Best Time to Visit Scotland
Best Time to Visit Scotland: The best time to visit Scotland is in the summer months when the temperatures are the warmest and chances for rain aren’t as high as they will be during the rest of the year, although rainfall is possible anytime. During this season temperatures in the afternoon typically reach the high teens and occasionally climb into the low 20s. This is also the busiest time of year, bringing the most tourists and the highest prices on accommodation and airfare.
Best Time for Sightseeing: The best time for sightseeing in Scotland is when there’s a good chance for decent weather, plenty of daylight and fewer tourists to interrupt the views. That’s generally mid-April through May or mid-September through mid-October.
Best Time to Visit for Good Weather: July and August bring the best chance for good weather and the warmest temperature of the year with afternoon highs average 19°C. Expect a mix of sunshine, clouds and rain throughout the country.
Best Time to Visit for Golfing: Golf is most enjoyable during the warmer months, from around May through September. The courses won’t be as crowded at either end of that time frame, so if you’re looking for a more tranquil experience, aim for May or later in September.
Best Time for Hiking: With its many spectacular mountain regions, including the Highlands, Scotland is a popular destination for hiking. Hikers that prefer milder temperatures, a good chance for some sunny days and fewer people out on the trails, may want to go in late spring, but it’s always important to come prepared for at least some rain. While there will be more visitors in the summer, it brings higher temperatures without being too hot, making it a wonderful time to hike. While autumn will be colder, that crisp weather often means viewing brilliant fall foliage.
Best Time for Castle Visits: Anytime of year is a good time to visit the castles, but if you’re looking for an uncrowded experience, go in the low season between November and April. No matter what the season, visiting early in the morning or at the end of the day not long before closing, the castles will usually be less crowded and have much shorter lines at the entrance.
High Season: (July and August) The peak summer months are high tourist season in Scotland and the warmest time of the year with afternoon temperatures typically climbing to around 19°C. Expect a mix of sunny and rainy days, along with lots of daylights thanks to the country’s northern locale. With the influx of visitors, expect ferries and busses to be full, while room rates and airfare will be at their highest.
Shoulder Season: (May and June, September and October) The shoulder season is a great time to visit Scotland. Late spring and early summer mean pleasant temperatures and wildflowers in bloom, while autumn transforms landscapes with colorful foliage. Expect afternoon highs of 11°C to 14°C, along with shorter lines at attractions and the possibility of some discounted airfares and hotel rates.
Low Season: (November through April) While November is technically autumn, it’s the start of winter in Scotland. Days are short, dark and often rather dismal, and the month often sees the first snow of the season. The best chance for snow is from December through January, although the cold endures through March and into April most years. This is the optimal time to go for an uncrowded, budget-friendly trip, with the best opportunities for lower room rates and airfare. Some attractions, as well as hotels and restaurants may close during this time, so be sure to keep that in mind while trip planning.
Scotland Weather by Month
While Scotland is relatively small, its climate can vary significantly from one region to another. Generally, you can expect cooler and more unpredictable weather in the Highlands and other mountainous areas. This guide provides an average overall, based around the capital city of Glasgow.
Scotland Weather in January: If you plan to visit Scotland in January, you’ll want to bring plenty of warm winter clothing as this is the chilliest month of the year no matter where you’ll be. The average high temperature is 5°C but when wind gusts hit it can feel quite a bit colder. While it can snow, and it’s likely to in the mountainous areas, it’s often more of a damp cold with rain and possibly sideways winds. In the lowland areas near the sea, snow is less likely. Be sure to pack clothing that can be layered such as sweaters and thermal underwear, as well as an outer layer like a waterproof coat, along with wool socks, waterproof boots, hats and gloves. Scotland’s high latitude means short days, so you’ll want to plan according with an average of 8 hours of daylight this month.
(Average Max Temperature: 5°C. Average Precipitation: 130mm.)
