The Best Time to Visit Scotland: Seasons and Activites!

The Best Time to Visit Scotland: Seasons and Activites!

Peppered with lush green hills and valleys, towering craggy mountains, and enchanting lakes and rivers, it is no wonder that ancient storytellers could weave fanciful accounts of giants or fairies living here, for Scotland truly is a magical place.  And the wonder of it all is, the magic is still there after many thousands of years. If you are looking for a chance to visit the past or step through a portal into the world of ancient myth and legends, then this is sure to be a trip you do not want to miss.

But, just like any place in the world, Scotland does have weather and seasons.  Sometimes the weather will make a difference on what sort of tourism can be done.  So, is there a best time to visit Scotland? Why is it the best time to visit? What can be done if you visit during a different season?

Don’t worry about these questions because we have you covered here.  In this article we will not only cover the topic of when it is best to visit Scotland, but also, share information that will help you figure out what to do no matter when you visit.  So, get those tartans ready, because Scotland is on the horizon.

Winter (November to February)

Scotland is not a temperate place in the winter months.  The average temperatures range in the mid to low forties Fahrenheit while there is usually a significant chance of precipitation somewhere.  Due to the cold and precipitation, this is a quiet tourist season for Scotland. In fact, many businesses close for the winter, which can make touring at this time more of a challenge.

But this does not mean touring is impossible or unrewarding.  As you will soon see, even winter vacations have a beautiful side.

Skiing

One activity that is purely winter related is skiing.  If you enjoy hitting the slopes, there is no other time to do so in Scotland.  Places such as the Cairngorms, Glenshee, and Aviemore are optimal stops for lovers of this outdoor activity.  Not only will you be thrilled with the snow and slopes, you will be in awe over the natural beauty this land possesses.

Festivals

Scotland loves to celebrate and no amount of wintry weather stops them.  In fact, they hold so many festivals during this season that it seems there is no off season here.

St. Andrews Day – join the citizens of Scotland on November 30th to celebrate their patron saint.  The festival regularly consists of music, feasting, and dancing.

Hogmanay – this lively festival celebrates the coming New Year.  It prominently features music, fireworks, gift giving, and special attention to the first guest of the new year.

Burns Night – if you love poetry, you will not want to miss out on celebrating the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns.  Join other lovers of the literary arts as poetry readings and even suppers are held throughout the country.

Fort William Mountain Festival – this unique celebration revels in all the things related to mountains.  It includes films and even special talks by famous mountaineers.

Visiting in Winter

If the wintertime does not hold you back from having fun indoors and out of doors, then this may be the best option for you because it is also the cheapest time to visit Scotland.  Tickets for flights and the cost of hotel rooms will be lower than during other seasons. Plus, there is the advantage of post-Christmas sales if you choose to travel throughout that time.

As you can see, Scotland does not let the wintry weather get it down.  It still enjoys much lively celebration and activity and gladly welcomes any tourist to join in its revelry.

The downside of visiting in winter is that the weather can mess with scheduled travel.  Roads may be impassable and even regular events can be cancelled if the weather is bad enough.  Plus, there are many places that close down during the winter months since tourists are rare, so that will cut out many activities, tourist sites, and even towns for a tourist to visit.

Spring (March to May)

This is a beautiful season for travel to and throughout Scotland.  The wintry weather should be in retreat and the flowers should be in budding making for stunning views no matter where you turn.  Not only will there be a renewal of life in nature, but many businesses, closed for the winter, will begin to open their doors once again.

It is easy to see why choosing this season to visit Scotland is optimal.  The combination of beautiful weather and scenery with all the activities available make it so.

Outdoors

Scotland offers plenty of activities for lovers of the great outdoors.  If this is you, you will definitely want to book your trip during the spring season so you can enjoy the wonderful hiking, biking, fishing, and kayaking available at this time.  Join a tour group that specializes in the activity of your choice or plan out your own route using one of the many accessible websites featuring maps and select stops.

Festivals

After facing the chill of winter, the people of Scotland are ready to get outside for some very unique celebrations that are deeply entrenched in their culture.  If experiencing the world of ancient Scotland and getting a taste of its extraordinary culture is of interest to you, then attending one of these springtime Festivals is a must.

Beltane – this is an ancient festival historically celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.  It traditionally marked the end of winter and when cattle were taken to the pastures. Many pagan rituals are associated with this festival and one key ingredient to its celebration is fire.

Highland Games – a not to be missed celebration of the Highland culture.  Although these games have emigrated to many other countries, experiencing it in its homeland is a special treat.  Enjoy the unique and stunning talents of the athletes as they toss caber, play tug of war, or perform a hammer throw.  Food, music, and dance are always integral parts of these games.

