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 Scotland seasons, the weather, climate, and the landscape, too!
I’ve been receiving questions from my confused family, friends, and other people, coming to Scotland for the first time, asking what to pack for their Scotland trip. It seemed like nobody really knew what to wear in Scotland with the changing Scottish weather. So I decided to make it easier for everyone and after 4,5 years of living and travelling in the country, I wrote this post with all the insider info you need when you prepare for your Scotland trip.
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Table of content
- General info – diverse Scotland
- What is the weather in Scotland like?
- Scotland seasons explained
- What to pack for Scotland? Full four seasons Scotland 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 pack for the 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 a 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 a stroll in the gardens, which can get wet and soggy. Scotland is all about admiring the beautiful scenery, rich wildlife, and wonderful landscapes. However, shopping & partying is also possible in 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 a matter of minutes. You need to be well prepared and expect rain and the sun on 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 (depending 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 When is the best time to visit Scotland – Scotland seasons 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. Based on my experience of living in Scotland for almost 5 years, and visiting multiple times beyond that time, I recommend spring and summer as the best time to visit Scotland. However, other seasons have their advantages, too.
Scotland in Spring
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 the 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.
Summer in Scotland
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
Autumn in Scotland
The 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.
Scotland in Winter
Scottish winter is a gloomy season. The days are short (it gets dark at 3 pm), 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!
Looking for tours in Scotland? Check out the best deals here!
#4 What to pack for Scotland? Full 4 seasons Scotland 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 waterproof jackets thrown over their smart shirts. After getting to know the Scottish weather, I started doing the same. If you already own some outdoorsy clothes, good news, you don’t have to entirely change your travel wardrobe for Scotland. There might be some adjustments needed, though.
Clothes & shoes to pack for Scotland
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!
Essentials to pack for the Scotland trip:
- 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 a party or go for a nice dinner
What to pack for Scotland in the summer (or spring)
To the list above 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 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.
What to pack for Scotland in the winter (or autumn)
To the list above, 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 woolen 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:
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, a 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 the environment by bringing your own water bottle and re-filling it on the way – Check price here
What to pack for Scotland in spring/summer
To the above 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
Packing for Scotland in autumn/winter
To the above add:
- Hand warmers – cool things to have when it’s freezing outside, also helpful as an emergency source of heat when hiking – Check price here
What to wear in Scotland in the cities – Edinburgh/Glasgow packing list
The above packing lists are great if you do a range of activities in Scotland. However, what you need to pack for Edinburgh or Glasgow or any other city might slightly vary. If you come to Scotland just for a short time and you are not planning to go outside of the city (re-consider it though!), still bring your waterproof clothes, especially the jacket. You could replace the trekking shoes with a nicer pair of wellies, waterproof sneakers, or nicer leather boots. You don’t really need 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 woolen jumper. Don’t forget the umbrella!
#5 What to remember while packing for Scotland:
- 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 an 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.
Frequently asked questions about packing for Scotland
What to wear in Scotland in January, February, November, and December?
What to pack in Scotland for winter is based on warm inside layers and waterproof outer layers. Take a hat, gloves, scarf, good sturdy shoes and jacket that will protect you from the wind.
What to wear in Scotland in March, April, and October?
What to pack for Scotland in Fall and Spring is similar to winter, but minus a thick coat. Instead of a thick jacket, take a thinner one but add more layers. That way, you can be warm when it’s cold, but not too hot when the weather gets better.
What to wear in Scotland in May, June, July, and August?
Packing for Scotland in the summer should be the easiest, as this is when the weather is at its best. However, this might be misleading. There still can be rainy and cold days, so don’t leave your jacket behind. Take waterproof and windproof jackets with you along with thinner layers. The temperature in old Scottish stone buildings inside might be lower, so remember cozy PJs. I’d recommend sneakers and comfortable shoes versus flip-flops, the weather rarely allows for them.
Published: 2017 Updated: 2020
What are your tips on what to pack for Scotland and what to wear? Do you have any questions? Did I miss anything from my list? Let me know in the comments!