Snow and plunging temperatures may hit the UK next week and a prolonged cold snap could last several weeks, forecasters have said.

The current cold spell will continue over the weekend, with largely grey, gloomy conditions and patches of rain and sleet in southern areas on Saturday evening, according to the Met Office.

There is an air of uncertainty around weather predictions due to a sudden stratospheric warming event at the end of December, causing temperatures to rapidly rise in the atmosphere, leaving open the possibility of an extended cold period.

Temperatures sunk as low as -9C (16F) in parts of northern Scotland as the weekend began, while in the South conditions hovered a few degrees above freezing.

Rain and patchy, low-lying snow are possible across much of central and eastern England through Saturday, Met Office meteorologist Aidan McGivern said.

A cold front sweeping in from the North West on Sunday morning will bring fresh dustings of hill snow for the Highlands and Grampians in Scotland, and then the Pennines in northern England and Snowdonia in Wales as it sinks south, he added.

Conditions look set to turn colder next week with the possibility of heavy rain, sleet and snow across the country.

Mr McGivern said: "The cold weather is here to stay for now, and there could be more significant cold and disruptive snow at times through next week.

"Still a lot of uncertainty, so we're keeping a keen eye on that here at the Met Office."