In reply to GM0AXY:
I use http://www.ips.gov.au/HF_Systems/3/3 which gives a view of the critical frequency over the UK and Europe. I can’t class myself as any form of expert on propagation but by checking the display and comparing that to what you can hear and work you should be able to get a feel for what kind of paths are workable. The current view, based on my limited experience suggests that conditions are probably down a bit on 5MHz today.
This is not updated as often as http://www.spacew.com/www/fof2.html but I think is easy to read.
Also I live about 100miles from RAF Inskip which radiates the RAF Volmet information service on 5450kHz. I monitor the strength of Volmet to also gauge propagation. Volmet has a big antenna and a big TX unlike many SOTA activators but if Volmet is a few S points down, it’s indicative to me that I might stuggle on 5MHz.
The advantage that we Socttish stations have is that for once our distance from the population centres of England is an advantage unlike on VHF etc. It means that for me I’m about 200 miles from the 1st major UK population centre (NW England) whereas activators in say the Pennines or Lakes will be only 50 miles or so. It makes their job much more dependant on the critical frequency being higher. Whereas when it’s low, I can still scrape some contacts to those stations 400 miles away on the South coast/East Anglia which may be marginal for English activators at only 200 miles.
I can recommend http://www.ips.gov.au/HF_Systems as there are other pages there which can be useful for activators/chasers.
Any one else with any comments to help me understand better?