Like much of the UK, the word ‘unpredictable’ is apt when describing Scotland’s weather. The best time to visit Scotland for bright, sunny days is during spring, summer and early autumn but you should be prepared for rain no matter what time of year you go.
The good thing is, the weather can be very changeable, so don’t be too disheartened if you are greeted by clouds on arrival. One thing to bear in mind is that ferries out to the islands are governed by the weather, and will not run if it is not safe to do so.
Outdoor activities in Scotland
Scotland is jaw droppingly beautiful – craggy peaks, sparkling lochs and moors covered in purple heather make for a landscape up there with the best in the world. And, if you venture into the Highlands and down the West Coast, the likelihood is you’ll have it mostly to yourself. One of the joys of visiting Scotland is taking to the hiking trails and this is best done in spring, summer and early autumn.
Even during this time, the ground can be very boggy so be sure to bring proper walking shoes and lots of pairs of thick socks. Cycling is another great activity but make sure you have proper gear and pack waterproofs. If you want to go fishing for brown trout, which you can do at the beautiful Alladale Wilderness Reserve, then May to October is the best time to visit.
The best time to...
Lots of Scotland’s wildlife can be seen year-round, including seals (both grey and common), red deer and red squirrels, as well as land, wading and sea birds. If you want to experience the deer rutting season, you’ll need to visit in the autumn. Summer is your best chance of seeing dolphins as they hunt for migrating salmon, while spring and summer are good for those hoping to get a glimpse of colourful and cute puffins.
See it in bloom
Bluebells and Scottish primrose abound in spring, while during summer, heather and machair cloak the moors.
Visit the cities
Scotland’s cities have enough to keep you occupied all year round with world-class museums and galleries, and great restaurants. The Fringe Festival comes to Edinburgh every August, and while the atmosphere is wonderful, the city gets incredible busy, hotel rooms disappear fast and prices soar.
The Scots know how to ring in the new year in style, and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations encompass three days of music and partying. Revellers take to the streets of the capital and there is much merriment with live music and fireworks providing the backdrop.
The notorious midges
Travelling to the Highlands and coast in the summer usually means you’ll encounter tiny but annoying midges. They typically make their presence known from May until September and love still, humid conditions.
They are also more active around dawn and dusk. They don’t like wind and if you’re on the go, hiking or cycling, they’re far less of a problem. Although they’re irritating, they won’t ruin your holiday and there are numerous bug creams and sprays to help keep them at bay.