Visiting in Spring

Unsurprisingly this is going to be the loveliest time of the year to travel Scotland.  spring weather is always idyllic. The Highlands are opening up to warmth and sunshine providing a much-desired opportunity to visit the heart of Scotland while businesses, once hunkered down to avoid the winter chill, are beaming with words of welcome to all guests.

There isn’t much of a downside to visiting in spring.  There may be a few places that have not opened their doors after closing for the winter, but the further into spring you get, the less you will run into that issue.

Summer (June to August)

Scotland really never becomes sweltering at any point during the year even in the summer season; in fact, summer can feel a lot like spring here.  Not only is the temperature lovely during Scotland’s summertime, but due to its latitude, there is the added benefit of many wonderful hours of sunlight to enjoy that lovely temperature.

The downside to all this is that it makes summertime the busiest time to visit Scotland.  If you are trying to avoid crowds, then this may not be the season for a visit. But, if you do decide to tour Scotland during summer, you will be rewarded with a splendid time.

Outdoors

Just like spring in Scotland, summer offers the same type of outdoor activities.  Available to you will be hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and a host of wonderful touristy events and sites.  The one downside to the summer season is that the outdoors, especially the Highland areas are swarming with midges.  These swarming insects can quickly ruin any holiday, so it is always best to check with local guides to know how to avoid them.

Festivals

Edinburgh Fringe Festival – this may be the biggest festival Scotland offers.  At this event, which can last for three weeks, performances in theatre, comedies, spoken word, dance, opera, children’s music and much more are enjoyed by spectators from all over the world.  Another unique feature of this festival is that anyone is welcome to perform; they just have to sign up.

Highland Games – in case you missed out on the spring session of games, you can catch one during the summer season.  In fact, there are many of these games to choose from at this time of the year. Try the North Berwick International Games or go for the biggest of them all at the Cowal Gathering.  Whichever you choose, you are sure to have a good time.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo – this event is an opportunity to watch military style parades accompanied by military bands.  Performers are from the British Armed forces, the Commonwealth, international military bands, and artistic performance bands.  These bands parade near Edinburgh Castle for all to see.

Visiting in Summer

Mildly warm weather combined with long terms of sunlight make this an optimal time to see the wonders of Scotland.  Nature’s gift of good weather has created a season where festivals flourish and there is bound to be something fun for everyone to enjoy.

The downside to a visit in summer is that crowds abound.  Since school is out and the weather is so nice for travel, this is a peak time for tourists.  With this influx of crowds, a surge in prices will be evident. Tickets for flights and the cost of a hotel room will certainly cost more during the summer than at other times.  But, the wonderful events and beauty of the land will make up for the extra cost.

Autumn (September to October)

If you love the crisp air and golden-brown colors of autumn, then a visit to Scotland during this season will thrill your soul.  While the season also brings rainy weather, this is a great time to get out the galoshes and get into nature for a countryside walk.

While schools have resumed in Scotland, there is still plenty of tourist traffic during the autumn months.  Because of this, you will also be able to enjoy plenty of activities and festivities throughout the country.

Outdoors

The crisp cool air ushered in by autumn makes getting outside even more appealing.  With this sort of weather, you will enjoy all the walking, cycling, and even wildlife spotting you want.  This may be the best time to go out into Scotland’s wild countryside to view the beauties of nature.

Festivals

Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival – held in Dufftown, Moray, this famous celebration of all things whisky, boasts of events such as nosing and tasting, whisky and history walks, and distillery tours.  There is even a whisky museum for those who really long for knowledge on this alcoholic beverage.

The Braemar Gathering – this, the most famous of the Highland games is an exceptional one to try out because you may happen to glance upon some royalty in attendance.  The royals of Britain are regular guests of this festival, so if you are a fan, this is a place to catch a glimpse of them.

Visiting in Autumn

Autumn is going to be a beautiful and very temperate time to visit Scotland, plus there is still so much to see and to do.  Festivals are still being held during this time and outdoor activities are not only accessible, but also, very fun and attractive.  While there is still a high number of tourists during autumn, the numbers will have diminished compared to the summer season.

The downside to visiting Scotland during autumn is minimal.  It can be rainy with a brisk chill, so that could dampen the time spent out of doors.  But, all in all, this season is still wonderful for a tourist stop.

Which is the Best Time to Visit Scotland?

Ultimately, the best time to visit Scotland depends on you and your likes and wants.  If you enjoy the cold winter weather with fewer tourists blocking the view of sites, then go during winter.  But, if you relish being outside for long periods of time and being able to visit every nook and cranny of all the tourist sites even if they are packed with other tourists, then summer is the best time for you.

While deciding this is personal, it may be best to conclude that summer is the optimal time to visit Scotland.  This is because all the tourist sites and activities are available and the weather is ideal for travel.

