Weather in Scotland is, in a word, changeable—sunny one moment, cloudy and gray the next. With some dramatic exceptions, you can expect fairly moderate temperatures and at least some light precipitation just about anytime, anywhere in Scotland. A word you need to learn is “dreich,” referring to gray, gloomy weather, because Scots use it a lot. Even so, residents of Edinburgh like to point out that their annual rainfall is no higher than that of London, and in terms of total rainfall amounts (about 23 inches/584 millimeters in both), they’re right, and Edinburgh is actually quite a bit drier than New York—just a lot mistier and grayer. Glasgow, only 40 miles west, gets twice as much rainfall. In fact, the western Highlands north of Glasgow catch moisture blowing in off the Atlantic and are the wettest place in Europe, with as much as 180 inches (4,570 millimeters) of rain a year. It rarely gets terribly warm in Scotland, not much above the 60s, even in summer, or terribly frigid, though bitterly cold air can blow in from the East from time to time, turning the precipitation to snow. The general packing rule is to bring some rain gear and warm clothes any time of year, and at least a light jacket in summer.
When You Find Bargains
The cheapest time to travel to Scotland is off season: November 1 to December 12 and December 26 to March 14. In the past few years, airlines have been offering irresistible fares during these periods. And weekday flights are cheaper than weekend fares, often by 10% or more.
Rates generally increase March 14 to June 5 and in October, and then hit their peak in the high seasons from June 6 to September 30 and December 13 to December 24. July and August are when most Britons take their holidays, so in addition to the higher prices, you'll have to deal with crowds and limited availability of accommodations.
Sure, in winter Scotland is usually rainy and cold -- but it doesn't shut down when the tourists leave. In fact, the winter season gives visitors a more honest view of Scottish life. Additionally, many hotel prices drop by 20%, and cheaper accommodations offer weekly rates (unheard of during peak travel times). By arriving after the winter holidays, you can take advantage of post-Christmas sales to buy your fill of woolens, china, crystal, silver, fashion, handicrafts, and curios.
In short, spring offers the countryside at its greenest, autumn brings the bright colors of the northern Highlands, and summer's warmth gives rise to the many outdoor music and theater festivals. But winter offers savings across the board and a chance to see Scots going about their everyday lives, largely unhindered by tourist invasions.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.