, mountains and coasts being windier than low-lying inland areas. Wind speed increases as you go upwards away from the friction caused by the earth's surface. This also explains the windier coasts as the sea surface produces less friction than the land.

In southwest England, it is possible to pick out the windy Dartmoor National Park which has some of the highest land above sea level in southern England. You can also pick out the windy mountain tops and relatively calm valleys in Wales, northern England and the Scottish Highlands.