What to do in Scotland

Scotland is full of history, myth, legend, and natural beauty.  These alone are reason enough to visit, but when you combine them with all the modern styled activities available, it creates a tourist destination that no one can resist.  If you are wondering what to do in Scotland, then check out this list below for a few select ideas.

For Lovers of History

If you leave a historical site breathless with awe and wonder at the culture and people of days gone by, then Scotland is a must visit.  This place will not disappoint. From the truly ancient rock dwellings to early Celtic peoples, to Medieval and Enlightenment era locales and on to more modern history, visitors are sure to enjoy every moment.

Castles – these fortresses dot the landscape of Scotland and remind visitors of a royalty and regime long since passed away.  Take a tour through the crumbling castles of Aberdour, Sween, Dunnottar, or Duart to view the thirteenth century way of life. For a slightly more modern take on the castle, visit the medieval sites of Castle Stalker, Castle Campbell, Blackness Castle, or Doune Castle.  Finally, don’t forget the most famous castles on Scotland’s landscape – Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. These are not to be missed.

Skara Brae – jump back to a time immemorial, a time that has no record or writing to inform us today.  Visiting these ruins in Orkney will certainly give you a look into past technologies and cultures that may give you some appreciation for what we have in the present world.

Banton Quarry Nuclear Bunker – find out what it would be like to live through a nuclear war as a royal.  This unique museum will show you how preparations were made to keep the royal family safe if a Soviet nuclear attack had occurred in Scotland.

For Lovers of Literature

For such a small parcel of land this nation boasts a surprisingly large amount of literary heroes.  If the literary arts have your heart, you may want to follow in the famous footsteps of these artists.

Abbotsford – visit the home Sir Walter Scott, the famous nineteenth century novelist and activist.  The landscaping is beautiful and the library is enviable. And if you really want to follow in Scott’s footsteps, take a day trip to Scott’s View.  This site is a place frequented during his lifetime.

The Writer’s Museum – catch a glimpse of rare books and belongings that at one time were in the possession of either Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, or Robert Louis Stevenson.  This quaint little museum is hidden near Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and is a prize worth searching out.

For Lovers of Nature

Scotland has a past filled with myth and legend and it is easy to see why when you set your eyes on its landscape.  The dramatic cliffs, mountains, rivers, and valleys all possess a magical appearance, giving credence to fabled peoples and stories.

Fingal’s Cave – similar in appearance to the more famous Giant’s Causeway of Ireland, this locale has just as much appeal and history.  The mythology surrounding it and the giants Finn McCool and Benandonner only scratch the surface of what this cave means to Scottish history and mythology.  So, plan to go explore this breathtaking site and the lore surrounding it because it is well worth the experience.

Fairy Pools – walking is the only way to reach these swimming holes, but the trek is well worth it.  Whether you visit during a bright sunny day or a cloudy one, you will be rewarded with beauteous water features.

Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls – located on the Isle of Skye, these two natural beauties are sure to leave you breathless.  Not only is it a sight to behold, but the sounds echoing around will leave you enwrapped in the otherworldliness Scotland is so good at presenting.

For Lovers of Food

If tasting something new and exotic is one of the reasons you travel, then be sure to find some of these local treats Scotland offers.

Fried Haggis – you’ve probably heard of the famous food from Scotland called haggis, but have you ever seen it fried?  Take Scotland’s national dish to a whole new level with this tasty street food. If you are adventurous, look for some restaurants that serve up this bold and daring take on a classic.

Clootie Dumplings – this is a special celebratory sweet treat made in a similar way as haggis; that is, boiling in a bag of sorts.  While it is more typically a wintertime treat, you should be able to find it in shops during any season.

Soor Plooms – these tiny green candies commemorate a skirmish that took place in southeast Scotland all the way back in 1337.  Based on the legend that a sour plum was found after this skirmish, candy makers began to make and sell these in the seventeenth century.  Today, you can find them in candy shops throughout Scotland.

What are You Waiting For?

Scotland is one of those places that you need not wait for; there is something wonderful about every season in this land.  Its magic is as enthralling in the winter snow as it is in the bright sunshiny summer. The golden autumn leaves are every bit as lovely as the dainty budding flowers of spring.  There really is no reason to wait to visit this land filled with myths, legends, fascinating characters, grandiose scenery, and a deep resonating history. This is a place that should be on everyone’s list to visit.  So, what are you waiting for?

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Justin Caldwell

Justin Caldwell is a freelance writer and editor based in Olathe, Kansas. Though he travels primarily domestically with his family, he has spent time in other countries absorbing the culture.  He and his family love exploring his own country and discovering those less often visited places found off the beaten path (and he comes prepared with the best gear). He also writes on subjects ranging from cryptocurrency to smart home technology to whiskey.