When is the best time to visit Scotland, you ask? Although most countries have ‘ideal’ times of year where visiting is optimal, the best time to travel anywhere isn’t as dependant on the state of the weather as you might assume. Instead, a trip is only as good as what you make of it; there are always a ton of things to do, no matter the season.
Although Scotland has been said to have crazy weather, it actually can be quite mild climate with four distinct seasons. Though many people associate Scotland (and many of the surrounding regions, including the UK) with excessive rain and grey skies, intense and torrential rain is pretty uncommon, although regular rainfall is to be expected.
Still, no matter which season you visit Scotland in, be sure to pack a sweater, or buy a good wool one there (that’s what we did).
Most of Europe’s busiest tourist season is from May to September, so going in the offseason is a safe bet for reduced crowds, better airfare and accommodation promotions, and bargain deals on entrance tickets and sights. While you do sacrifice the warmer weather – which is a massive draw for many who favor summer travel – you get to experience Scotland at a much more relaxed pace and feel that much more like a local. There are a million ways to answer the questions, when is the best time to visit Scotland? So I’ll break it down month by month!
When is the Best Time to Visit Scotland?
Weather in Scotland in January
January is typically reported as the coldest month in Scotland, and you will probably see a bit of snow the further north you go. However if you’re averse to snow, you probably don’t need to worry.
Average temperatures will never drop below freezing; instead, hovering between about 0 and 5°C. Expect lots of rain, wind, and maybe some snow so and pack accordingly. Boots that cover your ankles, a packable rain jacket, down jacket, warm socks, and many layers so that you can have greater control over your body temperature for sudden drops or rises within a day.
While it might sound a little too chilly for some, the cold weather does have plenty of bonuses! The conditions are perfect for comforting Scottish food. It’s the perfect time to duck into an Edinburgh cafe and grab a hot coffee.
If you’re an outdoor lover and wanting to get to the Isle of Skye now is the time where no one will be there. The city of Edinburgh also plays host to one of the biggest parties in Scotland – Hogmanay! This is a New Years celebration and is a crazy good time. Read about our full experience at Hogmanay here!
Burns Night takes place on Robert Burns birthday on January 25th. A Burns supper is a celebration of life of the famed Scottish poet.
Weather in Scotland in February
February is no less cold, but some of the wetness has been known to decline this month; rainfall days decrease to about 70% of the days in the month. Sunshine hours are a little bit higher, though not by much, and cloud cover is still predominant most days, which prevents much in the way of warmth from getting into the lower atmosphere. Needless to say, it’s not the best time to visit Scotland.
If you have to go to Scotland on business or for another obligation then go and bring warm clothes. If you can wait until at least March or April – do it!
Weather in Scotland in March
The temperature will begin to climb a little bit this month! You will still want a few warm items though – it is Scotland afterall!
Rainfall, however, will remain the same, if not a little heavier than the previous month. You’ll get between 15-20 days of rain this month so don’t arrive without a rain jacket! However, Scotland has (rarely) seen a high of 20°C in March so you might get lucky with a lot of sunshine and low tourism.
March in Scotland is a great time to hit up the bars and distilleries and enjoy a nice Scotch whisky.
Weather in Scotland in April
It’s finally safe to venture out in lighter layers; April is the month spring will first start to show itself. Thanks to months of rainfall, the Scottish countryside will be a lush green, and average temperatures will fall between 8 and 12°C. You can probably forego your boots some days and lace up your sneakers instead, but it will still be wet (average 12-18 wet days depending on where you are at). There will be much more sunshine than previous months too, so layering here is critical, because you never know when you’ll want to cast off your jacket without catching a chill.
Tourism will still be low and this is your best chance to drive the North Coast 500 or head to the Isle of Skye without the crowds. It will be beautiful this time of year!
Weather in Scotland in May
Spring will reach its peak during this month. There will still be rain, but typically less than 20 days of the month. Cloudy and overcast skies will often remain, but there will still be the highest amount of sunshine hours so far in the year. Note that the evenings still hit much lower temperatures, so if you are out and about at night, you’ll want to keep your coat handy.
