Are you looking to join the more than 15 million tourists who make the trek to visit Scotland each year?
From gorgeous natural scenery to famed castles, incredible eats, and a diverse cultural scene, Scotland has it all — steeped in a heritage as rich as it is fascinating.
With so much to see and do, it can be challenging to figure out how to fit everything in while you’re there. That’s why today, we’re taking a look at how to plan the ultimate Scotland vacation!
Misguided planning could leave you either crammed for time or stuck wandering aimlessly, both of which can be avoided with a little forethought. Let’s dive into exactly how to prepare for your trip, to ensure you get the most out of your Scottish experience.
So let’s dive into exactly how to prepare for your trip, to ensure you get the most out of your Scottish experience.
Ready to get started? Grab your suitcase and let’s go!
1. Plan the Perfect Time to Go
Scotland is known for its array of festivals and cultural events, which take place year-round. If you’re interested in attending these events, it’s wise to plan your trip during the time of year they take place.
Among others, some of the major, most popular festivals include:
- Edinburgh International Festival: August
- The Fringe: August
- The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: August
- Highland Games: June-September
- Edinburgh’s Hogmanay: December
- Burn’s Night: January
The Edinburgh International Festival celebrates the arts in and around Scotland. The three-week event is widely regarded as one of the most widespread and well-known arts celebrations in the world. This Festival is celebrated in August (August 4-28, 2017).
An offshoot of the International Festival, The Fringe is now the largest arts festival in the world, held at the same time in August.
The Military Tattoo, held at Edinburgh Castle, allows visitors to take in impressive performances from more than 1,000 members of the British Armed Forces. Representatives from the Commonwealth and other, international military bands are also there. This year’s event takes place from August 4-26.
While those events are held in the summertime, the winter also offers an impressive amount of culture.
Edinburg’s Hogmanay is Scotland’s version of New Year’s Eve, held on December 31. It features a torchlight procession, a street party, and a group dip into the River Forth!
In addition, every January 25, you can join others around Scotland to celebrate the birthday of poet Robert Burns. This culminates in an occasion known as Burn’s Night, or Burn’s Supper. Feasts of haggis and whiskey are the trademarks of this cultural event!
In addition to the aforementioned festivals, if you’re interested in a truly immersive cultural experience, don’t miss the Highland Games. Held June through September, these games are widespread throughout the region. They feature dancing, traditional sports, music and more.
This brief overview can help you determine the best time to plan your trip. You don’t want to miss out on some of the most rousing and enriching events that a Scotland vacation has to offer!
2. Consider the Climate
With a maritime climate, Scotland’s weather is considerably temperate. It can change in an instant, but it rarely ventures into the extreme.
As you plan your Scotland vacation, you may be interested in scheduling your trip around the seasons, and the weather they typically offer.
As such, it’s important to note that in the winter, Scotland’s average low is around 0 °C (32 °F). Warm winds from the Atlantic Gulf Stream keep it from reaching the intense lows experienced by its neighbors, including northern Canada.
On the other hand, summers remain relatively mild, with average temperatures of around 15–17 °C (59–63 °F).
If rain is a concern, rest assured that while Scotland does see its fair share of downpours, these are mostly contained to mountainous regions such as the western Highlands.
While other areas might experience bouts of rain, they’re usually short-lived, and often give rise to bright and sunny days!
In general, the season from April to September sees the least amount of rain and most amount of sunshine. This makes this time ideal for the country’s many festivals — and your trip!
3. Learn about Tourist Seasons
Want to blend in with a crowd of other vacation-goers? Or would you rather take your Scotland vacation at a time of year when crowds are minimal and you’ve got the sights almost all to yourself?
Your answer to these questions may depend on whether you’re traveling alone or with a group. It may also center on where you’re looking to focus the majority of your sightseeing.
During peak tourist times, popular attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, Loch Lomond, the National Museum of Scotland, and more will be busier than usual.
You may also have to wait for a table at some of the country’s many Michelin Star restaurants. These include the Gleneagles Hotel near Auchterarder, The Kitchn in Edinburgh, Peat Inn near St. Andrews, and Kinloch Lodge, in Skye.
Even if you don’t mind the extra busyness, it can be helpful to understand when the country experiences its main waves of tourism.
Due to the many cultural festivals that occur during the summer, the months of June to August are known as High Season.
For areas that host many cultural events, such as Edinburgh, this time of year can be crowded. It typically means busy terminals, crowded streets, and sold-out tickets.
The months of April and May, as well as October and November, are collectively known as Shoulder Season. These are the times directly before and after the major festival season. During these months, tourism is moderate and most attractions are fairly easy to access.
On the other hand, Low Season typically occurs from October to April. At this time, many locations, such as distilleries and local parks, may shut down due to inactivity or inclement weather.
As you plan your Scotland vacation, it’s a good idea to keep these seasons in mind. And remember to always check ahead to make sure your must-see sights are operating, and at what hour they open and close.
Planning a Scotland Vacation: Your Ultimate Tour Guide
One of the best ways to make sure you experience all that Scotland has to offer? By letting a professional tour company be your guide!
We’re a U.K. tour operator dedicated to helping visitors delve deeply into the culture, history, and attractions that our region provides.
From visits to famous gardens to beer and wine-focused tours to delight your culinary side, we’ve got it all.