Looking for the best time to visit Scotland? Discover the most enjoyable months for sightseeing, along with crowd levels, weather, and events!
Scotland is a finicky country when it comes to weather. Seasons can be unpredictable where one year summer is warm and dry (for Scotland standards) and the next year it's cold, gray, and wet.
Because of Scotland's unpredictable weather trends, the best time to visit Scotland for your upcoming trip will more depend on crowds, prices, festivals, and daylight hours versus temperatures and rain averages.
In general, April through October are where you want to stick. November through March will bring the worst of weather and short days. Some sights and attractions may also be closed during "slow season".
Continue reading below to learn the details of each month and when will be the best time of year to visit Scotland for you!
short and sweet: The best time to visit Scotland is May through June
May and June are the best time to visit Scotland. Days are long during these months which means you'll have plenty of time to fill your itinerary with sights and activities. Weather is decent as are the crowd levels.
Every Scotland itinerary should include Edinburgh. See my Edinburgh blog posts!
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Spring in Scotland – April through May
The best time to go to Scotland for fewer crowds, long days, and the highest probability of "good" Scottish weather
April and May bring the "driest" weather of the year, for Scottish standards that is. Spring in Scotland will be your best chance for decent sightseeing weather (June as well). Temperatures range from the high-30s to high-50s.
Visit in May for longer days and warmer weather. The countryside will be bursting in color and filled with wildflowers this time of year.
Spring in Scotland also brings fewer crowds. You'll bypass the summer and festival tourists. Hotel prices will be cheaper and you'll have an easier time getting into restaurants, pubs, and popular tourist attractions.
Tourist season for Scotland starts in April, so you won't have to worry about sights being closed, even in the rural or less popular cities. This can be an issue in the winter months of November through March.
What to wear in Scotland in spring
Dressing in layers is the key to success in Scotland as you'll often experience a range of temperatures and conditions in a 12 hour period. Stick with light to medium sweaters and a medium warmth jacket, preferably wind and waterproof/resistant.
A lightweight insulated jacket with a water-resistant finish would be perfect for a typical Scotland spring. This windproof and waterproof jacket is another good option.
As is the norm with the UK, always have an umbrella on you.
Scotland Spring events
Celebrate whiskey, music, and food in northern Scotland at the Spirit of Speyside Whiskey Festival in April. The Beltane Fire Festival welcomes the arrival of summer at the end of April at Edinburgh's iconic Calton Hill.
Make your way to the Orkney Islands in late May to experience the Orkney Folk Festival. This event has been going strong for over 30 years!
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Summer in Scotland – June through August
The best time to visit Scotland for warmer temperatures and a calendar filled with festivals.
June is the sweet spot and the best time to visit Scotland in summer. June brings the longest days at 17 plus hours of daylight...longer the farther north you go. This makes June the perfect time for first-time visitors trying to fit a lot into each day.
Weather is fairly mild in June with temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to low-60s.
Chances of a rainy day in June are about average. Typically about 10-13 days a month will see rain. This is marginally better than July and August which sees 15+ rainy days a month.
Scotland summer events
June is also the best time to visit Edinburgh for those looking for fewer crowds. There are a few festivals this month including the Edinburgh Film Festival and Skye Food and Drink Festival.
July sees a similar number of events as June. The calendar of festivals and events in June and July don't hold a candle to what you'll find in August.
August is the height of festival season in Scotland, particularly Edinburgh. The infamous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and Edinburgh International Festival bring thousands upon thousands of visitors to Scotland. Cue shoulder to shoulder crowds and exorbitant hotel prices. Plan to book your hotel in Edinburgh at least six months in advance and don't be surprised if prices are double the price.
Unless you're planning to attend these festivals I would avoid August at all costs. Don't assume it's just Edinburgh that will be packed since that's where the top events are. Because these festivals draw crowds from around the globe, those same visitors will be visiting other cities in Scotland as well.
What to wear in Scotland in the summer
It's not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day in Scotland. Dress in layers, always have an umbrella on you and bring a light jacket. I've rarely experienced a day I would consider "shorts" weather. I typically wear jeans paired with a t-shirt and a light jacket or sweater. It can be pretty chilly in the mornings and evenings, even in the height of summer.
When to visit Scotland to Avoid Midges
A random, but very important topic. Midges. Those pesky little insects that will eat you alive. Midges are predominantly in the Highlands and the islands of Scotland. They are the absolute worst in July and August making June the best time to visit Scotland to avoid midges.
