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HomescotlandWhen is the best time to visit Scotland?

When is the best time to visit Scotland?

Scotland is a fantastic trip, with old yet vibrant cities, incredible wildlife, the epic Highland landscape, and over 800 islands.

The stormy North Atlantic weather that blows onto the country’s coasts (Scotland has more than 10% of Europe’s entire coastline) makes the weather difficult to predict, but it does fall into distinct seasons. Indeed, Scotland is more seasonal than many other European places, so planning your vacation around the ideal time to visit is essential.

Summer provides festivities, including the world-famous Edinburgh Festival, as well as long, light-filled nights. Winter, on the other hand, is a snug season of wilder weather and whisky-warmed pleasant nights inside, as well as the greatest time to stargaze and observe the Northern Lights. Savvy travelers come during the shoulder season, when the weather is dry and the prices are lower. Consider the finest times to visit Scotland while sipping a dram.

The months of July and August are ideal for festivals.

scotland music festival
scotland music festival

Summer fills up Scotland’s social calendar. School vacations begin in July, as does the biggest season for Scottish tourism. It’s also peak season for birders, and the optimum time to visit Shetland’s 100 islands and Orkney’s 80. It stays light till late in Orkney, whilst darkness is almost non-existent in far-north Shetland’s “simmer dim” (the island’s summer-evening twilight). And there are no midges on the west coast. It’s also a good time to visit the Outer Hebrides and attend the largest festival there, “Heb Celt.”

Throughout August, Edinburgh becomes the cultural epicenter, with a plethora of festivals, ceilidhs, whisky extravaganzas, and other events taking place all over the mainland and islands as inhabitants and visitors enjoy the long northern summer nights. The schedule is more akin to a half-dozen festivals than a single event, so plan ahead of time for travel and lodging. This is the best month to see minke and killer whales on the west coast, with basking sharks joining the many dolphins.

If you want to go outside, expect mild weather but also some rain (bring your waterproofs). Unfortunately, midges are at their peak on the west coast just in time for high season.

May, June, and September provide sun without the crowds.

Pentland-Hills-Regional-Park
Pentland-Hills-Regional-Park

Many Scots consider May to be the best month of the year, with long days, rising temperatures, dry weather…and no midges. The Hebridean machair is in bloom, hawthorn hedges are in bloom, and cherry blossoms adorn city parks. Celebrate whisky at Islay’s fantastic festival, or swish your kilt at the season’s first large Highland Games.

Evenings in June offer daylight until 11 p.m. – even later in the Northern Isles – allowing you plenty of time to explore. Border towns are festooned with bunting to commemorate gala days and the very historic Common Ridings; it’s the perfect time to visit the borderlands. The gannets and puffins have returned, so take a trip to Bass Rock to see the adorable birds.

The school vacations are over, the midges are dying off, wild brambles are perfect for plucking in the hedgerows, and the weather is frequently dry and pleasant – an ideal time of year for outdoor activities. The best adventure-sports destinations are Aviemore and Fort William.

From October through April, the Northern Lights and pleasant nights are ideal.

scotland northern lights
scotland northern lights

The weather can be cold and damp from mid-October to March, but the Gulf Stream keeps temperatures from dropping as low as you’d expect at this latitude. Except in the mountains, snow rarely lasts long.

The trees put on an autumn show in October, with Highland Perthshire and the Trossachs being wonderful sites to enjoy their flaming reds, deep oranges, and rich gold hues. As the tourist season comes to an end, thoughts shift to log fires and malt whiskies in country inns. The Enchanted Forest’s spectacular sound and light festival takes advantage of the dark evenings, while the Royal National Mod celebrates all aspects of Gaelic language and culture.

Although the days are becoming shorter in November, it is still a good time to visit galleries and bars in Scotland’s bustling cities. And to view Scotland’s “Big Five” fauna before the red deer head high into the hills; the other four are harbor seals, otters, golden eagles, and red squirrels, with Arran being the only island having all five. St. Andrew’s Day is observed throughout Scotland. Christmas markets and celebrations begin in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The dark days and typically chilly and damp weather of December are alleviated by seasonal festivities. Nothing beats Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) in Scotland, as the capital hosts a massive street celebration on the big night, as well as days of activities. Fire festivals erupt in Comrie and Stonehaven, with a slew of other activities taking place across the country. Come prepared to party (and book your accommodations in advance).

Scotland shakes off its Hogmanay hangover in January and returns to work (a day later than the rest of the UK, on January 3), but only after a plunge in the sea on New Year’s Day in sites like South Queensferry and Broughty Ferry. Then there’s Burns Night, with celebrations all around Scotland. Because it is cold and dark, January is the finest month for astronomy and hunting for the Northern Lights.

February is the coldest month of the year, making it ideal for adrenaline-pumping winter mountaineering and ice climbing. You can also ski and snowboard at any of the country’s half-dozen ski resorts. The days are becoming longer, the Six Nations Rugby Tournament begins, and snowdrops begin to flower.

March in Scotland can be a quiet month, but when the weather improves, spring is on the way. Glasgow’s comedy festival is in full swing, and the city’s annual film festival adds to the cultural buzz in Scotland’s largest city. Bluebells bloom across the country in April, when the forests along Loch Lomond’s beaches blossom and ospreys return to their Loch Garten nests.

The weather is getting better, and the days are growing longer. The Shetland Folk Festival brings music to the streets, and rugby players take to the field at Melrose in the Borders for the world’s oldest Sevens event.

Maris Lopez
Maris Lopezhttp:////my-lifestyle.co
Hey there! I'm Maris, an American girl who is passionate about adventure, the outdoors and all things travel!
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