Scotland Weather in February: The average high temperature in February is just a degree higher than last month at 6°C with the low just above freezing at 1°C, so you can expect more wintry weather which can make travel tricky. The reward is some beautiful winter wonderland landscapes, and you can always enjoy the warmth of log fires in pubs, hotels and B&Bs. The days are getting longer for taking in the sights – by late February there’s nearly 11 hours of daylight with sunrise just after 7 a.m. and sunset a little before 6 p.m. (Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average Precipitation: 90mm.)
Scotland Weather in March: While temperatures are rising, the chances for rain increase too, with an average of 120mm of precipitation over 23 days and March. The average high increases to 9°C but you can expect lots of grey, chilly, damp days in lowland areas and snow in the Highlands where it’s colder. While spring may be arriving, it probably won’t be noticeable until late in the month. No matter when you come you’ll have to plan on bundling up, including scarves, gloves and wool socks. The good news is that there is even more daylight now – with daylight savings by late March you can enjoy more than 13 hours of it for taking in the sights. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 120mm.)
Scotland Weather in April: The temperatures are slightly warmer in April, with the afternoon high climbing to 12°C, but mountainous areas will still be cold enough to have snow on the peaks. The better news is that this is one of the drier months of the year, with precipitation decreasing significantly, down to 50mm on average. Mornings and evenings will be chilly, so you’ll still need to bring clothing for cold weather like a warm coat (waterproof ideally with rain possible in every month), but afternoons are usually pleasant enough for just a sweater or light jacket. Pack clothing that can be worn in layers and you should be well prepared. (Average Max Temperature: 12°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
Scotland Weather in May: May brings spring wildflowers to Scotland, and other than the highest peaks, the snow will have melted by now. This is one of the best months to travel here, with the crowds of summer still weeks away and temperatures a bit more pleasant with afternoon highs at 14°C. The average precipitation increases slightly to 60mm, but it’s a good idea to bring that waterproof jacket no matter when you plan to come, along with sweaters and sweatshirts for chilly mornings and evenings. (Average Max Temperature: 14°C. Average Precipitation: 60mm.)
Scotland Weather in June: With the arrival of summer, temperatures are even warmer now, which means you might be comfortable wearing short-sleeve shirts on some days, although you’ll still need to prepare for rain along with cooler mornings and evenings. It’s best to pack clothing that can be layered now, including a rain jacket as June sees an average of 70mm of precipitation over 20 days. It also brings the longest day of the year, with sunrise at 4:29 a.m. and sunset at 10:06 p.m. on the 21st. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Scotland Weather in July: July is the warmest month of the year in Scotland, although it’s unlikely to feel too hot with the average afternoon high 19°C. Again, rain is always a possibility and this month also sees an average of 70mm of precipitation, so you’ll need a light rain jacket along with sweaters for nighttime outings. This is the peak of summer, and one of the best times for hiking in the Highlands and taking part in other mountain activities. Of course, as it is Scotland, warm weather attire like shorts and bathing suits probably won’t be needed. Typically, only locals brave the chilly 15°C sea temperatures for swimming at the beach. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Scotland Weather in August: August temperatures are similar to July, with the average high decreasing a degree to 18°C, although you might see a few more sunny days, with an average of 60mm of precipitation now. It’s a great time to enjoy the beaches and perhaps a quick if chilly dip in the sea. Pack as you would for last month, with a mix of short- and long-sleeve shirts along with a sweater or light jacket. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 60mm.)
Scotland Weather in September: With autumn on the way, early September is typically comfortably warm, but things will begin to change soon. The average high temperature drops three degrees to 16°C and there are likely to be more rainy days with 80mm of precipitation on average over 20 days this month. It can be a great time to visit Scotland, with some areas transformed with vibrant, colorful foliage in late September while the crowds of summer are gone. You’ll still need a mix of clothing, although you’ll probably want to focus more on long-sleeve shirts and sweaters. (Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Precipitation: 80mm.)