If you're looking to take your trip in the summer, June is without a doubt the best time of year to visit Scotland.
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Fall in Scotland – September through October
The best time to go to Scotland for cool sightseeing weather, fall foliage in the highlands, fewer crowds, and Halloween enthusiasts
September is the best time to go to Scotland in the fall. Temperatures are perfectly pleasant for sightseeing ranging from the high-40s to low-60s. October not only sees more rain, about 20 days a month, but temperatures drop to the low-40s and low-50s.
Visit in late September/early October if you plan on driving or hiking around the Highlands and northern Scotland. The fall foliage is gorgeous this time of year.
Early fall in Scotland also means fewer crowds and a good chance of snagging a great hotel price. The summer crowds have dissipated, kids are back in school, and those assuming Scotland is too rainy or cold in the fall travel to other destinations.
As long as you dress accordingly, you’ll be rewarded with a pleasant visit. In fact, September often sees less rain than August!
What to wear in Scotland in fall
Fall in Scotland can be quite cool and wet…especially in mid to late October. Light to medium sweaters paired with a medium warmth coat (preferably waterproof or water-resistant) will keep you comfortable. Always carry an umbrella. I like to bring hand warmers for my pockets when walking around at night since it can get quite chilly.
Events in Scotland in Fall
Oyster connoisseurs will appreciate the Stanraer Oyster Festival in mid-September located in SW Scotland along the banks of Loch Ryan. The Braemar Gathering is the world's most popular Highland Games event and occurs the first Saturday of September. This is one of the only events where the reigning Monarch and members of the Royal Family attend regularly.
Is your favorite holiday Halloween? I can't imagine a creepier place to spend All Hallows' Eve than Edinburgh...one of the most haunted cities in the world! Events will be held all over Scotland...but Edinburgh really goes all out. Take your pick from spooky walking tours and haunted houses.
Best of all is the Samhuinn Fire Festival, a celebration of the transition from summer to winter. Watch fire-play, dance, drumming, and characters dressed in ancient garb perform at Edinburgh's iconic Calton Hill. No two Samhuinn festivals have ever been the same.
Winter in Scotland – November through march
NOT the best time to visit Scotland with cold, windy, wet weather and very short days
You may notice I listed winter for the months of November through March, two months longer than the "typical" winter season. That's because it truly feels like winter in both November and March.
Scotland in winter is very wet, dark, cold, and gloomy. And by wet, I mean it's not uncommon to experience pouring down, sideways rain. These months average about 20 rainy days each month with temperatures in the low-30s to mid-40s. Days are very short with nightfall arriving around 4:00 pm.
Unless you're visiting specifically for New Years' Eve celebrations or Christmas, I would strongly suggest avoiding this season.
On a side note, there are other places in Europe that will give a better holiday experience without the brutal weather if it's Europe Christmas markets and NYE parties you're looking for.
The average tourist will do well to seek the months of May, June, September or early October. If you've been to Scotland before and are focused on slashed hotel rates and spending time indoors in museums or sitting by the fire, then winter could work.
I will also note, tourist operations and sights in rural areas and less popular cities will operate on greatly reduced hours (often completely closed) November through March.
What to wear in Scotland in Winter
Dress for warmth this time of year. While the actual temperatures, low-30s to mid-40s, don't sound that cold, it actually feels a lot colder with the fierce winds and rain.
Bulk up in thick coats, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Choose underlayers that conduct/trap warmth like Smartwool socks and Smartwool base layer tops.
Anything that is waterproof/water resistant is a plus. I also like to bring hand warmers with me and stick those in my pockets...sometimes even my boots if it's really cold.
Scotland winter EVENTS
Celebrate whiskey from not only Scotland but all over the world at the Glasgow Whiskey Festival in November.
Edinburgh's Christmas season lasts about six weeks starting in late November. Enjoy ice skating, Christmas markets, and festive shows. The pubs will feel extra cozy this time of year. Bring in the new year at Edinburgh's Hogmanay, a four-day New Years' celebration featuring a torchlit procession, fireworks, concerts, and street performers.
Art and film lovers will appreciate the Glasgow Film Festival in February and Glasgow Art Fair in March.
I hope this post helps you decide the best time to visit Scotland for your upcoming trip. In summary, my favorite time to go to Scotland is late May through June and September through early October.
These months offer the ideal mix of good sightseeing weather (for Scottish standards) and lower crowds.
In general, try to avoid the cold, windy, rainy months of November through March. These months also have very short days, which is not ideal for sightseeing.
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Ashley Friemel says
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Ashley Friemel says
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