Scotland might be a small country — about the size of South Carolina — but its variety of destinations and landscapes is impressive. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, Ben Nevis, Glen Coe, and the Isle of Skye are all must-sees for anyone who wants to experience the magic of Scotland. In order to get the most out of your trip, you’ll want to make sure you visit at the most opportune time. By Lydia Mansel
Here are the best times to travel to Scotland, whether you’re hoping for pleasant weather, fewer crowds, or more affordable prices.
Best time to visit Scotland for good weather
Scotland — and the entire United Kingdom — isn’t particularly known for its weather. More often than not, it’s drizzly and a little dreary. When the weather shows off, though, there’s nothing more remarkable than a sunrise peeping over a Scottish glen or the sun setting behind Edinburgh Castle.
To experience Scotland’s best weather, you’ll need to plan your trip at the right time — and have a bit of luck on your side. The spring season, from late March to May, provides slightly warmer temperatures (averaging between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 7 to 12.7 degrees Celsius), and April is typically the driest month. The time period from September to November also gives way to fall foliage and daytime temperatures from 7 degrees Celsius to 12 degrees Celsius, but you’ll want to shift your schedule to account for shorter days; in November, the sun goes down around 4:30 pm.
Cheapest time to visit Scotland
As temperatures drop, so does the number of tourists in Scotland — and the prices. If you want to save money, book your trip in the offseason, from 1 November to 12 December, or wait until after Christmas, from 26 December to mid-March. While some popular sites may be closed during this time, there are plenty of other things to do, including skiing in the Cairngorms, curling up by a fireplace in a cosy boutique hotel (like The Fife Arms), or exploring the Christmas markets in Edinburgh.
Most popular time to visit Scotland
A majority of travellers make their way to Scotland in the warmer months. Tourist season in Edinburgh ramps up in June and peaks in August, with several major festivals — including the Edinburgh Art Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe — happening throughout the month. The capital’s summer temperatures rarely surpass 21 degrees Celsius, so traversing the hilly city is relatively pleasant.
Visitors descend on Scotland from late May to September to experience the Highland Games, a Scottish tradition that has been around for hundreds of years. Each event, held in different locations throughout the region, is typically one day and includes traditional Scottish sports (tug o’ war and the hammer throw), as well as food, music, and dancing. The Braemar Gathering, held in September, is one of the most well-known events, with the royal family making an appearance in the small town every year.
Best time to visit to explore the highlands
In order to have the most sunlight and best weather, many people head to the Scottish Highlands in the summer, between May and September. Starting in October, the weather can be unpredictable: freezing temperatures, gale-force winds, and snowfall are all possible. The snow-capped mountains are a sight to behold, though, so if you plan a Highlands road trip in the winter, make sure to pack a warm winter coat and that your rental car is properly equipped to handle any icy conditions.
Best time to visit to avoid midges
From May until September, travellers have a high chance of running into midges, especially in the Highlands. These flying, biting insects prefer wet, humid, and cloudy conditions and come out in full force in July and August. To avoid the midges, book your trip to Scotland between late September and early May.
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