Scotland Weather in October: October typically sees crisp, cool days, and often damp ones with around 100mm of precipitation this month. The average high temperature dips a few more degrees down to 13°C, and in the high mountain peaks there could even be some snow. If you come during the second half, there’s a greater likelihood for some serious cold to blow in, which means you’ll want to pack appropriately, including a warm waterproof coat, gloves, wool socks and waterproof boots. (Average Max Temperature: 13°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
Scotland Weather in November: It’s winter now even if the calendar doesn’t say that it is. It’s likely to be cold across Scotland, and chillier still in the north and east. The average high is 9°C while the low temperature is at 3°C. This is also the month that usually sees the first snow of the winter season. When it comes to packing, concentrate on item that will keep you comfortable in cold, wet weather with November also seeing an average of 100mm. The days are getting shorter now too – late in the month the sun doesn’t come up until almost 8:30 a.m. and the sun sets just before 4 p.m., so plan your itinerary accordingly. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 100mm.)
Scotland Weather in December: December is characterized by short, cold and often dark days. It’s one of the coldest months of the year with the afternoon high now 6°C and nights typically get down to only 2°C, which means there’s a decent chance for snow, especially in higher elevation areas. The average precipitation amount increases significantly too, to 120mm over 22 days which means you’ll want to plan to bundle up to stay comfortable while exploring the sights. (Average Max Temperature: 5°C. Average Precipitation: 120mm.)
Scotland Events and Festivals
Scotland in January
New Year’s Day – Both January 1 and 2 are national holidays in Scotland, which means all those partiers can look forward to an extra day off. While many just enjoy spending time in their pajamas, there are plenty of special festivities and activities hosted throughout the country like polar dips, live concerts and racing events.
Celtic Connections Glasgow – The largest annual winter music festival of its kind, Celtic Connections Glasgow features Scottish talent and artists from around the world for 18 days of concerts, talks, ceilidhs, art exhibitions and more, starting in mid-January.
Burns Night – January 25 is Burns Night, a time when the birth of Scotland’s famous bard, Robert Burns, is celebrated throughout the country. Look forward to traditional meals complemented by poetry, song, and drams of whisky at Burns Suppers everywhere.
Up Helly Aa – Those who visit the Shetland Islands in late January (January 25-30 in 2020), won’t want to miss the chance to attend Europe’s largest fire festival, Up Helly Aa. Hosted in Lerwick, it celebrates the community’s rich Viking heritage with torchlight parades, costumed marches, the burning of a Viking boat and parties that stretch long into the night.
Scotland in February
Fort William Mountain Festival – This event takes place in Scotland’s outdoor capital for five days of walking and climbing films, activity exhibitions and lectures. It’s hosted in the latter half of February, February 19-23 in 2020.
Scotland Antiques & Collectors Fair – Hosted during the last weekend of February at Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre, February 22 and 23 in 2020, Scotland’s largest antiques event features an extensive collection of high-quality antiques, along with vintage and retro items.
Glasgow Film Festival – Starting in late February, February 26 in 2020, more than 100 films will be shown over 10 days at this festival which showcases a range of innovative films, along with top works from some of the greatest filmmakers in the world.
Inverness Music Festival – This music festival in Inverness takes place over a week, usually starting in late February (2020’s dates to be announced). Over 1000 entrants take part in a competition to win awards in various Gaelic categories, including instrumental, vocal and speech.
Scotland in March
Glasgow International Comedy Festival – Just as it sounds, this festival showcases top comedians from around the world. It takes place over the second half of March every year.
Scottish Concert Band Festival – Over three days in mid-March (2020’s dates still to be announced), this festival is the National Finals, bringing gold and platinum award concert banks from regional festivals across Scotland.
St. Patrick’s Day – There will be festivities for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day across Scotland, but Edinburgh’s Cowgate St. Patrick’s Festival is one of the most popular, taking place over three days around the weekend closest to March 17th, likely March 13-15 in 2020. There are typically nine stages in five bars along with outdoor venues for live Irish music, dance and lots of Guinness.
The Scottish Golf Show – Hosted for three days in March, March 20-22 in 2020, this Glasgow event features stands from more than 100 exhibitors, lessons from pro golfers, trick-shot demos, putting areas and more.
