What a question! Depending on who you ask, you will get many different answers and reasons of why Edinburgh in August is the best time. Or why Harris is stunning in spring and Skye should be avoided in July! It’s all personal preference or being limited to school holidays maybe? In this blog I hope to answer the aged old question “when is the best time to visit Scotland?”
Before we moved to Perthshire, I had been up to Scotland on holiday many times; once at the end of May to Fort William and all the other times were in March when we stayed on the Isle of Mull. To say we had been lucky with the weather, I think is an understatement. Our Fort William trip was my first ever time in Scotland and we managed to get a clear view from the top of Ben Nevis, which on average has a clear view from the summit, one out of ten days! We were super lucky as it had been torrential rain two days earlier when we arrived.
Our trips across to Mull and Iona in following years were a mixed bag of howling wind, torrential rain, blue skies and spectacular aurora borealis sightings. Non of the bad weather stopped us from getting out and about – the wildlife still have to hunt for food and the beaches are still beautiful. The photo below was taken on a beach in March during a visit to Iona where we were the only two people on it and ate our packed lunches sat on the rocks. Perfect.
Weather in Scotland
However, since moving to Scotland we have travelled to Shetland in January. Besides the shorter daylight hours, the weather was relatively kind to us. We enjoyed plenty of walks and watched for otters. Dude has played golf in the middle of March on a links course in Harris. Now that was an experience. The wind was not too strong but the sound of crashing waves close by followed us all around the course. A glamping trip in July to Braemar was filled with sunshine, walks and horsefly bites.
The truth is you cannot count on the weather being good, even in the summer.
There is nothing we can do about the weather, except be prepared for it with the right clothing and where necessary, sun cream! As the saying goes “there is no such thing as bad weather” and I totally agree with this. We have to embrace it all. Remember that Scotland is beautiful, lush and green because of the rain. There are no watering faeries that appear whilst we sleep. The rain and mist makes glens and lochs very atmospheric in the autumn and with changing colours of the trees it is rather special. It also fuels some of the most spectacular waterfalls. Of course, if you’re lucky you may even get a rainbow. That’s gotta be worth a smile?
Winter gives us a white wonderland of snow capped mountains that easily rival any landscapes across Scandinavia and if you manage to get a bit of blue sky with that too, you’re on to a winner!
Spring is full of hope, new life and the days start to draw out giving us more day light. I love the fresh feel of the spring months, the air is still crisp, snowdrops and daffodils appear along our driveways and public parks too. We still need to wrap up and look out for April showers but it is a lovely time of year.
As the summer arrives and we get used to the longer days, there are highland games, harbour and book festivals that fill the calender (it’s not all about the Fringe!). BUT, on the west coast (mainly) there are midges. Tiny, annoying little blighters that bite, they come en mass and there is no escaping them. This, for me, is enough to put me off going west or into the highlands at this time of year.
Open or Closed
Many visitor attractions have a season – normally Easter to the end of October, that they are open for. So if you plan to come in January you might want to do your homework and make sure the places you wish to visit will be open. If you are looking at attractions in cities then you will find that they will probably still be open unlike some of the castles on the islands.
We have found that when visiting more remote places or some of the islands ‘out of season’ that even some of the coffee shops and cafes will be closed too. This doesn’t bother us too much and we take packed lunches and a flask when we go out for the day walking, to spot wildlife and do some photography. Something to bare in mind though.
In short, there are pros and cons for each month and each season but all I ask is that you don’t write one off because it might be cold or it gets dark earlier, in favour for following the crowds in peak season for more daylight and cramming more in.
So, the answer to the question “when is the best time to visit Scotland” from me would be “whenever you like. It’s always pretty, breathtaking, atmospheric and welcoming. If you check out my Instagram feed you will see exactly what I mean. Here are some of my photos, through all seasons and weather to help you decide.