CUMBRIA has been basking in unseasonably sizzling sun – with temperatures soaring above those in parts of Spain.

Kendal, Ambleside and Keswick all hit record-breaking temperatures and were in the top 20 hottest places in the UK on Monday, with the mercury hitting 20.9OC in Ambleside.

With warmer weather than Alicante and Barcelona, there was an influx of tourists and residents packing the towns and countryside.

Some parts of Cumbria recorded the highest official temperatures since 1992.

But the dry weather sparked grass fires in Hutton Roof and at Graythwaite on Monday.

A crew from Kirkby Lonsdale battled the blaze at Hutton Roof for just under two hours and a crew from Coniston quelled a fellside fire on the shores of Windermere.

Group manager Adrian Holmes said the fire brigade was geared up for wild fires. But he warned people to be aware of lighting fires, which could rapidly spread.

And at the weekend, a group of swimming fanatics took advantage of the warm spell to complete the ‘first-ever’ winter open swimming relay in Windermere.

Winter swimming enthusiasts Mike Hicks, Mike Durkin, Lianne Brooke-Sanders, Andrea Tucker and Peter Kelly swam the ten-mile length of the lake in seven hours as water temperatures rose to nine degrees celsius.

“We are all keen outdoor swimmers and it is the first winter relay swim in the lake to our knowledge,” said Mr Kelly. “We swam stages of the lake during the winter but with it being a lovely weekend we thought we would do the relay. Temperatures in the lake are normally close to zero so we thought we would take advantage of the weather on the last day of winter.”

Farmer Russell Bowman said the warm weather had had a positive impact on farming in Cumbria.

“This March has been one of the driest for years, which has meant that most of the spring work is ahead of normal. It has been fantastic for lambing as the warmer weather cuts losses. I’m dreading it coming to an end.”

Visitors have been coming to the area in their droves and Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said he was optimistic for the coming tourist season.

He said: “Windermere Lake Cruises had to lay on extra services to cope with demand. The tourism industry is looking forward to a strong April with the Easter break.

“We have one of the best places to holiday in the world and it’s right here on our own doorstep and everyone should make the most of it while the sun’s shining.”

But blue skies are not expected to prevail for much longer as daytime temperatures for the end of the week are predicted by the Met Office to lower to 11OC.

A spokesman for The Met Office said the current warm climate was down to warm air being pushed up from the continent in a south easterly direction and added: “It is the warmest it has been for a couple of decades.”

Water supplies are ‘healthy’, according to United Utilities.