Visit to Katesbridge weather station, Northern Ireland’s icebox

Written by on September 17, 2017 in Rest of Europe, Summer 2017, United Kingdom & Ireland with 0 Comments

During a recent visit back home to Northern Ireland with the family I managed to visit Katesbridge and the famous weather station which frequently grabs national and international headlines for cold.

A beautiful little hamlet, population 135 located in the rolling countryside of Drumlin country, County Down, Few places on the island compete with Katesbridge for cold, particularly during the summer months.

While the hamlet itself is chilly and nestled within a low lying area surrounded by rolling hills, the official met office weather station for Katesbridge one could argue is located in a conveniently placed, higher elevated ‘frost hollow’ about 1.5 miles outside of Katesbridge.

Credit: Mark Vogan

Credit: Mark Vogan

Images from the official Katesbridge weather station.

The official Katesbridge Stevenson screen. The very one which holds multiple Northern Ireland records.

Inside the Stevenson screen. With everything digitised, there’s little in it these days!

The rain gauge

Grass thermometer

This box transfers the various readings straight back to the Met Office

Rainfall readings Sandy has taken and reports back to MO.

Data book which Sandy fills in and sends back to MO.

Sandy Ferguson

Why so cold compared to surrounding area?

The Katesbridge chill appears to be more noticeable during the autumn, spring and summer months compared to winter, even in Northern Ireland (eg Castlederg, Tyrone). The Katesbridge site lies in a natural bowl in which under clear, calm conditions, radiational cooling takes place with the enhancement of cooling air running off the surrounding countryside collecting at the bottom of the ‘bowl’. As previously stated, one could argue that the station is conveniently placed right at the bottom of the ‘bowl’ where the coldest air collects..

Credit: Mark Vogan

I happened to have the privilege of meeting long term resident Sandy Ferguson and his wife who lives right next door to the famed station. He in fact gave me a tour of the official site as well as his own site in his back garden which he has taken rainfall/temperature measurements consistently from since 1963. When away from home, his neighbour takes the reading he told me.

Katesbridge: Often the UK’s coldest spot during summer

Not often is it just Northern Ireland or Ireland’s coldest spot but Katesbridge is is frequently the entire UK’s coldest place. While most winters see the Scottish Highlands record the lowest value of the winter, Katesbridge often takes the prize for the coldest summer temperature for the UK.

The reason why Katesbridge may step away from others  for cold during the winter months is the lack of snow due to shelter and lack of elevation.

Notable Records

Spring/summer 2014/15 were particularly noteworthy

Despite it’s infamous cold reputation and frequency of being the UK’s coldest spot in summer, Katesbridge only holds the Northern Ireland cold record for March (-14.8C on 2 March, 2001) and August (-1.9C on 24 August, 2014) and although the all-time record minimum for the site is an impressive -17.8C set on 21 December, 2010, it’s Castlederg, Tyrone which holds the national record of -18.7C set the same month.

On 24 August 2014, Katesbridge hit a bitter -1.9C which set a new NI record surpassing a record set back in 1964.

In July 2015 Katesbridge once again grabbed the attention of the weather community by dipping to a very chilly and frosty 0.3C, a new record for the site, a very noteworthy cold morning by mid summer standards. Amazingly that new Katesbridge record would fall the following week dipping to -0.6C falling marginally short of the national July record of -1.1C set on 17 July 1971 at Lislap Forest, Tyrone.

Probably one of the most impressive cold readings of recent times came just 3 months prior to the cold July mornings with 27th April, 2015 recording a bitter -8.1C. Though not breaking the April record of -8.5C set on 10 April, 1998 at Killylane, Antrim, this 27 April reading is likely Northern Ireland’s coldest for so late in the spring. The May record is -6.5C set on 7 May and so it’s unlikely there was a recording colder than -8.1C at Katesbridge between 27 April and 7 May.

Credit: BBC Northern Ireland

Katesbridge recorded Northern Ireland’s coldest temperature in 2014 and was the UK’s coldest spot on 13 occasions in 2011.

Here was my visit to Katesbridge weather station and chat with Sandy Ferguson.


Here are some tweets regarding the cold readings recorded at the Katesbridge site during the past summer.

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