Best time to visit the Scottish Highlands

Winter transforms the Highlands with clear, pristine snowy landscapes. It’s the season that many mountain guides love beyond all others.
Every season has a hint of magic to it in the Scottish Highlands. During summer the wildlife, from golden eagles to deer and dolphins, is prolific and visible, and the waters are perfect for cruising. Autumn sees the foliage taking on beautifully rich hues while the tourist crowds fall away, the first flurries of snow landing in upper reaches. Spring brings fine walking weather and carpets of wildflowers. Winter transforms the Highlands with clear, pristine snowy landscapes. It’s the season that many mountain guides love beyond all others, one that promises opportunities to see the Northern Lights, especially in remote parts of the Cairngorms or the Hebrides.

Scottish Highlands Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
-1
4
303
FEB
-1
5
204
MAR
0
6
254
APR
1
10
127
MAY
4
13
133
JUN
7
15
144
JUL
8
16
167
AUG
8
16
189
SEP
7
14
272
OCT
5
11
304
NOV
1
7
286
DEC
0
5
299

Our top Scottish Highlands Holiday

Scotland by railway holiday

Scotland by railway holiday

Experience authentic Scotland independently and car-free

From £1135 to £1195 8 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made from April to the end of October.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Scottish Highlands or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Scottish Highlands, month by month

Guided small group walking holidays explore remote landscapes and hidden views in December, January, February and March, when temperatures drop precipitously and you’ll need crampons and ice axes. Self guided walking is possible on the West Highland Way from March to October. If you want to walk in winter, the services of an expert mountain guide come highly recommended. Between May and September many small ship cruises ply the sea around the Inner and Outer Hebrides off the west coast, and Orkney off the north, in search of whales, seals, dolphins and seabirds. Mid-season is best for the calmest waters. May also sees the start of the Highland Games season. In June, cruises around the sea lochs of Argyll bask in long days and temperatures fit for swimming. The summer months are the busiest for the Scottish Highlands. In July and August coach loads of tourists swarm popular destinations such as Aviemore in the Cairngorms, or Skye, but the beauty of Scotland’s right to roam is that it takes little effort to escape the crowds. In September, the World Stone Skimming Championships are held in Easdale. The Scottish winter sports season runs from November through to April and heavy snow blankets higher reaches in areas such as the Cairngorms National Park.

Responsible Travel recommends

Fiona Forsyth, from our Scotland cruising holidays partner The Majestic Line, says: “My favourite season for cruising is autumn. The colours in the Highlands are beautiful in September and October.”
Andy Bateman, co-founder of our Scotland walking partner, Scot Mountain Holidays, says: “For the first-time walker in the Highlands I would suggest coming in springtime. During normal summers it can be very busy, especially on the west coast, so accommodation has to be booked well in advance. You also have fewer problems with midges in spring, and you do get some of the best weather in the Cairngorms in March, April and May. We actually have less rain than Cornwall here on this side of the Highlands.
“People often ask me what my favourite season is for walking in the Highlands and it would have to be winter, with the snow on the pine trees, and views that on clear days can go on forever. You can see Ben Nevis 80km away from the high Cairngorms. I know a lot of the other guides up here feel the same way.”
Robert Kidd, founder of our Scotland rail holidays partner McKinlay Kidd, says: “I love the end of June because of the amount of daylight. Even when you’re going to bed it’s still light. And September, because you begin to get the autumnal colours. The heather is in full purple bloom, there’s a real vibrancy about the Highlands and it’s not particularly busy either.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Graham Lewis] [Topbox: Craig Bradford] [Autumn: K. Mitch Hodge]