Most vacation destinations require a dramatically different season-by-season wardrobe, while Scotland’s consistently cool and wet weather makes for generally easy packing. However, there’s a little more to it than just a windbreaker and athletic shoes! Check out our packing guide of essentials for a trip to Scotland.
Scotland Travel Packing Guide
Highlands vs. Lowlands
Scotland’s terrain varies greatly, from coast-to-coast and mountains to valleys. Where you’re planning to take your trip — whether it’s the scenic Highlands, like the Hebrides, or the culturally rich Lowlands with all of the country’s major cities — will largely determine what kind of clothing to pack.
Travel within the Highlands will likely be nature-centered, given the infinite castles, lakes, mountains, and wildlife to explore. Higher altitudes in this region mean snowfall in the winter and frequent rain year round.
Packing layers is highly advised for any time of the year, with additional warm winter clothing in the months from late September to May. If you plan to visit the Northern Highlands, be especially sure to pack thermal clothing that you can wear under long sleeves and trail pants.
Vacationing in the Lowlands will likely entail staying in major cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow with outings to nearby valleys and rivers, so having varied clothing to choose from — depending on your day’s activities — is convenient. High winds are common from December through February but may come up in warmer summer months as well, so bring along a light hooded trench-coat to shield you from any dismal weather.
Summer in the Lowlands is the when Scotland reaches peak temperatures of around 60˚F (16˚C) and has up to 17 hours of sunlight a day, so make the most of the sunshine and pack lightweight accessories like beanies and scarves for chilly spells.
Regardless of where in the country you’re headed or what season you plan to be visiting, there’s a few essentials you absolutely must bring:
Rain is consistent year long, and you should expect to encounter it even in summer months. Do not embark on a trip to Scotland without a hooded rain-resistant jacket — and durable umbrella if you’ll be walking around town — or you will be sorry.
The mountainous terrain of Scotland’s best sightseeing will require appropriate athletic wear. Spandex leggings, fleece, long-sleeved running tops — ultimately anything you can comfortably walk and hike all day in.
Bring two pairs of athletic shoes since one will likely get wet and need time to dry before your next outing. If you can, splurge a little on some waterproof hiking shoes; they’re awesome for the wet climate and will take little time (if any) to dry after a day outdoors.
This goes for any season, any city, any weather. Late spring and summer months won’t require hefty down jackets, but even wearing a tank top under your shirt/blouse or tying a jacket around your waist should wind flare up will prove to be worth it.
Midges are annoying, biting insects — similar to mosquitoes — that seem to be everywhere in the UK. Pack bug repellent with deet or Avon’s surprisingly effective Skin So Soft to keep the midges at bay. They tend to be attracted to cool, dark, still places and come out at sunrise/sunset, so stay active and head indoors in the evenings if you’re extremely sensitive to bites like I am!
In addition to all of the above, be sure to pack a UK outlet adapter, a collapsible water bottle for air travel and outdoor activities, and a quality DSLR camera to capture your breathtaking surroundings!