When to Visit Scotland
Scotland is a country that’s worth visiting in any season. You might enjoy exciting festivals and the warmest weather of the year in the summer, hike among colorful foliage in fall, experience the snow-dusted mountain peaks in winter, or the glory of rebirth in the spring with the landscapes coming back to life. June through August brings the most visitors to the country as the high season, with longer daylight and warmer temperatures that climb as high as the mid-80s Fahrenheit (upper 20s Celsius) in the southern region.
It’s easy to escape the heat with the Highlands and northern isles like the Shetlands and Orkneys typically only reaching around 60 Fahrenheit (16 Celsius) in the summer. If you come now, with the influx of visitors, expect busses and ferries to be full, while room rates and airfare are at their highest. You’ll also want to book your reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment. Overall, many feel this country is best visited in late spring, May through early June, and early fall, mid-September through mid-October, for comfortable weather and fewer crowds. Keep in mind that no matter when you come, there’s likely to be a mix of clouds, rain, and sunshine throughout Scotland.
Scotland can be visited year-round, with something to offer in every season. A year-round overview of climate is provided below.
April through mid-June is spring in Scotland, a shoulder season when you can expect fewer crowds and often pleasant weather, with May and June particularly ideal as the chance for rain is lower. Afternoons are usually warm enough for just a light jacket or sweater, the air is crisp and fresh while flowers begin to bloom along mountainsides. Afternoon highs are typically in the upper 50s and low 60s Fahrenheit (14 to 17 Celsius), ideal for hiking in the Highlands as well as sightseeing in the cities. There are a number of events to attend in the spring, including Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival at Calton Hill in late April, a modernization and reinterpretation of an ancient Iron Age Celtic ritual with music, dancing, a bonfire, procession, and plenty of food and drink. May brings the Isle of Bute Jazz Festival, the Arran Wildlife Festival, and the Aviemore and Cairngorms Walking and Mountain Festival.
Summer is the peak tourist season, the period when most visitors arrive. It’s the warmest time of year with average temperatures in Edinburgh in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (around 15 Celsius) but it’s also one of the rainier times with the chances for wet weather higher. The buses and ferries will be running full, and accommodation can sell out quickly, so you’ll want to book well in advance. The cities will be buzzing with activity, particularly in Edinburgh during August which brings the Fringe Festival and Military Tattoo. You’ll be able to experience the Highland Games in Cowal Gathering for a uniquely Scottish experience, while the hillsides will be blanketed in purple, thanks to the world-famous heather. When it comes to wildlife watching, opportunities are abundant – along the coast, you may be able to spot whales migrating by during the season.
Another shoulder season, Scotland is lovely in fall, especially from mid-September through mid-October. The crowds of summer are gone, while prices decrease, and the hills and mountains are covered in brilliant hues of crimson, bronze, yellow, and orange. Even the rain fades now, making it ideal for good weather, with bright blue skies and just a slight chill in the air. Temperatures range from the mid-50s to the low 60s Fahrenheit (10 to 13 Celsius) in Edinburgh, and only a bit lower farther north. You might find discounted rates for accommodation, especially in more rural areas that will shut down for winter. Activities like hiking and cycling are especially enjoyable now and there are also some fun events to attend, from the Ayrshire Real Ale Festival in early October and the Royal National Mod in mid-October (the main festival for Scottish Gaelic arts, culture, and literature) to Halloween activities.
Winter is the low season, a time that can be gloomy and cold. While November is technically fall, it’s the start of winter here. Days will be short and dark, with the first snow typically falling in December and the chill enduring through March and into April. In Edinburgh, it usually doesn’t get too chilly, with average temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit (around 3 to 6 Celsius). This is the best time to enjoy a budget-friendly trip without the crowds, other than around the holidays. Room rates are lower, and you might find cheaper airfare too. Outside of the cities, in particular, restaurants and hotels may close during this time, while mountains may be inaccessible due to snowed in roads. If you like to ski, this is the time to come with snow covering the slopes. There are some great events this season, including the legendary Hogmanay New Year’s Party in Edinburgh.
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