Although it’s warming up it’s still off season for travel to Scotland so you’ll be able to score some good deals on car rentals and hotels.
Weather in Scotland in June
It’s finally getting to be summer (ish) in Scotland. It’s finally an ideal time for you to vacation in Scotland. Temperatures range from the average temperatures run between 10°C and 16°C, but you’ll still see some wet days. That being said it’s rare for it to pour the entire day, and instead you’ll likely just get some scattered showers with clouds to make your vacation photos more moody.
Weather in Scotland in July
This is officially the start of the top travel time for Scotland as a whole (particularly the Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Orkney, and Edinburgh) thanks to much warmer weather and sunnier days. Get ready for days averaging 16° and rising as high as 20°C. Because of this nicer weather, this is also the start of the summer travel rush, when traveler numbers will be at their highest. If you prefer to avoid the crowds that come with summer travel, this maybe isn’t the month for you.
If you are traveling Scotland during July you’ll want to make sure you book your accommodation in advance. This is peak season and the prices will go up the closer to your dates you get.
Weather in Scotland in August
August is the last month of summer in Scotland. I know it’s been short! Temperature averages will be much the same as July (including the levels of travelers coming here—brace yourself for higher wait times & crowds). The good news is it should be fairly sunny while you’re here.
The days will also start to become shorter as fall approaches, with almost two hours less of daylight by the end of the month compared to August 1st.
August is also the month of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is easily the most notable festival in the entire country and the largest arts festival in the world.
If you are traveling during this time and passing through the capital you should definitely attend an event.
Weather in Scotland in September
Though it’s only September, autumn arrives in a hurry, and in my opinion this is the best time to travel to Scotland. The average temperature will drop a few degrees and settle around 14°C, so still at a comfortable temperature.
Rainfall will actually be a bit lower than the summer, as the early days of fall tend to be crisp and dry. The leaves will start to turn and the whole scenery is downright amazing. Similar to the conditions in August, you’ll find that the daylight by the end of September is about two hours less than it was at the beginning, as the days grow shorter and sundown happens earlier.
Although it’s fall, September is still a popular time to travel Scotland. We were here mid-September and found that last minute accommodation was hard to come by and the roads were crowded.
Weather in Scotland in October
October is another fabulous month to visit Scotland. With the arrival of October, Scotland officially hits peak fall weather. If this is your favorite season, you’ll probably fall in love with your time here. The average daily temperature will sink to between 8 and 11°C, there will be a slight increase in rainfall, and a definitive increase in cloud cover, with lessened sunshine hours. Still, it’s cool and comfortable with fewer tourists!
There are plenty of events happening around Scotland this month. Most notable in Edinburgh, an eerie city with a lot of history means that Halloween is exceptional here. Edinburgh also hosts the Edinburgh Coffee Fest and the Scottish International Story Festival.
Weather in Scotland in November
November will be the last of the autumn months in Scotland, and isn’t a particular great time to travel here. You’ll find the colder weather rushes in to welcome the first whispers of winter. Temperatures will drop to between 5 and 10°C, generally hovering around 8, and chances of rain vary.
You’ll want to break out some warmer gear starting this month, in case of sudden drops in temperature.
There’s still a lot going on in Scotland in November. The Oban Winter Festival, the Dundee Film Festival, NEoN Digital Arts Festival are just to name a few. Also it’s the start of the amazing Edinburgh’s Christmas which takes place on Princes Street Gardens and encompasses all the Christmas cheer!
Andrew’s Day also on November 30th and celebrates the life of Saint Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint.
Weather in Scotland in December
Cold weather has finally arrived in Scotland. December ushers in an average temperature of 5°C. Sunshine hours are significantly down this month. Instead of rain you will get lightly falling snow for about half the month.
In case you didn’t know the Scottish Highlands are beautifully covered in white. There are also five ski resorts in Scotland that provide excellent value in Europe.
When is the Best Season to Travel Scotland?
High season (July-September): Like most places in Europe, Scotland’s high season runs from July to mid September. This is when you will find the best weather as noted above, but also crowds. Days are longer, the weather is warmer, and hotel and car rental prices are at their highest.
