With cultural cities, stunning wilderness and enchanting Highlands, Scotland is a dream destination. But with temperamental weather and crowd-drawing events, choosing the right time for you to visit is essential. Whether you want to heave into the crowds during Edinburgh’s festival season or escape to the wilds of the Highlands and islands, here’s our guide to choosing the best time to travel to Scotland.
High Season: July and August
Best time for festivals
Scotland’s social calendar is jam-packed in the summer, with Edinburgh’s famous festivals in August and events around the country. This means that accommodation prices can be 10% to 20% higher, so book ahead if possible. If you’re looking to get outside, it’s the warmest time of year, but often wet. The midges at their worst in the Highlands and islands.
Shoulder Season: May, June and September
Best time for exploring the outdoors
Statistically these months provide the best chance of dry weather, minus midges, but you should never head to Scotland without planning for rain. Wildflowers and rhododendrons bloom in May and June. June evenings have daylight till 11pm giving you endless time to explore.
Low Season: October to April
Best time for escaping the crowds
During the low season, rural attractions and accommodation are often closed, so check well in advance for any attractions you might want to see. From November to March the weather can be very cold and wet – however this does make it a good time to make like a local and cosy up in a nice warm pub – especially when the sun can set as early as 4 pm.
The nation shakes off its Hogmanay hangover and gets back to work, but only until Burns Night comes along. It’s cold and dark, but the skiing can be good.
Key events: Burns Night; Celtic Connections; Up Helly Aa
The coldest month of the year is usually the best for winter mountaineering, ice climbing and skiing. The days are getting longer, and snowdrops begin to bloom.
Key events: Six Nations Rugby Tournament; Fort William Mountain Festival
March can be a quiet month in Scotland, but the weather can improve as spring seems on the horizon.
Key events: Glasgow International Comedy Festival
The bluebell woods on the shores of Loch Lomond come into flower and ospreys arrive at their Loch Garten nests. Weather is improving, though heavy showers are still common.
Key events: Rugby Sevens; Shetland Folk Festival
Wildflowers on the Hebridean machair, hawthorn hedges in bloom and cherry blossom in city parks – Scottish weather is often at its best in May.
Key events: Burns an’ a’ That; Spirit of Speyside; Fèis Ìle
Argyllshire is ablaze with pink rhododendron blooms as the long summer evenings stretch on till 11pm. Border towns are strung with bunting to mark gala days and Common Ridings.
Key events: Common Ridings ; West End Festival
School holidays begin, as does the busiest time of year for resort towns. It’s high season for Shetland birdwatchers.
Key events: Hebridean Celtic Festival
It’s festival time in Edinburgh and the city is crammed with visitors. On the west coast, this is the peak month for sighting minke whales and basking sharks.
Key events: Edinburgh Military Tattoo; Edinburgh Festival Fringe; Edinburgh International Festival ; Edinburgh International Book Festival
The school holidays are over, the midges are dying off, wild brambles are ripe for picking in the hedgerows, and the weather is often dry and mild – an excellent time of year for outdoor pursuits.
Key events: Braemar Gathering
Autumn brings a blaze of colour to the forests of Highland Perthshire and the Trossachs, as the tourist season winds down and thoughts turn to log ﬁres and malt whiskies in country-house hotels.
Key events: 2Enchanted Forest
The days may be getting shorter, but this can be a great time to enjoy autumn colors, or explore galleries and pubs in Scotland’s cities.
Key events: Glasgow’s Whisky Festival
Darkness falls mid-afternoon as the shortest day of the year approaches. The often cold and wet weather is relieved by Christmas and New Year festivities.
Key events: Hogmanay