Scotland’s weather is pretty notorious. So it’s only natural that the question of what to pack for Scotland comes up a lot. It’s often said of the weather in Scotland that you can receive all four seasons in just one day. In the morning it can be sunny and hot, but by noon it can be a cold rain with a strong wind and perhaps even hail. This might make your head explode when packing for your trip to Scotland, but if you keep it simple you’ll travel with no fuss.
The best strategy for packing your travel wardrobe for Scotland is to pack with layers in mind. Travelers to Scotland should always carry the key items – a rain jacket, sweater, and boots.
I’ve been a long time preacher of functionality and packing clothes that can serve multiple purposes. The right outfit can handle just about any environment or weather. We all know how to layer with clothing, but in Scotland, it’s crucial to a successful trip. Layers are not usually the most fashionable thing to wear; however, Scots are well known for being laid back and decent clothing will be totally acceptable in the big cities or hiking in the Highlands. If you’re wondering what to put on your Scotland packing list read on!
Packing For Scottish Weather
Scotland is a tiny country; however, regions can vary greatly in weather conditions between short distances. It all has to do with the notoriously unpredictable weather in Scotland. A common Scottish phrase that continues to be reiterated is “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing” As we’ve said you can experience all four seasons in one day.
- Spring in Scotland: The springtime can be one of the best seasons to visit Scotland as temperatures are mild and range from 7°C (45°F) to 13 °C (55°F). It’s a good time to catch some sun, but showers are still frequent. As always you don’t want to be caught without a rain jacket.
- Summer in Scotland: As should be expected this is the warmest time of year in Scotland. You can expect long summer days as Scotland is extremely high North. Temperatures range on average from 15°C (59°F) to 17°C (63 °F). It’s always a good idea to have some warm weather clothing for outdoor activities during this time.
- Fall in Scotland: Autumn weather is probably the most varied time of year in Scotland and can go from mild and sunny to cold and rainy in a matter of hours. It’s why many people ask us what to wear in Scotland in September. On average temperatures range from 8°C (46°F) to 14°C (57°F).
- Winter in Scotland: Scotland’s weather doesn’t vary all that much considering how far North the country is located. In the winter time, the average temperature high floats around 5°C (41°F) just above freezing. Snow does fall, but it’s mild in most of the low-lying areas of Scotland. The highlands do receive snow in the higher elevations.
What to Pack for Scotland
There are a number of staple items that I would recommend everyone bring for their trip to Scotland. Weather and time of year will obviously play a massive role in what you throw in your carry on baggage. After all the travel we’ve done I can safely feel that I have nailed packing for trips. Most travelers, ourselves included, will spend their time outside exploring Scotland’s beauty. The Scottish Highlands beckons all with rolling hills, wildlife, caves, islands, ancient mountains, and stunning lochs (lakes). Did I mention you’ll likely spend a lot of time outside?
It should go without saying after all the talk of weather that 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 sweater is a perfect layer when combined with an outer shell to keep you warm. We purchased wool sweaters from independent retailers in Scotland, but good ones weren’t easy to find. For those with less time a little bit of online shopping for wool sweaters will suffice. Start here!
A simple base layer like a t-shirt, v neck, or even a thermal is perfect to keep you warm and comfortable. Hiking on a sunny day in the highlands can actually be quite warm and we found ourselves shedding layers often. Keep it simple when it comes to tees. No one needs a fancy designer tee when as a base layer.
Down sweaters have long been our packing favorites for any cool weather destination. I don’t think we’d ever travel without them. We both love our Patagonia down sweaters, one of the best packable down jackets on the market.
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 the highlands of Scotland I would suggest picking up a pair.
Jeans are always in style no matter where you go, and Scotland is not an exception. The Scots, for the most part do not care what you wear, but showing up to the pub in a damp outdoor wear is a no go. Bring at least one casual pair of pants. I’m a long time fan of these classic Levi jeans.
Yoga Pants are lifesavers not just in Scotland, but all around Europe (and the world). If you’re a woman looking for something comfy that go with everything yoga pants are your calling. Tasha’s absolute favorite brand of activewear is Alala. Alala makes top quality yoga pants. She wears black ones almost every day with every sort of top and they have lasted ages.
If you’re spending time in the trendier cities of Glasgow or Edinburgh I suggest having some clothes that are appropriate for city exploring. A pair of chinos works on both sexes and they’re a classic look that when combined with a sweater works well in Scotland. I always pack a pair of these pants in my bag!
NEWS FLASH! It’s wet in Scotland and you can expect a lot of boggy weather 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.
A comfortable pair of sneakers is a great idea for exploring the cities and towns of Scotland. Ever since we lived in New York we’ve been big on walking around cities. Hitting the sidewalk and letting the city unfurl around you is one of the best ways to get familiar with a new place.
The highlands are typically an unpretentious affair (we spent the vast majority of our time in hiking boots). If you plan on spending any time in cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Inverness you’ll likely want a decent pair of dress shoes or casual shoes. We have a whole post on women’s travel shoes for the ladies!
Although travelers in Scotland should expect people to be mostly casual it doesn’t hurt to pack a dress for any special dinners out. I would recommend packing a black dress, or you could really go all out and get yourself some Scottish womens clothing. In case you were wondering the Scot’s really do love tartan and if you want to get some cheeky Instagram photos in Scotland you can’t go wrong with a Scottish style dress!