The UK is set to be hit by the first wave of snow this weekend as temperatures plummet across the country, marking the beginning of winter. Parts of Scotland and the north of England are expected to receive snowfall on higher ground by 20 November, with the possibility of snow making its way to lower ground later in the weekend.

The Met Office has said that conditions will get significantly colder towards the end of the week, providing a drastic change from the above-average, mild temperatures of 14C-15C in some areas. Scotland and north England will see temperatures drop as early as Thursday, while the south will see a drop to 8C-9C by Saturday. The cold conditions could be the first glimpse of the "big freeze" that has been predicted for this year.

"We will start to see some wintery showers or snow spreading into the north during Friday, and perhaps a little bit of hail," a spokesperson for the Met Office told IBTimes UK. "Those wintery showers are increasingly likely across the high ground, but as you go towards the weekend probably even down to lower levels in the north."

While there is no snow predicted for the south, forecasters have said that areas around London could see some sleet as night temperatures fall to as low as 1C on Saturday. Mild conditions could briefly return halfway through next week due to a period of rain coming off the Atlantic Ocean, but cooler nights and frost will quickly follow it.

"It's been really well above average so it is going to feel quite different. It looks as though the period of having very mild air for a long time is over," said the Met Office spokesperson.

The snow will follow a wet and windy week, during which Storm Abigail battered many regions of the country and caused severe flooding. Train services were disrupted in Wales and riverbanks burst in Cumbria, affecting transport and farmland. Heavy rain is expected to continue through the week.

Many people have been waiting for signs of the "coldest winter in 50 years" that was expected to freeze Britain as early as October.

Despite the warnings, temperatures remained mild through October and 1 November was recorded as being the warmest November day on record, with temperatures reaching 22.4C in Wales.

The mild temperatures will mean that the sudden drop this week will catch many Britons unprepared.