When is the best time to visit Scotland?
6th December 2022
Scotland is a brilliant year-round vacation destination. There are great reasons for visiting in spring, summer, fall and winter; it’s really down to personal preference. So the question isn’t when is the best time, it’s when is the best time for you to enjoy a holiday in Scotland.
Lush green glens, mountains bathing in beautiful sunlight; bright yellow daffodils; fluffy white lambs with wobbly knees; birds chirping in the forest and, if you are really lucky, dolphins playing in the waters of our Eastern coast. It can only be one thing, Springtime in Scotland!
Spring is a popular time of year to visit Scotland and a favourite season for many. If you are looking for a ‘safe bet’ time of year to book your tour, Spring is it. On average it is cooler than the summer months, but Spring is a relatively dry time of year. The landscapes are beautiful and full of life and the lighting is perfect for photography.
Reasons why Spring is a great time to vacation in Scotland
Wildlife - our countryside is full of new life so you can expect to see tiny chirping chicks and adorable lambs… not to mention baby Heilan Coos with their big brown eyes and fluffy, ginger coats. There really is nothing cuter! It is also the best time of year to visit the Puffins on Staffa and there is a chance you will spot Dolphins on the east coast. Ask us about our Puffin Cruise Tour.
Cheeky primroses, bold bluebells, pure white snowdrops and yellow buttercups - colourful Spring flowers cover the landscape in Spring. Trees are blossoming everywhere - cherry blossoms are my favourite; bright pink in the trees and then they cover our streets in a carpet of soft pink when they fall.
The weather is pleasant and dry, perfect for strenuous days walking in Glencoe or exploring castles. This is the best time of year to enjoy our walking tours as believe it or not… it can sometimes get pretty hot for hiking in summer! While often our spring days are lovely, we still recommend packing warm layers and waterproofs for a spring tour.
No midges - for many… this is the clincher! Midges put some people off a summer visit, particularly if they are visiting our Western Coast. For those of you who haven’t heard of our tiny friends, midges are very small mosquito-like creatures. They don’t carry disease and are fairly harmless unless you have a particular reaction to insect bites. They usually just make a small itchy mark. But if even that sounds too horrible, stick to Spring!
May is Whisky Month and there are lots of great events celebrating our national drink around the country. If you are interested in going to any of these events, enquire about our Custom Tours and we will look at including a Whisky event within your itinerary. You can also check out our 5 Day and 10 Day Whisky and Castle Tours.
Great local produce - this is the best time of year to taste our local produce, particularly locally grown vegetables which are of the highest quality in spring. We know that food is part of the experience when you are on vacation, so we make sure to take you to lots of eateries during your tour. Most of our accommodation partners (where you will dine for breakfast and dinner) source their ingredients locally and provide you with a delicious mix of both traditional and modern Scottish meals.
Scottish Culture - late spring is also the start of the Highland Games season. I often think traditional cultural events are romanticised and overstated on television or in guidebooks… meaning it can be a disappointment when you actually go. I can assure you that the Scottish Highland Games are exactly as you would imagine them to be!
Long summer nights spent watching the waters of the loch lapping on the shore of a sandy beach. Standing on the deck of the ferry watching the mainland disappear as you make your way to The Hebrides or Orkney. Warm days enjoying the Scottish isles at their very best. Summer is by far the most popular time of year to visit bonnie Scotland.
Reasons why Summer is a great time to vacation in Scotland
A relaxed, happy atmosphere. Everyone in Scotland is smiling in the summer. Most of us have taken some vacation days so we can relax and enjoy the summer season. There are lots of fun events and festivals taking place and there is an air of merriment throughout our countryside and in our cities.
The weather - touring Scotland in summer gives you the best chance of enjoying some warm, sunny days with average highs of 66°F, although it we have had temperatures of up to 80°F in recent years. Of course, it can rain…it can always rain in Scotland. But if you are someone who doesn’t like the cold, we’d advise a summer vacation.
Long summer nights - with our daylight hours lasting till as late as 11pm in the summer, you can really pack your days full of activities. In the winter months, it can get dark as early as 4pm which means you can start to feel quite tired and cold by the late afternoon. Not in summertime! You’ll be feeling lively all night long, maybe you’ll even go to the pub to enjoy some upbeat Scottish music after your tour activities have wrapped up for the day.
There are Highland Games every weekend in different locations throughout the summer. The day is filled with tests of speed, strength and nerve; hard-fought dancing championships; arts and craft competitions; and a range of lighthearted and ridiculous competitions (the dog with the waggiest tail is my favourite) thrown in for good measure. While there are people who compete ‘on the circuit’ there are usually events open to visitors to take part in. So don’t just watch, have a go!
If you are a fan of literature, comedy, film, theatre, dance or anything in the realm of ‘the arts’ the Edinburgh Festivals are a must. Even if Scotland as a whole isn’t on your bucket list (although if you are reading this, I am sure it is!) I’d say going to the Edinburgh Festivals should be. It is one of the best, if not the best, arts festivals you can go to worldwide. It brings in the best talent from all four corners of the globe to perform in stunning buildings with beautiful Gothic, Medieval and Georgian Architecture. There is an exciting buzzing atmosphere throughout July and August and the entertainment is literally bursting out of the venues and onto the cobbled streets of Edinburgh. We’d recommend spending a few days at the beginning or end of your tour with us enjoying the many events the festival has to offer.
