Best time to visit Scotland?

Old Aug 22nd, 2005, 07:01 PM
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Best time to visit Scotland?

We are thinking about traveling to Scotland next year and wondering what is the best time to see it? Spring, summer or fall? We are pretty flexible next year.

In case this helps, we are a married couple in our early 50's. And we will be doing a driving tour on our own. We are just starting to plan and at this point have no idea what the weather will be like! Thanks!

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Old Aug 22nd, 2005, 07:48 PM
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We have gone twice in September, and loved it both times. Terrific weather, and the crowds have dispersed, so we often have interesting sites to ourselves - wonderful!

I'm not sure that you could pick a "wrong" time to go to Scotland.

Click on my name ("leonberger") to see my'll have to go back a ways to get the Scotland report from September 2004.

I'm planning yet another Scotland trip for September 2006 (with my husband and my parents).

Renting a car is the best way (in my opinion) to see Scotland, so it sounds like you're off to a great start.

One word of caution - unless you have more time than we did (2 weeks), don't try to see everything. Choose a couple of areas and enjoy them. See the rest on a later trip.

Have fun planning - let me (and the rest of the fodorites) know if I (we) can be of further assistance!

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Old Aug 22nd, 2005, 08:47 PM
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I don't think you can really pick a wrong time. But my choices in order would be: 1) June -- VERY long days, mostly pre-midge season, gorgeous gardens, and the crowds are not bad yet

2) September -- often lovely weather, mostly post-midge season, most of the crowds have gone home

3) May -- days nearly as long as June, definitely pre-midge, and the spring flowers are in their glory.

The only month I would not go is August -- UNLESS you are planning on doing the Edinburgh festivals/tattoo. (I adore the Tattoo/festivals but unless that is a major reason for your trip, August in edinburgh just complicates things) If you do want to visit Edinburgh in Augunst you should make your arrangements many months ahead of time.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2005, 09:40 PM
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We went last July and had a great time!
We took the Lindblad cruise from Oban to Inverness through the locks and lochs (!) and the Orient Express from Edinburg to London. It was very luxe and definitely once in a lifetime, but we saw so much, including Wales! In Edinburgh, don't miss the Brittannia, Queen Elizabeth's "yacht" open to the public.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 04:24 AM
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March was nice in Scotland, a little cold but cheaper and less crowded.

In the Highlands, driving is not difficult. Many of the roads are single track with pull-out areas. We enjoyed Ullapool, Glencoe, Oban (including the islands of Mull and Iona) and the Isle of Skye. If you are into architecture, Glasgow is good. Edinburgh has all the icons and you would be hard pressed to explain to the people back home if you missed it.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 04:35 AM
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We usually go in May or September, pre and post midgies.
Both are very pleasant, but in September the days are going to be that much shorter.
There are getting to be far fewer single track roads in the Highlands. There is a lot of widening going on.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 05:32 AM
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We spent two weeks in Scotland in August last year and loved it, although as noted above, Edinburgh is dominated by the festivals at that time. The midges stayed away at Kenmore and Skye and Kilmartin, but caught us on a hillside in Glen Coe.

An unrecognized poet of my acquaintance, himself of Scottish ancestry, chose November for his visit, believing it would be the most "characteristic" month. He relished the darkness and "15 minute" cycles of sun, rain and sleet, He didn't mind fighting the chill with a good single malt, either.

Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 05:37 AM
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You will notice that no one has suggested going in November-February. Not just for the weather, but for the short daylight hours. Also many attractions are closed or have imited schedules.

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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 05:45 AM
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I've been in June (twice), July and August - and I'll second Janis's recommendation for June because of the long days and the fact that it is a little less crowded than later in the summer.

We spent 12 days in Scotland last summer - late June and the first couple of days of July. We had some rain and it was a bit cool at times, but on balance I thought we were pretty lucky with the weather.

Our trip report, with photos, is online, in case any of this is helpful:
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:00 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I am now leaning toward early September to avoid the crowds, etc. Will it start to get dark by the middle of the afternoon then?

