YOUR ULTIMATE PACKING LIST FOR SCOTLAND IN ALL SEASONS
Under normal circumstances, every year millions of visitors from all over the world flock to Scotland. Tourists come to Scotland enjoy the natural beauty and the breath-taking and dramatic Scottish landscapes, the centuries-old history, the ancient heritage and, of course, to experience the amazing food and the drink that is inherently part of Scottish culture.
What to pack and what to wear in Scotland? Yet, many of those visitors who come to experience all that Scotland has to offer must wonder what exactly they should pack in their suitcase or backpacks for a destination where outdoor activities might include shopping and sightseeing but also wild camping and wandering around castles, hiking through heather and glens and trekking around lochs, climbing mountains and bagging monroes – when the weather is so notoriously unpredictable!
IMPORTANT: Please check Scottish Government Guidance before travelling.
QUOTES ABOUT THE WEATHER IN SCOTLAND
“In Scotland, there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.” Billy Connelly
“If you don’t like the Scottish weather, wait 30 minutes, and it’s likely to change.” Raymond Bonner
“Today’s rain is tomorrows whisky!” Scottish Proverb
“It’s fine weather we’re having. The rain is falling straight down and kind of to the side.…” William Wallace (In Braveheart)
“In Scotland, beautiful as it is, it was always raining. Even when it wasn’t raining, it was about to rain, or had just rained.” Colin Hay. Actor
“I love summer in Scotland. It’s my favourite day of the year.” Unknown
“There are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter.” Billy Connelly
TO EXPLAIN THE WEATHER IN SCOTLAND
Scotland is usually wetter and cooler than England because of the hilly terrain and the low-pressure systems coming in from the North Atlantic current. The prevailing winds are generally from the west and southwest.
The high latitude of Scotland means that in the winter the days are very short and in summer the opposite is true and the days are very long. On the longest day (21st June) there’s no complete darkness in the northerly parts of Scotland.
Many Scots will promise you that you’ll experience “all four seasons in one day.”
January and February are the coldest months in Scotland with snow falling on high ground. July and August are normally the warmest months but don’t get too excited because temperatures are an average of 19 degrees Celsius.
The rainfall in Scotland varies extensively from an average of 3000mm per year in the western Highlands to under 800mm per year near the east coast. The wettest parts of Scotland will experience an average of 250 days of rain per year, whereas the driest parts only experience an average of about 150 days of rain per year.
Did you know there are over 100 words for weather in Scotland?!
These include my favourites: Dreich. Dour. Pure Baltic. Snell. Flaggie. Hailing Bullet Stanes. Droolkit. Haar. Oorlich. Stoatin’. Smirr. Gloaming.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SCOTLAND?
In my experience, having lived in Scotland for most of my adult life, I would certainly recommend Springtime (April and May) or Autumn (September and October) to you as a ‘best time’ to visit Scotland.
Springtime in Scotland is often still cold (average temps 7 – 13 deg C) and there is still the threat of snow on the hills. Right now, I’m in Scotland while writing this post and its April. Yesterday I was out walking in the cold but dry bright Scottish sunshine.
Today it is snowing heavily and that snow is coming down sideways in the wind.
But, not to worry, as I’m cosy indoors and have a log fire roaring in the grate and this afternoon could well be dry and bright and sunny again!
“N’er cast a clout until May is oot…” are wise words which means don’t ever take off any layers of winter clothing until the end of May!
But in springtime, with the one-hour switch over to British Summer Time, the days do feel longer and the weather can be brighter. In my experience, it can often be drier in springtime than in the summertime when Scottish skies can be heavy and leaden grey.
In summertime, if the weather is dreich (damp and grey) then you’ll also have to be prepared to deal with the dreaded ‘wee beasties’ or infamous Scottish midge – the biting flies that plague both locals and tourists alike from late May to late September.
There are over 35 different species of biting midge in Scotland and generally, the more northerly you go, then the worse the midge problem and the more ferocious the biting midge. For the unprepared, visiting the Scottish Highlands in Summer can be torturous. You have been warned!
The Midge Forecast
Visitors to Scotland during the summer months can check the Scottish Midge Forecast – yes, there really is such a thing – which will tell you how severe midges are likely to be on a given day in a particular location and offer advice on how to thwart the wee biting beasties.
I have also written a post on how to prevent biting flies such as midges, sandflies – the no see ‘ums – and mosquitoes etc from spoiling your holiday you that might find helpful.
Autumn in Scotland, like springtime in Scotland, is a ‘shoulder season’ that can often offer spells of drier weather and milder temperatures (average 8 – 14 deg C) together with off-peak accommodation costs and fewer crowds than in the summertime in the most popular tourist spots in Scotland – like taking a tour of Edinburgh Castle.
Of course, many people want to come to Scotland in the summer months (average temps 15 – 17 deg C but of course it can sometimes be much warmer) because that’s when the wonderful Edinburgh Festivals will normally take place.