Attractions are open for longer and there are more ferry sailings. This makes it easier to fit everything in, and if we are building a custom itinerary for you it will allow us to plan an action-packed tour.
It is the best time of year for golfing. Scotland, specifically St Andrews, is the ancient home of golf. If you are planning to get a couple of rounds in during your trip, summer is great time to do this. It is unlikely that your round will be ruined by the weather and the courses will be looking at their most lush and green.
However, here are two minor downsides to summer which are worth mentioning; some attractions can be very busy and the dreaded midges are in the air!
The enchanting colours of autumn draw many a visitor to the Scottish Highlands. Deep reds, fiery oranges and pale yellow leaves cover the hillsides and are reflected in their splendour onto still lochs. Fall or autumn, whichever word you prefer, is a special time to visit Scotland and provides many sights that you don’t see at any other time of year.
Reasons why Fall is a great time to vacation in Scotland
The crowds have left - fall is quieter than summer but not too cold yet, so you get a great balance of pleasant days and fewer people. It isn’t ‘too quiet’ however, so all of the attractions, restaurants and cafes are still open.
The satisfying crunch of autumn leaves beneath your feet. The fall colours always make me feel warm and cosy, I love walking at this time of year. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park has plenty of lochs surrounded by great woodland, so it is especially beautiful at this time in the autumn.
Wildlife - this is a great time of year to see red squirrels, otters and grey seals. You might even spot some rutting stags - our magnificent male red deer fighting it out to win over the affections of their female counterparts. Their roar and the clashing of their antlers can be heard for miles around.
No midges this time of year either!
Autumn provides some great seasonal produce, namely lamb, game, fruit (particularly blackberries) and oysters. So if you are visiting in autumn, head for lunch at one of Scotland’s excellent oyster bars and be sure to order some lamb or venison for a hearty and delicious dinner!
Cosy evenings in front of the fire with a whisky or hot chocolate. Autumn is a great time of year for this, especially if there is a band playing some upbeat Scottish music. The Scots love a fiddle (violin) and an accordion; the combination of these is sure to lift your spirits after a tiring day of touring.
Sunrises and Sunsets - the colours at this time of year are truly spectacular and you don’t have to get up really early or go to bed late to see them! Pinks and oranges adorn the sky on those crisp, clear autumn nights.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Anyone visiting Scotland in the winter has likely been drawn in by breathtaking photographs of snow-covered mountains and valleys. And when the snow falls in Scotland it really is magical. For the best chance of seeing a thick coating of snow, book a tour in February or March. However, snow can appear anytime from late October. There are plenty of other great reasons to visit Scotland in the winter, including a host of cultural events.
Reasons why Winter is a great time to vacation in Scotland
Winter is a great time of year for stargazing. The nights are long and when the skies are clear you’ll be able to see thousands of constellations.
Cosy evenings in front of the fire with a hot toddy or a mulled wine. There is nothing better after a day out in the cold. A roaring fire, traditional Scottish music, a warm drink and great conversation. Just bliss!
The weather actually isn’t too cold! Scotland is fairly mild compared to other Northern European countries which can be harsh during the winter months. If you have your heart set on a winter vacation but don’t fancy walking around outside when it's 14 °F, then Scotland is the perfect winter destination.
Stunning snowy landscapes - this is the big highlight, seeing our castles and mountains blanketed in snow. The further north you go the more snow you are likely to see. Our tours take you into the heart of the highlands so you can enjoy the scenery glistening in the winter sun.
Beat the crowds! You won’t find any of the attractions too busy in winter. Picture yourself sitting by a loch, wrapped up in a big jacket on a crisp winter day, without another soul in sight! Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? The only place which will be busy is Edinburgh during December. Every year there is a large Christmas market in the capital , and it is pretty packed. It is still worth a visit, so you could hop into the crowds for a few hours, do some shopping, drink some mulled wine, and then escape to the quiet countryside!
Plenty of great events - the Edinburgh Christmas Market isn’t the only event taking place during the winter in Scotland. There are wonderful Hogmanay (New Year) celebrations all over Scotland with fireworks displays and quite a few firelight processions. The world-famous Celtic Connections Music Festival takes place in January, as does Up Helly Aa on Shetland Island. We celebrate two of Scotland’s great heroes during the winter, St Andrew’s Day takes place on the 30th of November and Robert Burns Night takes place on the 25th of January. Both events involve a haggis, neeps and tatties supper followed by ceilidh dancing.
If you are on a family holiday in winter, be sure to visit Santa’s Reindeer in the Cairngorms. This 150-strong herd is the UK’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer. The reindeer are tame and friendly and welcome visitors big and small.
We should mention, however, that visiting the islands can be tricky at this time of year as ferry crossings are often cancelled. Some attractions also have reduced opening hours, but if you tour with us, we do all the planning to make sure that you make the most of every day you spend in Scotland.
When should I vacation in Scotland?
There are so many benefits to visiting Scotland all year round. Even with all the information on hand, it can be very tough for some travelers to decide when they are going to book. So if you have read through our blog and still don’t know when the best time of year for you is, we have the solution… Visit more than once!
We hope to see you in Scotland very soon.Recent articles