Imagine holidaying in Scotland in summer: you're exploring ancient ruins, learning about mythical stories, travelling through sweeping landscapes, and meeting the friendly locals. You can expect this and more with a Scotland summer vacation.
Whether you’re already planning an upcoming getaway to Scotland or you’re looking for inspiration, our local experts in Edinburgh have you covered. Read on to find out what to do, where to go and what to expect from the weather with this Scottish summer guide.
- Travel at your own pace on a Scottish self-drive tour
- Or learn directly from a local guide on a small group package or private tour of Scotland
Scotland is a beautiful country all year long, but the summer is an especially exciting time, with loads to see and do. So, let's get down to details.
When is summer in Scotland?
- Experience the best of Scotland on a summer tour
Summer climate & weather in Scotland
Scotland has a changeable climate all year long. That said during the summer, you can expect warmer and more stable weather than during the rest of the year. Average temperatures during these months will be around 15°C (59°F) and you may be lucky enough to enjoy highs in the low to mid 20s °C (68°F).
The summer may get Scotland's highest temperatures, but the shoulder months get some of the best weather. On average, May is the month with the most sunshine hours and April is one of the months with the least precipitation.
Another wonderful thing about Scotland’s weather in summer? Well it rarely gets too warm for you to enjoy the great outdoors. That means there are unlikely to be scorching days when you can't go hiking or sightseeing comfortably.
Summer packing list for Scotland
Are you wondering what to pack for a trip to Scotland during summertime? Keeping in mind that Scottish weather is very changeable, even within the same day, you should be ready for just about anything. In summer that means bringing clothes for warmer and cooler temperatures.
Here is a suggested packing list:
- Shorts and trousers
- T-shirts and thin long-sleeved shirts
- A warm jumper or fleece
- A waterproof jacket
- Good walking shoes or boots, especially if you intend to hike and go on nature walks
Finally, even if you visit during a particularly warm and sunny summer spell, you may find the evenings chilly, especially in the Highlands. For that reason, you should pack a light scarf and thin hat, just in case you need it.
Must-see Scottish summer attractions
Scotland's highlights are majestic at all times of the year, but here are some top locations to add to your summer itinerary:
1. ISLE OF SKYE
This one may already be at the top of your bucket list. The iconic Isle of Skye, with its rugged mountains peaks, lunar landscapes and beautiful coastlines, is definitely worth the visit. Here you could go hiking to dramatic rock formations, taste delicious fresh seafood, admire waterfalls, and try spotting local wildlife.
It's an especially good one to visit during the shoulder months as there are fewer visitors.
- Got your eye on Skye? Browse Scottish Isles tours to get some inspiration
2. FORT WILLIAM
If you love hiking, you may want to head west to Fort William in Lochaber. This Highland town is known as the "Outdoor Capital of the UK".
Fort William is nestled at the bottom of Scotland’s (and the UK’s) highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Here you can take advantage of all kinds of outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, mountain biking, kayaking, and much more.
- Go off the beaten path in Scotland to see highlights and lesser-known gems
3. THE HERMITAGE
If you can't venture too far north, you could instead go enjoy nature walks in the Perthshire area. Try a walk around the lush Hermitage, a site near the town of Dunkeld that’s protected by the National Trust for Scotland.
The forest was originally designed as a pleasure ground for the Dukes of Atholl, back in the 18th century. The area boasts giant Douglas fir trees which are some of the largest ones in the UK.
4. LOCH NESS
Another pleasant stop in summer is the iconic Loch Ness. This beautiful "lake" is known worldwide for being the home of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.
But legends aside, Loch Ness is an impressive natural site that you can visit, by walking on its shores or by boat. You could also visit the ruins of Urquhart Castle.
- Take a castle tour of Scotland to learn more about local history and myths
Centrally located between Glasgow and Edinburgh, Stirling and the greater Stirlingshire is known as the "Gateway to the Highlands". Stop by the city and its stunning surroundings for a combined experience of the Lowlands' and Highlands' cultural highlights and landscape.
Here you'll find the hill-top Stirling Castle, one of the most visited historic sites in Scotland. Or pop by the nearby Doune Castle, which you might have seen featured in many films and television series like Outlander.
Last but not least is the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Whether you're visiting on a city break or passing through at the beginning or end of your trip, it is worth a visit.
In summer, locals say that the city doubles in size as performers and fun-seekers flock to the many festivals held in the capital. Whether that fact is true or not, in August you could treat yourself to one (or more) of the 3,000 shows hosted by festivals across the city.
- Warm yourself up, no matter the weather, with a summertime whisky tour of Scotland
Summer festivals & events in Scotland
The beauty of Scotland lies in its natural sights, but there are also many Scottish festivals and events to attend throughout the summer. Events are mostly based around Edinburgh and Glasgow with some more traditional festivals hosted in the Highlands and islands.
Festivals cover a range of themes and art forms, including folk music, bagpipes, literature, theatre and whisky. Otherwise you can see modern art, up-and-coming comedians and the latest films to be released. And there’s always the chance to witness the largest Highland Games in the world.
Here’s a quick at-a-glance list of festivals and events in Scotland:
|Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival||Speyside||May|
|Royal Highland Show||Edinburgh||June|
|Edinburgh International Film Festival||Edinburgh||June|
|Hebridean Celtic Festival||Stornoway, Isle of Lewis||July|
|Edinburgh International Festival||Edinburgh||August|
|Edinburgh Festival Fringe||Edinburgh||August|
|The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo||Edinburgh||August|
|Edinburgh International Book Festival||Edinburgh||August|
|World Pipe Band Championships||Glasgow||August|
|Cowal Highland Gathering||Dunoon, Argyll||August|
- To attend these events and enjoy the warmer months of Scotland, visit in May, June, July or August
- Check out these top Scotland holiday packages to start planning your summer escape
Scotland summer travel tips
Here are a few extra travel tips from our local experts to travel to Scotland in summer:
Consider visiting during the shoulder months: Summertime is a popular time to visit Scotland, especially with Edinburgh hosting many festivals throughout August. Visit in April, May or September for a quieter time, more accommodation availability and less traffic on the roads.
Book early: You may also want to book early if you wish to visit the Highlands and islands in summer. This is especially true if you have specific locations in mind that you don't want to miss out on.
Factor in long daylight hours: In summer, Scotland boasts extended daylight hours, which means long days and short nights. Indeed the sun rises very early, at 3-4 AM near solstice, and sets late around 11 PM at the latest.
The advantage of this is that you'll have all that extra daylight to enjoy more sightseeing and activities. But if light affects your sleep, we’d recommend an eye mask to go to bed.
Prepare for "midges": In rural areas of the Highlands and Scottish Isles, you may encounter small flying, biting bugs called "midges". Their bites are an itchy annoyance. While you can outwalk swarms of the insects, it’s worth being prepared.
Midges are at their busiest during twilight hours from mid-June to mid-August. You can sometimes avoid bites by wearing Avon Skin-So-Soft body oil spray, allegedly the repellent of choice for Britain’s Royal Marines.
- Want the full Celtic experience? Combine your tour of Scotland with a trip to Ireland
These are only some of the things you may enjoy in Scotland in summertime. Don’t forget about island hopping to Orkney and the Outer Hebrides, visiting castles and Neolithic sites, or even taking a tour of the famous whisky distilleries.
To start planning your summer trip to Scotland, get in touch with our local experts via live chat, toll-free numbers or contact form. They are based in Edinburgh and will use their local knowledge to build your dream tour of Scotland.