What to pack for Scotland and what to wear during your trip? Check my ultimate 4 seasons packing list for Scotland with all the necessities you need for different conditions and activities. I threw in some useful information about the weather, climate, and the landscape too!
I’ve been receiving confused questions from my family, friends, and other people, coming to Scotland for the first time, asking what to pack for their Scotland trip. So I decided to make it easier for everyone and I wrote this post with all the insider info (hey, today it’s been 4 years since I moved to Scotland!) you need when you prepare for your Scotland trip.
Table of content
- General info – diverse Scotland
- What is the weather in Scotland like?
- Seasons in Scotland explained
- What to pack for Scotland? Full four seasons packing list
- To remember
#1 General info – diverse Scotland
Before we dig deeper into the weather information for Scotland and talk more about what to take for Scotland trip, let’s understand the country’s geographical location, landscape, and possible activities. All of that will have an effect on the things that you should pack for your travels.
Roughly speaking, Scotland is divided into the Highlands (mountains in the center, north, and west of the country), Lowlands and Islands. It’s a coastal country (well, it’s an island) and geographically diverse region. There are mountains, beaches, cliffs, a lot of grassy areas, bog, mud, cobbled streets, castles, ruins, lochs, rivers, waterfalls – mostly surfaces, that are quite hard to walk on (so no heels!).
With the beautiful landscape, greenery and wild mountains, the best activities in Scotland are centered around the outdoors and nature. Expect a lot of walking and spending time outside. Even visiting the castles and historic ruins would normally include stroll in the gardens, that can get wet and soggy. Scotland is all about admiring beautiful scenery, rich wildlife, and wonderful landscapes. However, shopping & partying is also possible in the bigger cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen. You can also find a local pub, even in a small village, where you can wait sipping the local Ale until the terrible weather passes by.
#2 What is the weather in Scotland like?
If I was to describe the Scottish weather in one word, I would use “changeable”. The weather in Scotland can change dramatically, literally in the matter of minutes. You need to be well prepared and expect rain and the sun in the same day.
I don’t want to disappoint you, but Scotland is quite often cold and wet. There are, of course, some nice, dry and sunny days, however, there is no real summer. The maximum temperature goes up to 20°C, but mostly stays around 15°C (depends on where). A very popular joke in Scotland is, that this year the summer was on Wednesday. Well, one day of summer is quite common 😉
Edinburgh and Glasgow have a milder climate, Highlands and islands are usually colder. It is also windy. Winter is milder, with temperatures around 0°C and above, however, it can still snow, especially in the mountains. Dundee is supposed to be the sunniest city in Scotland, but this title also sometimes goes to Aberdeen, so come and visit!
#3 Seasons in Scotland explained
I would risk saying, that Scotland has only two seasons – autumny-winter and springy-summer. They blend into each other so closely and the weather is all mixed up, that sometimes it’s hard to divide one from another.
Spring is one of the best times to visit Scotland. Everything is in bloom, days are longer and the earth is getting more sun. Temperatures start to go up, reaching 15°C and above. However, it still can rain a lot. It’s a perfect time to visit islands and the west coast before the summer holidays start and everything gets booked too quickly. In the early spring, midges are not awake yet, so you can enjoy sunny days without those tiny biting insects flying around.
As I mentioned above, summer in Scotland is more like a transition period between Spring and Autumn, that just happens to fall around June and July. That being said, it’s still a nice time to come to Scotland, as you have more chances for the sun and dry, warmer days. Temperatures range from 15°C-20°C. Days can be sunny, but also rainy and windy. If you go hiking in the Highlands you might even need a hat or gloves. Summer is also the top feeding time for midges – annoying wee insects, so be prepared for them with the insect repellent handy.
Read more: Planning camping? Check essential camping equipment guide here
Weather in Scotland in Autumn starts getting worse. It rains more, there are more cloudy days, light hours are getting shorter and it’s getting darker. You can still get some nice and clear days, but the risk of showers is higher. Temperatures range from 5°C-15°C. Luckily, the midges are now gone and the earth wears beautiful warm colors of red and orange.
Scottish winter a gloomy season. The days are short (it gets dark at 3pm), temperatures range around 0°C-5°C, sometimes dropping below 0°C, especially in the mountains. There’s often snow in Highlands and sometimes also in the cities. Most of the time it rains a lot. That’s the best time to do some shopping, stroll around towns, that are lit up with Christmas decorations and fairy lights, try whiskies in the pub, and stay in, rather than spend time outdoors. However, if the day is nice, hiking in the snow is also a lot of fun!
#4 What to pack for Scotland? Full four seasons packing list
When deciding on what to pack for Scotland, put practicality over fashion and you will be much happier on your trip. You can thank me later. All the locals and tourists also dress in a practical way, so it will be easy for you to blend in. I remember my surprise seeing my colleagues coming to the office in the waterproof jackets thrown over their smart shirts. After getting to know the Scottish weather, I started doing the same.
Clothes & shoes
Layers and waterproofs are the way to go. Make sure that the clothes and shoes you wear in Scotland are warm, waterproof and comfortable. That’s all you need!