Scotland in April
Springfest Scottish Food and Drink Festival – This fun and free event held at Loch Lomond Shores takes place over a weekend in early April, April 6-7 in 2019. It includes lots of food and drink from across the U.K. and beyond, chef demonstrations, entertainment for the kids, bars, live music and much more.
Scotland Harp Festival – Hosted in Edinburgh in the impressive surroundings of Merchiston Castle School, this festival features concerts and workshops in early April every year, April 5-10 in 2019.
Easter Weekend – Good Friday through Easter Sunday is a holiday weekend throughout Scotland, which means some businesses will be closed, including post offices and banks, although restaurants and many shops will be open. Families typically gather for special meals, and churches host special celebrations. Easter egg hunts and other festivities can be enjoyed in many cities.
Beltane Fire Festival – In late April at Calton Hill in Edinburgh, April 30, 2019, this festival provides a modernization and reinterpretation and modernization of an ancient Iron Age Celtic ritual, including an impressive procession, music, dancing, a bonfire, and lots of food and drink.
Scotland in May
Early May Bank Holiday – The first Monday of May is a bank holiday across the United Kingdom, including Scotland. It celebrates the coming of summer, providing a day off for many. While schools and many businesses close for the day, most shops and restaurants are open.
Spirit of Speyside – For six days in early May, May 1-6 in 2019, this is a whisky lovers’ event, bringing whisky tasting, food, music and arts and crafts to Speyside.
Bonfest – This is the International Bon Scott Rock Festival, an annual celebration of AC/DC’s late frontman Bon Scott that’s hosted in his hometown of Kirriemuir. It brings fans from around the world for three days of rock concerts, May 3-5 in 2019.
Edinburgh’s International Children’s Festival – This Edinburgh event celebrates the best of children’s theater and dance from across the globe, featuring Scottish and international performers in late May and early June every year. In 2019 it will take place over May 25 to June 2.
Spring Bank Holiday – The last Monday of May (May 27, 2019) is also a bank holiday across the United Kingdom, including Scotland, providing a day for people to enjoy the warming weather. Expect many businesses to be closed, while most shops and eateries remain open.
Scotland in June
Dundee Westfest – For a day in early June, June 2 in 2019, this festival features a funfair, live music, food stalls, arts and crafts, children’s rides and more.
The Rum Festival – The Briggait in Glasgow hosts this rum event in early June, June 7 in 2019. It includes more than 100 different rums, cocktails, food and music from around the world.
Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival – Held in the harbor town of Kirkcudbright over four days in mid-June, June 13-16 in 2019, this annual jazz festival showcases swing and Dixieland jazz, and also features a parade and jazz church service.
Edinburgh International Film Festival – Over the second half of June, June 19-30 in 2019, this event brings the best in British and world cinema to Edinburgh, showcasing some of the latest new movies while bringing opportunities to meet some of the artists involved.
Scotland in July
The Skye Festival – Throughout July and August, starting on July 3 in 2019, the Isle of Skye hosts a diverse range of ceilidhs, dance, comedy and music at various venues.
Edinburgh Jazz & Blue Festival – The United Kingdom’s longest running event of its kind features top jazz and blue performers as well as a Mardi Gras Carnival, a parade, jam sessions, talks and more to Edinburgh for 10 days: July 12-21 in 2019.
Inverness Highland Games – Scotland’s largest inner-clan gathering includes traditional music and highland dancing in Inverness, July 20 in 2019.
Morvern Gala Week – Over a week at Knock Park in Lochaline, July 13-21 in 2019, this event features some of the most scenic Highland games in Scotland, along with live music, dancing, food and more.
Scotland in August
Edinburgh Fringe Festival – This is Scotland’s biggest art festival, held over three weeks in August each year, beginning on August 2 in 2019. There will be some 1,800 performances including artists from around the world.
Edinburgh Military Tattoo – This spectacular event held throughout much of August, August 2-24 in 2019, is set against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. One of the world’s most magnificent shows, it’s watched by a television audience of around 100 million viewers.