I am going to buy a couple of guide books this afternoon - can't wait!!

leonburger, I am looking forward to reading your past posts.

Also, will there be any flowers in September?


PS Don't laugh - what are midges?
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:18 AM
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gopack: Midges are NASTY little beasts. Sort of gnats/no-see-ums but especially voracious. At their worst in damp/warm/calm conditions - like is most common in July/August.

September is a fine time to visit when the days are much the same length as in parts of the US. The big differences are May/July when the days are VERY long, and Nov/Jan when the days are VERY short.

There will be lots of lovely flowers and the heather will be in bloom.

But don't choose Sept primarily to avoid crowds - British (and most European) schools don't let out until July so June is definitely not high season and is not crowded.

I usually find airfares are a bit cheaper in May and June than in September. They go up in early July and except for the odd sale, don't usually come down until late Sept/Oct.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:25 AM
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I was in Edinburgh the last week of May. Chilly, rainy, windy...and I had a WONDERFUL time. It's a magical city in a magical country. Go, enjoy.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:56 AM
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ms go,

I just finished reading your entire Scotland travelogue with the photos! It was wonderful!! Thanks for telling me about it.

I had a inkling that midges were like no-see-ums, but wasn't sure. Nasty is right!!

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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 08:00 AM
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If you are into the indigenous flora, May dazzles with the brilliant gold of the whins (gorse)--just don't go poking around in them as they are the most stickery plant alive!

And the heather, especially in the highlands, captivates in late August-early September.

Bonus--the Scottish hospitality and humor is evident everywhere, every day.


Jinx Hoover
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 09:52 AM
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We went in May 2004 and the weather was gorgeous. Not a drop of rain the entire time we were in Scotland! Also, the rapeseed (fields of yellow flowers) is in bloom as well as the gorse and the countryside was beautiful. Nice long days and cool weather. No problem with crowds either. If you go to and search for dkubiak you will find our UK 2004 trip album.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2005, 01:10 PM
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Keith--Actually, we went in mid February, lol! We loved it...very few people, nice cold weather and snow. I know, it is not most peoples idea of fun, but it worked for us. I had plans to return this November, but another trip may postpone that.
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Old Aug 24th, 2005, 04:39 PM
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May and June are usually the most reliable for weather, remembering that the index of reliability for Scottish weather is never very high. Especially if you plan to go north of Inverness, you will really notice the longer days in June.
In early September it will get dark around 7 or 8 pm - 22/23 September is the equinox when we get 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night (approximately).
The clocks go back one hour to GMT in late October, and that's when the evenings really start to feel dark. OTOH if you find a nice friendly pub you might be glad of longer evenings...
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Old Sep 8th, 2005, 02:46 PM
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Definitely mid May to mid June. Fabulous time of year.

Times for September as given. You've missed a lovely week weather wise this week. But, as always in Scotland, who knows about next?
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Old Sep 8th, 2005, 07:59 PM
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I suggest you also consider whether you think this will be your only trip to Scotland. If it is, a visit in August would allow you to experience the Tattoo and festivals. In spite of the crowds and prices, these are world-class events that you'll never regret seeing.

If you think you'll be back, I agree Spring or Fall are great but you should plan on getting to Edinburgh in August on a later trip.
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Old Sep 9th, 2005, 01:01 PM
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Loved our visit in mid-July several years ago. Light lasted til' 10PM, it seemed, and I actually don't remember midge problems. I do remember being able to play golf or to walk the fells til' late hours. There was also quite a bit going on, if you go in for the bagpipe festivals etc. Even in July, Edinburgh was very crowded, so make sure to have those lodgings already set in advance. The one evening that I hadn't planned for on a 7-week trip was a night returning through Edinburgh after a couple of weeks on the coast. We went to the traveller's aid desk and found a fine B&B not far from the center of town-- but it was a bit nerve-wracking!
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