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When Is the Best Time to Visit Scotland

When Is the Best Time to Visit Scotland?

29 Jan 2018 by annabel

Although small in size when compared to other popular destinations in Europe, Scotland is big when it comes to drama and wild charm. It is home to some of the most expansive wilderness areas on the continent, dotted with fairytale castles and awe-inspiring architecture. There’s no other place quite like it in the world. And between its rugged coastline and divine islands to its towns and cities steeped in history and culture, Scotland is a true gem of Britain.

But the one thing that Scotland doesn’t have, is the promise of great weather. Scottish weather can be unpredictable, known to change abruptly in any season. So knowing when to visit Scotland can be a bit tricky. But in spite of this, Scotland is still an incredible destination…..and if you ask us, it’s breathtakingly beautiful all year round.

Read on for some of our tips (no promises though) on what you might expect in spring, summer, autumn and winter. Including where to stay and what to see/do during your visit to Scotland!

SPRING

daffodil

Springtime in Scotland is a truly wonderful season. Daffodils and spring flowers will be popping up everywhere and as the winter weather draws to a close, the stunning Scottish landscape will become sun-kissed with warmer climes. But this time of year, particularly around March, brings a fair bit of rainfall too – so be sure to pack your umbrella and your waterproofs. Spring is still much drier than the autumn and winter months though, so it’s definitely a great time to travel.

Not only will you have the pretty sights of spring bloom, but many of the attractions which close during the winter will reopen at this time. Whilst opening times vary, the general tourist season runs from Easter weekend to mid-October time. Missing the tourist crowds is one of the biggest benefits of shoulder season travel, and spring is simply beautiful for any nature lovers out there.

WHERE TO STAY:

April is Edinburgh’s driest month, so this would be the perfect time to stop over in the capital. Bring your brolly just in case (although you may not need it), go shopping, explore the castle, take a walking tour, and enjoy the city’s amazing foodie experiences and lively nightlife venues. Other great places to stay include Glasgow, Inverness or the Isle of Skye – all wonderful at this time of year.  Although, it maybe that you’re looking for slightly more unusual places to stay in Scotland!

This is also a great time to discover the Highlands – the weather is ideal for hiking and walking. With longer daylight hours ahead, you will have more time to get acquainted with the outdoors. You will find amazing remote scenery in Knoydart, and Boat of Garten is worth checking out for the wildlife in April and May.

FESTIVALS / EVENTS:

Enjoy fun learning experiences at the Edinburgh International Science Festival at the beginning of April or book tickets for TradFest for a traditional arts, music, storytelling, dance, craft, film and folk drama. If you’re traveling with the little ones, there’s also Edinburgh International Children’s Festival which takes place in May and June, both in the capital and touring in other parts of the country. This is a performing arts festival geared towards children and teens, so there will be something for every age group.

FOOD & DRINK:

Gastronomy in Scotland is always inspired by seasonal produce, and in springtime foodies will find so many wonderful dishes to explore. Spring lamb is at its tastiest and juiciest (in late May/June, lamb is extremely tender), and will be available across many local menus. Other seasonal ingredients to look out for are various varieties of wild mushrooms, rhubarb, wild garlic, asparagus, wood pigeon, and Sweet Cicily.

DON’T MISS:

The one thing you won’t want to miss is Scotland’s gorgeous gardens. Go to Branklyn Garden in Perth, the stunning Belleisle Estate in Ayrshire or Dunrobin Castle near Golspie to see Scotland in bloom. Or if you’re a whiskey fan in search of your next tipple, make sure you visit Scotland during May, its official ‘Whiskey Month’.

SUMMER

Edinburgh

The summer months of June, July and August can be a good time to visit due to the warmer weather. This is Scotland’s high season for tourism though, so there may be crowds in the cities and at certain attractions. If you don’t mind the hustle and bustle of Scotland’s vacation atmosphere, this is a fantastic time to go.

You will have the promise of longer days, more sunshine hours and less chance of rain. Despite the weather still being somewhat unpredictable, days are generally mild and warm. You may even witness some gloriously hot sunny days, making it ideal to explore the country’s amazing natural landscape.

Sunsets can be as late as 9pm in July and the average temperature is around 19°C, so this is the perfect time to come and make the most of the outdoors. Locals tend to flock to the coastline if the sun is out. And for sailing enthusiasts, summer is a great season for beautiful and accommodating waters.

WHERE TO STAY:

Head to the Northern Highlands in June, where you can expect up to 18 hours of daylight. This is also said to be the driest month for the Highlands so this is a nice time to visit. If you’re traveling in July, spend some time in Western Scotland where temperatures can be milder, as this month is said to be somewhat unpredictable in terms of precipitation. Big cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Dundee also make superb bases, and have plenty of events taking place throughout the summer season.

For beaches and sea views, book a few nights in St. Andrews, the island of Harris, or the beautiful resort city of Portobello.

FESTIVALS / EVENTS:

Summer is the best time for festivals and events in Scotland. There are too many to name but some of the ones that stand out include Lomond Folk Festival (a traditional music festival taking place on the shores of Loch Lomond in Balloch in July), HebCelt Outer Hebrides (a multi-award winning Gaelic cultural event on the Island of Lewis), Eilean Dorcha Festival (a music festival on the Outer Hebridean Isle of Benbecula), and the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe (taking over the capital for three whole weeks in August). For food lovers, August in the capital also has the amazing Foodies Festival which takes place over a weekend with tastings, shopping and competitions.

