Winter is set to make an early arrival in the UK, with the country headed for a prolonged cold snap which could bring one of the earliest significant snowfalls since 1993.

Overnight on Wednesday, 15-20cm (6-8in) of snow is forecast to fall in Scotland and 2-5cm (1-2in) in north-east England.

BBC forecaster Matt Taylor said: “It’s not just a short, sharp shock, it’ll be around well into next week.”

He added: “We’ve had snow earlier than this, but to have as much as this across a large part of the country, we have to go back to about 1993.”

The Met Office is warnings of heavy snow or blizzards from Thursday onwards in the whole of eastern England from Northumberland to the south coast.

Chief forecaster Eddie Carroll said: “The cold weather is clearly on its way this week and the public are advised to stay up to date with the forecast to make sure they have the latest information regarding the coming weather.”

Day-time temperatures in central London on Saturday could fall to around 2C (35F), compared with an average of 9C (48F) for the time of year.