Shoulder Season (May-June and Late September-November): We’ve traveled to Scotland during the shoulder season and loved it. The weather is cool, the leaves are orange and yellow, and the vibe in the air is wonderful. This is also when we’ve found great deals on car rentals and guesthouse. However, popular places like Glasgow and Skye were very busy. We saw sunny days, but also had a lot of those rainy Scotland overcast days.
Low Season (Late November-April): The temperatures are cooler during the low season in Scotland and you stand a very strong chance of getting caught in a rain (or snow) storm. If you plan to travel to Scotland during this time you absolutely need a packable rain jacket, travel umbrella, and waterproof boots. The upside is you’ll find low prices and low numbers of tourists. If you are in Scotland over the holidays make sure to take part in the festivals around the cities!
When is the Best Time to Go to Scotland for Good Weather?
If you’re still wondering when the best time to visit Scotland for good weather is – it’s summer. You stand your best chance of good weather in Scotland between July and early September. Temperatures range from 15°C-21°C. You’ll find locals enjoying the sunny weather and festivals in the countryside and the city. It’s the perfect time to sit outside and enjoy the fresh Scottish air.
When is the Best Time of the Year to Travel Scotland for Golfing?
Scotland is a popular country to travel to for avid golfers. Anytime between April and September would be a good time for golf. However in April and May you’ll likely still see rain and wind, but almost no crowds. June, may be the best time for golfing due to weather. If you’re out on the course early in June you’ll likely beat all the crowds too.
When is the Best Time to Travel Scotland for Festivals?
Literally all year round! Scotland is a festival destination, it just depends on which one you want to take part in. As mentioned the year kicks off in Edinburgh with Hogmanay, followed by Burns Night, a celebration of the life and works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet.
The Highland Games take place in the summer and are a mix of sports, culture and community followed by Fringe Festival in August.
Andrew’s Day takes places on November 30 and celebrates Scotland’s patron saint, Saint Andrew.
When is the Best Time to Travel Scotland to See Castles?
The Castles of Scotland are open year round but will be crowded during the summer months. If you want nice weather for walking around the castle grounds visit during the shoulder season when you’ll find fewer crowds. If your goal is to stay in a castle you will find the cheapest rates during the off-season (November-April).
When is the Best Time to Visit Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is great all year round. Compared to how much rain the rest of Scotland gets, Edinburgh is relatively dry. There are many things to do in Edinburgh and there is plenty of accommodation to even book last minute!
Quick Scotland Travel Tips
- Currency: Great British Pound (GBP)
- Visa: Many nationalities can enter the UK for 90 days visa-free
- What to Pack: A great rain jacket, wool sweater, wool socks, travel camera, & down jacket.
- Stay Connected: We recommend Sim Cards from Three – signal is limited in the highlands.
- Right to Roam: There isn’t much in the form of trespassing in Scotland. Everyone has the right to roam and explore the stunning countryside.
What to Pack for Scotland
It should go without saying that the weather in Scotland can be a bit rainy, this is the most important item in your suitcase. You have two options for style of rain jackets. The first one we recommend is a classic outdoor rain jacket that is a solid choice for outdoor adventurers. The second option being a trench coat for those looking to maintain style while dodging puddles. One of the best raincoats for travel is the North Face Resolve.
The fleece sweater is a perfect layer when combined with an outer shell to keep you warm. We purchased wool sweaters from independent retailers in Scotland, and good ones were fairly easy to find for a decent price. For those with less time a little bit of online shopping for wool sweaters will suffice. Start here!
Hiking PantsTechnical pants like these are water resistant and dry quickly, not to mention they’re comfortable on long walks. These pants can be pretty ugly, but if you’re serious about exploring and hiking in Scotland I would suggest picking up a pair.
It’s wet in Scotland and you can expect a lot of boggy weather year round so packing a pair of good waterproof boots for hikes is crucial for protecting your feet. Good Boots or hiking shoes for Scotland are essential.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem everywhere so it’s best not to contribute to the problem by buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps in Scotland is perfectly safe to drink.
We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well. However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottles for travel in our post.
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
Remember that Scotland uses the three-prong British plug. Make sure you have a universal travel adaptor like we have before landing!
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