Hebridean Celtic Festival – Over four days in July, July 17-20, 2019, The Hebrides brings this festival that features contemporary and traditional music, workshops, ceilidhs, children’s activities and more.
Edinburgh International Book Festival – The world’s biggest book festival is held annually over two weeks in August in Edinburgh, August 10 through August 26, 2019. There will be workshops, debates, lectures, discussions, and opportunities to meet authors from across the globe.
Scotland in September
The Braemar Gathering – Held in early September in Braemar, September 7 in 2019, this is one of the world’s most popular Highland Games and the only one that guarantees a member of the royal family will be there. There will also be pipers and dancers.
Stranraer Oyster Festival – Taking place for three days in mid-September, September 13-15 in 2019, this festival showcases some of the world’s leading oyster experts, top chefs, entertainers and speakers for a seafood celebration in Stranraer along the shores of Loch Ryan.
The Great British Food Festival – Floors Castle in Roxburghshire, one of the most historic houses in Scotland, hosts this annual mid-September event that offers something for all, including live music and around 80 vendors in a magnificent setting. The grounds and gardens will be open to visitors as well. In 2019, it will be hosted on September 14-15.
Scotland in October
Ayrshire Real Ale Festival – For three days in early October every year, October 3-5 in 2019, this festival hosted at the Troon Concert Hall in Troon, showcases more than 150 real ales from across the U.K., along with a range of real ciders.
Royal National Mod – The main festival for Scottish Gaelic literature, arts and culture, usually referred to as simply the Mod, takes place in mid-October in Dunroon, October 11-19 in 2019. Enjoy Gaelic music and song, highland dance, drama, sports, literature and more.
Scottish International Storytelling Festival – Held for two weeks during the second half of October in Edinburgh, October 19-31, 2019, this festival features poets, national bards and weavers who come together to continue the oral tradition of storytelling. Events will take place throughout the city at various venues.
Spirits of Scones Halloween – There will be Halloween events throughout Scotland, including this one in Perth held at Scone Palace. From October 25 to October 31 in 2019, the grounds are transformed into a frightening playground for horror film enthusiasts with all sorts of ghouls hiding in a maze and lurking in the woods, bringing nightmares to life. In cities like Edinburgh there will be haunted houses, haunted walking tours and festivals, including the Samhuinn Fire Festival on Calton Hill which features vibrant costumes, acrobatics, fire dancing and drumming.
Scotland in November
Stirling Gin Festival – This annual gin festival is hosted in Stirling in early November, November 1 in 2019. It celebrates gin, bringing the opportunity to taste more than 100 different types.
Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night – November 5 is Guy Fawkes Night, a British-wide holiday referred to by many other names as well, including Fireworks Night and Bonfire Night. Fawkes lived around the turn-of-the 17th-century, a time when his religious believes were illegal, so he attempted to blow up the King and parliament on November 5, 1605. It didn’t happen, so the day celebrates his failure with fireworks.
Oban Winter Festival – For 10 days during the second half of November, November 15-24 in 2019, this event celebrates the unique culture of Oban with reindeer, street parades, fire art, international and local performing arts, pipers and more.
Edinburgh’s Christmas – Annually beginning in late November, this event features a six-week season of festivities at various venues in Edinburgh. There will be all sorts of holiday markets, attractions, rides, ice skating and shows.
Scotland in December
St. Andrew’s Day – The first Monday in December, December 2, 2019, is a bank holiday for the general population across Scotland. Expect many business closures, although most shops and eateries will be open.
Christmas holidays – The Scottish enjoy three national holidays in one around Christmas, including December 24, 25 and 26, a time when many businesses will be closed. While many places are shut down on Christmas Day, some tourist attractions like Edinburgh Zoo will be open. Restaurants that are open often host special holiday dinners.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – One of the world’s most elaborate New Year’s Eve parties is held in Edinburgh starting on December 30. It last for four days and includes a massive street parade, concerts, torchlight parade, and a huge fireworks display. On New Year’s Day, there will be a polar dip with attendees diving into the freezing waters of River Forth, dog sledding competitions and more.