The best time to visit Scotland
Spring and autumn are glorious in Scotland. The scenery is at its most colourful and there are fewer crowds, so you can enjoy it all the more.
The best time to visit Scotland is during the summer, between May and September. The weather is milder and sunnier, making it ideal for walking in the Highlands, cycling or small ship cruising off the west coast. Scotland’s wildlife, including whales and dolphins around the Hebrides, is also very active in the summer months. Spring and autumn shouldn’t be discounted, however, with gorgeous colours in the vegetation and fewer crowds in popular places such as the Cairngorms. Midges are also less of an issue in the shoulder season. Winter too has its charms, with the prospect of hiking across pristine snowy landscapes.
When is the worst time for midges in Scotland?The worst months for midges in Scotland are between May and October. But they’re really only a problem at dusk and around the water’s edge. Savvy boat captains on small ship cruises will keep you moving at this time of day. We recommend trying eco-friendly midge repellents such as lemon eucalyptus oil or peppermint oil, both of which you’ll find in health food shops. Some of our travellers have also recommended Avon Skin So Soft moisturiser as an effective alternative.
A month by month guide on when to go to Scotland
January in Scotland
February in Scotland
March in Scotland
April in Scotland
April is great for a Scotland railway holiday
May in Scotland
May is great for a wildlife holiday on Mull
June in Scotland
The autumn weather is mixed, but you get the heather from late August, and the trees begin to turn in September. Then later in autumn when the leaves fall, the views are much more open.
– Robert Kidd, director of our partner McKinlay Kidd
July in Scotland
July is great for cruising the Outer Hebrides
August in Scotland
September in Scotland
September is great for a self drive holiday in Orkney
October in Scotland
November in Scotland
December in Scotland
Edinburgh & Lowlands Weather Chart
If you'd like to chat about Scotland or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Best times to visit Scotland for festivals & events
Burns Night (25 January)Robert – or Rabbie – Burns was an 18th-century Romantic poet who is considered Scotland’s national bard. Burns Night is 25 January, during which readings of works such as To a Mouse, A Red, Red Rose and – his most famous poem – Auld Lang Syne are performed, accompanied by whisky and haggis.
Highland Games (May to September)Taking place across Scotland all summer long from May to September, the Highland Games celebrate athletic prowess through competitions in tossing the caber, tug of war and throwing the hammer. It’s not all muscle power, though – there are displays of dancing and bagpiping too.
Orkney Folk Festival (late May)This four-day folk festival carefully balances its roster of artists to ensure local talent gets just as much attention as visiting singers and musicians. Held in Stromness, there are 30-odd ticketed events, but many more free concerts held in pubs where you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere.
Hebridean Celtic Festival (mid-July)Taking place in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in mid-July, this award-winning multi-day festival celebrates the Gaelic language and culture. Artists performing traditional music will often put on a show at in-demand late-night ceilidhs too.
Edinburgh Festival & Fringe (August)
The Fringe Festival takes over Edinburgh in August. And when we say takes over, it is a struggle to find reasonably priced accommodation that isn’t sold out months beforehand. But for culture vultures – and especially aficionados of stand-up comedy – the Fringe is unmissable.
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August)
The Fringe isn’t the only Edinburgh festival in August. Military tattoos (music and dance performances by the British armed forces) take place throughout the month, accompanied by huge parades and spectacular firework displays along the esplanade to Edinburgh Castle.
Hogmanay (31 December)
Hogmanay, or New Year, is a countrywide festival. Edinburgh hogs the limelight with its popular events, but if you head out into the small towns, such as the hill towns in the Cairngorms, you can join community ceilidhs (dances) with traditional music, mulled wine and firework displays.
Our travellers also ask…
When is peak season in Scotland?The summer months – June, July and August – are peak season in Scotland, when you can expect big crowds in Edinburgh, busy hiking trails and lots of cruise ships, large and small, around the Hebridean islands. While summer is the best time to visit Scotland, we recommend coming outside peak season if you can. The late spring and early autumn months of May and September are less busy and you’ll help spread tourism income for Scottish communities throughout the year.
When is the best weather in Scotland?Every season has its charms in Scotland, but for sun and warmth, May to September is the best time to travel. Come between December and February for gorgeous wintery landscapes, spring (April-May) for bluebell woods, and autumn (September) for purple heather on the hills.
When is the rainiest month in Scotland?October tends to be the rainiest month in Scotland, followed by January. The Highlands and Islands typically see a great deal more rain than Edinburgh and the Lowlands. We would always recommend packing for four seasons in a day when in Scotland, as even in late October it's far from unknown to have a few days of gorgeous sunshine.
When is the best time to visit Scotland for wildlifeThe best time to visit Scotland for wildlife is the summer months between May and September. These are the months when marine life such as whales, dolphins and seals off the coast and around the Hebrides is at its most active. And summer is also a hive of activity on the mainland, especially in the Highlands where expert wildlife guides can lead you between hides in search of everything from pine martens to red squirrel and golden eagles. Read our guide to Scotland wildlife for more
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