Best time to visit Scotland
So, you want to know when is the best time to visit Scotland? When I wrote copy for tourism clients, it was usual to say that Scotland is a year-round destination and any time was fine. This is, of course, baloney. Basically, between October and, say, March, you are going to take a chance with the weather.
Mind you, this chance could come off. You might have cool, clear autumn nights. Wonderful fall colours and sunsets. Equally, you could have crisp calm winter days, when the high tops are white and it’s all like a picture postcard. But just remember in the depth of winter it’s going to get dark around 4pm and it'll have you seeking another Scottish cliche - the crackling log fire and the dram of whisky at your elbow. (Hey, cliches can be attractive though.)
So, here’s the reality: unless you are going to spend your time in the cities, say, Edinburgh or Glasgow, doing cultural or shopping stuff, then an off-peak low-season trip to Scotland is a bit of a gamble.
But – and at risk of being repetitive – it’s not a ridiculous gamble. The odds are, actually, pretty reasonable. For instance, I’ve just spent much of the day in North Berwick, a little coastal resort in East Lothian. Spot of shopping, bite of lunch, brisk saunter on a sandy beach. And it’s December as I write this. And we had a lovely day. But it was dark by, say, shortly after 4pm.
North Berwick, December
See what I mean? Early December – shops along the bustling High Street were looking busy, everyone in cafes and restaurants. In this picture, the Berwick Law is etched against a crisp sky and the shoreline is windy but certainly walkable if you’re well wrapped up. Hey, what’s not to like about this December day in Scotland? That’s just a reminder that when picking the best time to visit Scotland there are no hard-and-fast rules. There are just opinions. Mine? See a little way below.
Winter in Scotland
A winter visit to Scotland always involves the chance of uncooperative weather. Scotland, on the edge of Europe, as we say on our other weather pages – see links also below – is a weather system battleground. Winter can vary from the mild and wet to the deep crisp cold more associated with the Continent…
Perthshire in deep frost, December again
December (again) on the Knock Hill, Crieff. Note to self, must get this printed up as a Xmas card. Oh, wait a minute, I never send Xmas cards. Never mind. And anyway, this particular winter was way back in 2007. Let’s move on to that uncertain transition into spring.
Cold winds off the Perthshire Hills. Is it still winter then?
Crisp blues and whites, and a snell blast (a cold wind) off the mountains, which in this case, are the hills around Glen Turret, also by Crieff in slightly posh Perthshire. It’s January and the days are still short. (Mind you, it looks much the same in March hereabouts.) Still, you could always nip east to Perth for the rest of the afternoon…gallery, museum, shopping…you know the kind of thing.
Springtime in the north, unless you are Scottish, in which case Lindisfarne is in the south. (It certainly is to me.)
Well, it’s March now. No apologies for this picture just because it’s Lindisfarne, which is in England. But Lindisfarne and Berwick-upon-Tweed should be part of your Scottish experience anyway . (They are, after all, on the way if you come from ‘down south’.) Don’t be fooled by the sun though. It was so cold and windy when I got this picture that I just took my gloves off for a moment to press the shutter. Freezing. To be honest, I cant wait for it to warm up. Will it ever…? Let’s skip forward to later in the spring.
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It’s May in Perthshire. Has it finally warmed up then?
Ah! This is better – the corn (actually, barley) is as high as a wee hedgehog’s eye, while the may blossom and wild roses are out. It’s a May morning in prosperous Perthshire. (Yon distant grey building or grey dot top right in the trees is Drummond Castle. You know, with the garden where they filmed a bit of the movie Rob Roy.) It isn’t heat-stroke weather – but it’s pleasant and bright. May and June can deliver some really good days in Scotland.
The Outer Hebrides in early June
This was another great day way out west, with the sun chasing in and out of fluffy clouds – so you just had to wait a minute to get the island of Harris beaches to light up for the pictures. (You can see more of them on that link.) But late in the evening there was a transient rainbow. I don't think it actually rained though – so in a way the picture is misleading. And the late late sunset was glorious. The Outer Hebrides face the Atlantic and, because of the prevailing south-westerlies, often get Scotland’s weather first – straight off the ocean.
Yes – I think June is the very best time to visit Scotland.
Long daylight hours mean you can pack in all kinds of outdoorsy things.
OK...here's a gallery and a summary for the whole year - though there is lots more information further down this page too...Enjoy!
Click on the pics to view them full-size. For tablets and smart phone users - click the wee white dot (lower right hand side) on each pic to see captions.
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Isle of Skye in August
Oh, well, sometimes it isn’t quite perfect even in high summer. This is the island of Skye early one August. It had rained all morning. It didn’t look too promising in early afternoon either. Then it turned bright, sunny and windy. That’s another characteristic of Scottish weather. It changes quickly. Wish I had had a hot dinner for every time I have read that old cliche about having ‘four seasons in one day’ - but cliche or not, there’s a grain of truth in it. The page called is Skye worth visiting is, uhmm, worth visiting and has more bonnie photos taken on the same day as the one above, except after the sun came out!
Take a look at the Glenfinnan page featured here. All photos on the page were taken during a glorious week in early October...
The Trossachs in November
(Above) Now, this was taking a chance. Actually, the one who was taking a chance was our friend, a Boston-based writer and blogger Meg Pier who asked us to guide her round Scotland. She said she was making the trip at the end of October into November. We pursed our lips, shook our heads sadly and said gloomy things. Then were proved wrong. Glorious autumn colours and still days.
So, that’s about as much as you may need to know about the best time to visit Scotland. June is my favourite month. But I’ve seen sunshine and stillness at, say, the autumn solstice (21 September), while the Trossachs in November picture above is a reminder that you can never, ever be sure from year to year. Just be flexible in your plans when you get here. No matter where you go, there are wet-weather options, indoor attractions and it really is true about fast-changing light and cloud shapes. If the sun is lighting up the head of the glen - then get out of the car and take that picture. The light will be different in a few minutes.
Finally, remember the geographers call the climate of Scotland ‘cool temperate maritime’ (or at least they did when I was at school). I think they meant that you really never can tell...
So what would you like to do in Scotland, whatever the season?