There are actually eleven festivals hosted in Edinburgh each year, the ones I’ve already mentioned plus the Edinburgh Science Festival, Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh International Storytelling Festival and lastly, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.
So… with all these activities on throughout the year and in all seasons… what do you wear and what do you pack for a holiday in Scotland?
WHAT TO PACK FOR SCOTLAND IN ALL SEASONS?
My recommendation for all seasons in Scotland is layers of clothes. Vest tops. Long-sleeved tops. Short-sleeved tops. A cotton shirt. A woollen sweater. Leggings. Jeans. Quick-dry cotton trousers are a good idea and also waterproof trousers for when the weather is oorlich (damp and freezing). You’ll definitely need a raincoat so that you don’t get droolkit (soaked to the bone) and you might want to keep your phone in a waterproof phone case. A warm hat is a good idea but don’t buy one of those awful tacky tartan tourist ‘Jimmy’ hats with nylon red hair attached to it. You’ll also need good comfortable waterproof trainers and/or shoes or boots.
But don’t stress. If you own any of the items mentioned already then why not bring them with you in your luggage and then buy all the other things – like warm woollen sweaters – when you arrive in Scotland?
Scotland is famous for its traditional wool and luxury cashmere knitwear using Arran and Hebridean Wool, Harris Tweed, and Tartan and Fair Isle patterns, to name a few.
On Your Packing List For Scotland… you’ll also need:
WHAT TO PACK FOR SCOTLAND IN SPRING
(March: April: May)
Springtime in Scotland is often bright and breezy. It can also be wet and windy which can make it feel icy cold (pure Baltic) both in the city streets or the open countryside.
So, wear layers of clothing and lightweight woollies under your rain jacket and insulate against the biting winds with a warm scarf and hat and gloves and use a wind-resistant umbrella. Carry all your stuff around in a waterproof daypack.
Wearing (waterproof) boots and woolly tights/leggings and thermal underwear is also recommended if you are planning to be outdoors a lot or exploring high ground.
For hiking or even looking around castles, lightweight waterproof over-trousers on top of your leggings or jeans and a fleecy sweatshirt or a woollen sweater and a padded body warmer are all ideal as outerwear and also casual attire too.
In springtime, several warm but lighter layers are better than one big heavy sweater, so that you can layer up and adjust as necessary between the sunny spells and rain showers.
WHAT TO PACK FOR SCOTLAND IN SUMMER
(June: July: August)
Again, lightweight layers should be the main items on your Scotland In Summer packing list. Scotland in summer can be warm and sunny and dry on one day and everyone will be out wearing sunglasses and shorts and t-shirts. And then the next day, you might need your jeans/trousers and a cardigan/sweater and carry a rain jacket again.
If the forecast is dry, then late summer evenings in Scotland can still be chilly, so be prepared and wear or carry a long-sleeved fleecy top. Carry your wind-resistant umbrella just in case it rains in your day bag and don’t forget your midge repellent!
WHAT TO PACK FOR SCOTLAND IN AUTUMN
(September: October: November)
The weather during September and into October in Scotland can be surprisingly pleasant but also unpredictable. This can make your packing list for Scotland In Autumn a bit tricky.
I’d recommend the same items that I have suggested for springtime – light layers – but also add a warmer and more insulated padded raincoat with a hood. Team the coast with gloves and a moisture wicking scarf to keep out any chilly draughts.
Pay attention to what footwear you are wearing at this time of year too. No one likes cold wet feet and so waterproof trainers or boots and warm socks are recommended.
WHAT TO PACK FOR SCOTLAND IN WINTER
(December: January: February)
Visiting Scotland in winter is to experience various degrees of cold weather with very few hours of daylight. During December and January, due to Scotland’s latitude, there are only four or five hours of daylight at best depending on the levels of cloud cover and the further north you go then the less daylight you’ll have – if any – at all.
Yet, winter in Scotland can be magical. Outside there are snowy landscapes, winter sports, brisk walks. Inside, warm fires, friendly people, hearty food… and a dram of whisky!
Then there are the Hogmanay celebrations that bring people to Scotland in wintertime from all over the world. Especially for the famous Princes Street Hogmanay Party in Edinburgh. But what to wear? What should be on your Scotland In Winter packing list?
Bring warm layers and also thermal underwear. Cosy, woollen, fleecy thicker top clothes to keep you warm. You’ll need a longer length warm and waterproof coat. A wool scarf – I like a blanket scarf – and of course gloves and a warm hat.
Footwear should be sturdy with warm linings. Boots are a good idea. Wear your footwear with warm soft wool socks. Footwear that isn’t sturdy or warm should be reserved for indoors only but avoid too-high-heels in case you are suddenly whisked to your feet for a quick reel of ‘Dashing White Sargent’ or ‘Gay Gordons’ at an impromptu Ceilidh Scottish dance!
So that’s my list of recommendations for what to pack and what to wear in Scotland.
I’m sure it will be helpful to you.
Do have a wonderful time in Bonny Scotland and then Haste Ye Back!