- Waterproof jacket – that’s your must-have. Go for Gore-tex ones – Check price and model here
- Waterproof shoes – another must-have. The best are trekking/hiking shoes if you plan to go anywhere outdoors (which is basically everywhere in Scotland) – Check price and model here
- Waterproof trousers – So useful when hiking in a rain (or hiking in the sun and getting caught up in the rain, yay Scotland) – Check price and model here
- Leggings/lighter trousers for the nicer days or to put under trousers in winter – Check price and model here
- Warm hoodie– I recommend a fleece – Check price and model here
- T-shirts and blouses
- One nicer dress/outfit for going out + shoes, if you plan to stop in the cities for party or go for nice dinner
For spring/summer add:
- Lighter scarf/buff – Buff is multifunctional and very useful when hiking or doing sports. Check price and model here
- Lighter shoes like sneakers for the nicer days. Flip flops or sandals are not really needed unless you want to use them in the hotels for the shower. I usually wear mine once a year or not at all.
For autumn/winter add:
- Warm hat – it’s important, that it tightly covers your ears, otherwise the wind will make them feel very cold – Check price and model here
- Warm scarf
- Gloves – the best are the ones that you can have on and still use your phone/electronics – Check price and model here
- Winter waterproof boots – if you take trekking shoes with you, they can replace the winter boots if you add warm socks
- Warm socks – I love the woollen ones – Check price here
- Additional warm jumper/sweater – Check price and model here
- Winter jacket or more layers and general waterproof jacket – Rab ones are great, warm, light and compactable – Check price and model here
- Thermal underwear – you can save money by buying top & bottom together – Check price and model here
My waterproof jacket on one of the hikes in Torridon in July:
Always living life on the edge 😅 . Last weekend on the west coast of Scotland was a great one. Apart from the wind that almost blew me away from that rock 😂 But luckily we escaped the biggest rain and there was still a bit of sun during our hike. Have you ever had a situation when the weather wasn't perfect on your holidays but after all it was still soooo worth it? Share your stories below 😁 . . . #worlderingaround . #ontheedgeoftheworld #torridon #scotlandroadtrip #visitscotland #scotlandlover #bonniescotland #lovewilderness #offthebeatenpath #outdoorgirl #wonderlustscotland #weekendtravel #scotlandexplore #hiddenscotland #hikingadventures #mountaingirls #sheisnotlost #viewfromthetop #neverstopexploring #landscapephotography #earthfocus #liveoutdoors #dametraveler #travelbabes #girlslovetravel #womenwhohike #hikelife #thegreatoutdoors #northcoast500 #nc500
Accessories & others
- Umbrella – always! Although sometimes it might be too windy to use it, or there is no point of taking it hiking – then have your waterproof jacket with you
- Backpack – it’s usually better than a suitcase as you can take it with you hiking and it’s easier to carry on the cobbled streets in towns – Check price and model here
- Travel adapter – for the British plugs with three rectangular pins, good investment is to buy a versatile one, that you can use around the world – Check price here
- Camera – or capturing those great landscape photos. I always recommend mirrorless Fuji cameras for their great quality of pictures, compatibility, and lightness – Check models and prices here
- Travel guide – I love Lonely Planet guides – Check recent offers here
- Binoculars – very handy to watch the wildlife – Check price and model here
- Toiletries & medicines – bring the ones you use, however, if you forget anything they are widely available in shops and pharmacies in Scotland
- Water bottle – in Scotland water can be safely drunk straight from the tap, so save some money and help environment by bringing your own water bottle and re-filling it on the way – Check price here
For spring/summer add:
- Sunglasses – for those sunny days
- Insect repellent for midges – a must if you’re going anywhere in Highlands or Lochs in summer – Check price here
For autumn/winter add:
- Hand warmers – cool things to have when it’s freezing outside, also helpful as emergency source of heat when hiking – Check price here
What to take to the city – Edinburgh/Glasgow packing list
The above packing lists are great if you do a range of activities in Scotland. However, if you come to Scotland just for a short time and you are not planning to go outside of the city (just know that you’re missing out), still bring your waterproof clothes, especially the jacket. You could replace the trekking shoes for a cute pair of wellies, waterproof sneakers or nicer leather boots. You don’t really need the waterproof trousers, and you can use quickly drying leggings instead. Jeans can also be worn, but expect them to be soaked if you get caught up in the rain. There are also no midges in the city, so you don’t have to worry about that. In winter, take your winter jacket, a couple of long sleeve shirts and a woollen jumper. Don’t forget the umbrella!
#5 To remember:
- Use layers, they provide heat and it’s easy enough to take something off or put something on if the weather suddenly changes
- Always take waterproofs and/or umbrella with you. Even if the weather is sunny at the moment it might be pouring in an hour!
- Don’t get discouraged by the grey Scottish weather. Scotland is a beautiful country! To make your days more cheerful, you can wear colourful clothes and accessories.
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What are your tips on what to pack to Scotland? Do you have any questions? Did I miss anything from my list? Let me know in the comments!
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