‘How can you cycle in that heat?’, my neighbour asked two days ago, when the temperature in Glasgow stood at 22 Celsius and the sun was blazing down, taking the felt temperature up a few more notches. It was a serious questions – that day was an exception, even in the Scottish summer which had only just started. Scotland does not necessarily have the best reputation when it comes to the weather and on the west coast in particular several completely dry days in a row are like Christmas and birthday together.

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When you plan a trip to Scotland one of the things I can almost guarantee is that it will rain at some point. That doesn’t mean it is going to pour down every day, all day throughout your entire holiday – but a shower here and there is very likely. Now, don’t despair – there are a few coping methods to deal with the Scottish weather and if you follow them as good as you can, you will find that it is not so bad after all.

Is bad weather that could happen to you on a holiday? Rain is almost inevitable on a trip to Scotland - so better take note my tested coping strategies!

Tip 1: Chose wisely where in Scotland you go

One look at the map and you will understand why the Scottish weather has such a terrible reputation. The ‘secret’ lies in its location. Scotland lies basically unprotected from the Atlantic Ocean and all the bad weather rolling in from the sea hits the island with full force. It comes as no surprise that the Scottish west coast gets the worst of it, and rain gets trapped between the ocean and the high mountains of the Highlands. The logical consequence is that the east of Scotland is much drier than the west.

Take Edinburgh for example, where it rains a lot less than in Glasgow – but due to the lack of the gulf stream heating up the ocean on the east coast, it is also colder. So, either you go where it’s warm and wet, or dry and cold – you choose…

You might also like: Scotland 101 – How to plan a trip to Scotland

Is bad weather that could happen to you on a holiday? Rain is almost inevitable on a trip to Scotland - so better take note my tested coping strategies!

 Tip 2: Get that “there is no bad weather”-attitude

The worst that can happen on a holiday, is when it rains, right? Wrong; so wrong. Don’t let rain ruin your trip!

Instead of missing out on all the highlights of Scotland along the west coast (think Loch Ness or the Isle of Skye) I found it a much better strategy to simply change my attitude. In the almost three years I have lived in Glasgow I have learnt to re-define rain significantly.

I am now at a stage where I don’t call it ‘rain’ unless it hits my face. Drizzling or light raindrops are nothing to worry about, and most activities are still totally doable when it rains.

You might also like: What’s the best time to visit Scotland?

Tip 3: Prepare for bad weather photography

The photos you bring home might not look the way you imagined them before your trip, but making the best out of the situation is key here. Play with contrasts, change your settings to black & white, avoid having too much white sky in the frame, find bright coloured details and most of all – keep your camera dry!

You might also like: 7 Tips for Bad Weather Photography in Scotland

Is bad weather that could happen to you on a holiday? Rain is almost inevitable on a trip to Scotland - so better take note my tested coping strategies!

Tip 4: Bring the Right Equipment

If you ask me, the worst that can happen on a holiday is forgetting to bring the right equipment. A wise women once said, there is no such a thing as bad weather – there is only bad preparation. This rings especially true when it comes to the right rain-proof equipment for a Scotland holiday.

Once you’re cold and wet to the bone I would not be surprised if you wished you would have stayed at home. Being cold and wet is never fun. Seeing that the possibility of rain in Scotland in very high, especially if you want to hike in the highlands or explore one of the isles, making sure that you don’t get wet and cold is your most pertinent task.

Bring whatever rocks your boat: a waterproof jacket and overtrousers; hand warmers, a hat and mittens; sturdy shoes; an extra pair of socks; a little towel. While on a city trip in Glasgow or Edinburgh you can easily slip into a cozy coffee shop when it gets too wet, you won’t always have the same option when exploring little coastal towns or when you’re out and about.

Note, that this rings true for any time of the year. While May-August are usually drier than other months, there is no guarantee that temperatures will actually climb above 20C and stay there. Always be prepared for the worst weather possible. (That said, heavy snowstorms are not overly common – no need to bring a shovel…)

You might also like: What to pack for Scotland + packing list

Is bad weather that could happen to you on a holiday? Rain is almost inevitable on a trip to Scotland - so better take note my tested coping strategies!

Tip 5: Prepare a Plan B for bad weather

If everything fails, having a plan B for bad weather activities can save the day. Think whisky distilleries, historical castles, the many free museums in Glasgow & Edinburgh, cozy cafes or art workshops. There are so many things to do when the wind and rain are blaring outside.

Bad weather activities in Glasgow:

  • museums such as the Riverside Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the Mackintosh House, the Lighthouse or the GoMA in town
  • a brewery tour at WEST beer, DRYGATE or Tennent’s
  • a free guided tour at the City Chambers
  • a coffee shop or pub crawl in the West End
  • a tour through Glasgow Central train station (read my REVIEW)
  • watching a film at the Glasgow Film Theatre

Bad weather activities in Edinburgh:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Camera Obscura
  • the National Gallery of Scotland
  • coffee shop hopping in Stockbridge or Leith
  • brunch at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith
  • a tour of the Edinburgh Gin distillery
Visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh.

When planning a trip to Scotland coming up with a few coping strategies for the rainy days is inevitable. Better to be prepared for the worst and then surprised by two weeks of unbroken sunshine.

Do you have more tips on how to deal with bad weather on a holiday? Share them in the comments!

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18 thoughts on “What to expect from Scottish weather and how to deal with it

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  2. Rebecca says:

    Great tips! Great article! I haven’t been yet! Whats the warmest month in the east? What brands does everyone recommend for shoes and jackets?

  3. Heather says:

    After living in Oregon in the US for several years, my husband and I have been through several iterations of rain gear and are heavily invested in merino baselayers. We brought all our rain gear with us last September, and I think I wore the rain pants and gaiters more in two weeks in Scotland than I usually do in a decade. They made all the difference. What started as “Do we really want to get out of the car?” in Glen Coe turned into an exhilarating walk because we were waterproof. Rain blown by a stiff wind that shook the car at the Quairaing didn’t stop us getting out of the car and eventually witnessing the most amazing light–and having the place nearly to ourselves, because a film crew closed the road up after we had already come through, In every snap of us, we’re in our rain gear with windblown hair. And we are smiling. I’m ready to go back.

    • Kathi says:

      Proper rain gear really makes all the difference. Glad you had such a positive experience!! Thanks for taking time to comment 🙂

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  5. d susan says:

    For me, it was all in the right clothing for a brilliant 2 weeks in Scotland. If you are warm and you are dry, then everything becomes possible. But it needs to be WATERPROOF quality clothing – not cheap knock-offs, but proper walking/hiking technical gear if you are want to go outside of towns. ‘Technical’ in the sense they do the proper things that need to happen — like breathe, wick moisture and keep you utterly dry even in the pouring rain. Don’t compromise if you are travelling. You spend a lot of money to visit (add it up – it could be thousands) and then cut corners on the right kit is nothing less than stupid.

    • Kathi says:

      I absolutely agree! When it comes to outdoor wear it’s always worth to invest more in it! When you use it a lot, or the conditions are harsh, it pays off big time!!

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  8. Ziyal says:

    So damn right, there is no such thing as bad weather in Scotland. We had 3 weeks of rain in every possibly way, soft, heavy, horizontal… but there was also no Day without a glaze of sunlight every once in a while… ?

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    • Kathi says:

      Totally! I couldn’t imagine cycling to work without my waterproofs in my backpack anymore – always there, just in case 🙂

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