FOOD & DRINK:

Leith Farmers’ Market is fantastic in the summer if you want to discover Edinburgh’s seasonal produce. In season foods to try include strawberries, blackberries and gooseberries, as well as carrots, tomatoes and peppers. Fish is also great at this time of year, particularly lobster, lemon sole and plaice which are at their best in taste and quality during the summer months.

DON’T MISS:

Walking tours are a great way to get out and about whilst learning more about Scotland’s history and culture. And this is the time when Scotland’s pubs and beer gardens fill up with both locals and visitors alike. If the weather’s hot, make time for a day of canoeing or kayaking on the River Tay, Loch Morlich, Loch Lomond, on the East Neuk of Fife, or out in the Shetlands.

Read our blog post on one of the best summer vacations we have organized.

AUTUMN

autumn scotland

Scotland is just fantastic in autumn. This is the best time to visit for woodland walks, amazing wildlife watching, and wonderful seasonal produce to tantalize the taste buds. Compared to traveling in the summer, you will have fewer crowds to contend with and the weather is still relatively mild (just without any unpredictable heatwaves or midges).

Temperatures can range from around 7°C to 15°C in September, October and November. But what you do need to be prepared for is the heavy rainfall. Autumn is the country’s wettest season, so be sure to bring your waterproofs, wellies and walking boots if you’re planning on spending your time outdoors.

This is also the best time for photography, as much of Scotland’s parks and wilderness are filled with pretty autumnal colors. So grab your camera and capture the spectacular oranges, browns, yellows and reds of falling leaves and foliage.

WHERE TO STAY:

There are so many places to stay in Scotland during the autumn time, and the cities are great for sightseeing and restaurants. But we particularly love getting away from the hustle and bustle of urban life at this time of year, and there’s something so charming about staying in a Scottish country house or mansion where you’re surrounded by beautiful nature, or you could even stay in a castle! Some of the most wonderful locations include Kinross-shire, East Lothian, Fife and the Highlands.

FESTIVALS / EVENTS:

September and October are great months for food festivals and events. Be sure to visit the Shetland Food Fair, or the Best of the West in Argyll. November also brings Glasgow’s Whisky Festival, making it the perfect time of year for whisky tasting.

FOOD & DRINK:

From game to squash, shellfish to brambles, there’s so much to experience in the world of food. October is a superb month for fish and seafood – particularly cod and haddock, mussels, monkfish, langoustine, lobster, squid and razor clams. Whilst November is a good time to enjoy pheasant.

DON’T MISS:

Looking for an autumn viewpoint? Check out Queen’s View at Loch Tummel, Crieff and Comrie in Perthshire, The Hermitage woodland walk in Dunkeld, Royal Deeside and the Crathes Castle Gardens, and the Meikleour Beech Hedge.

WINTER

cairngorms national park

Winter can be very cold, with daytime temperatures averaging around 5°C in December and 3°C in January. Whilst it’s no summer picnic, the weather is comparatively warmer than places on the same latitude (such as Nunivak in Alaska or Stavanger in Norway). So as a winter destination for a vacation, it’s still considered pretty mild.

This season is truly magical, particularly during the festive season. Not forgetting the fantastic celebrations taking place for New Year’s Eve. Scotland is both a peaceful getaway for the whole family and a top location for nightlife and parties.

WHERE TO STAY:

Enjoy arts and culture in Glasgow, a whisky discovery on Islay, or head to the capital to explore the festive markets. In winter, the cities come to life with shopping, entertainment and nightlife. Whilst the coastal areas and Highlands offer spectacular scenery and a peaceful spot to enjoy winter picnics and dog walks. Other than Islay, the islands to explore in winter are Arran, Harris and Isle of Mull.

For an unforgettable vacation, book your stay at one of our featured Scottish castles or beautiful stately homes – the perfect way to experience Scotland’s winter romance.

FESTIVALS / EVENTS:

The biggest event of the season is of course Hogmanay in Edinburgh. See in the New Year in true Scot style with this wonderful four day event! There will be numerous things going on in the city, but the main thing not to miss is the famous Hogmanay street party.

There will be big fireworks, street processions, live music and more. If you’re looking for something to do on New Year’s Day, don’t forget there’s also The Loony Dook – a local ritual of dressing up in fancy dress taking a brave dip in the freezing River Forth!

FOOD & DRINK:

You simply can’t miss the festive themed dining options during the month of December. Plus, there are Christmas markets all over the country, and they will be filled with tasty street food delights and hot mulled wine to warm up with. Seasonal menus will also please, with great fish and seafood throughout the winter months. As well as superb game, root vegetables, winter radishes, oysters, Jerusalem artichokes and salsify being key ingredients.

DON’T MISS:

Loch Morlich and Cairngorms National Park is breathtakingly beautiful at this time of year, whilst Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve is incredibly atmospheric. If you’re looking for a city walk, Calton Hill in Edinburgh is highly recommended. Winter is also prime time for stargazing, so venture to a Dark Sky Park (such as Galloway Forest) to view the galaxy with a loved one – just remember to pack a blanket, flask and wrap up warm!

If this has inspired you to take a trip to Scotland, then do get in touch with us today and we can start planning your Scottish getaway.

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