The weather is a hot topic for both Scots and tourists planning a trip to Scotland. I’m often asked the question ‘does it rain in Scotland all the time?‘
To avoid repeating myself, I wrote this quick guide to the weather in Scotland to answer all the popular questions I get asked, including:
- Do I need to pack waterproof pants for Scotland?
- What are the best websites to check the weather?
- What is the temperature like in Scotland?
- What should I pack for my trip to Scotland?
I’m also busting a few myths about Scottish weather, and my personal experience living here. My hope is this blog post will make you feel a lot better about your trip to Scotland!
Does it rain in Scotland all the time?
No – it really doesn’t. When I first moved to Scotland I was expecting it to rain most days, so you can imagine my surprise when I was greeted with a month of sunshine!
The Scots (along with the rest of the UK) are obsessed with commenting on the weather – they have a self-deprecating sense of humour, and so the combination of these two things can put fear into a tourist. Trust me – it won’t rain the entire time you’re in Scotland (unless you’re just unlucky).
You might get the odd rainy day, but rain in Scotland usually clears up within an hour or two. The best thing you can do is check the weather the day before so you can get an idea of how to dress, and if you need to carry a rain jacket or an umbrella.
Tip: Don’t bother with an umbrella if it’s windy. Trust me.
It’s also worth noting that different parts of Scotland have different levels of rainfall and sunshine hours. Dundee is the sunniest city in Scotland and has the most daylight hours, while Glasgow is known as one of the rainiest cities with 170.3 rain days per year. September is also known for being one of the sunniest months in Scotland.
The best websites to check the weather in Scotland include:
- Met Office. This website is great because it gives you an hourly breakdown of the weather, including the chance of rain (%), temperature, and wind levels for each hour. It also details any weather warnings. Super handy when planning outdoor activities!
- BBC Weather. Another good website if you’d like a second opinion.
Do you need to pack waterproof trousers when visiting Scotland?
Let me clarify something that you may not be aware of:
- Pants in Scotland = underwear
In most other parts of the world (including New Zealand, where I’m from) we call trousers ‘pants’ – and so that’s what I’m running with for this article.
It’s most likely that you don’t need to pack waterproof pants for your trip to Scotland – but there are some occasions where they might come in handy.
The only time I’ve ever worn waterproof trousers in Scotland is when I went on a multi-day hike during a storm. I was hiking the Scottish National Trail, and there was a section where I wouldn’t reach a town for several days.
It rained on and off for four days, and while the waterproof pants kept my lower body from being soaked through, they were uncomfortable.
Waterproof pants can be more of a hindrance; firstly, if you’re hiking your body will be producing moisture anyway. I wore a cheap pair from Mountain Warehouse, and they were not at all breathable. As you can probably imagine, it was a sweat fest down there. Also, within a day they had ripped (which helped with the breathability, but not with the rain!).
I tossed them in the bin as soon as I got home.
While I doubt you’ll be hiking through a storm as I did, the only time I see waterproof pants being useful in Scotland is if you’re going hiking and rain is forecast. If you plan on going hiking and want to buy waterproof pants, make sure they’re breathable (!!) and lightweight.
Also, if you wear waterproof pants in a city, you will look like a dick.
Just pack a long rain jacket, and you’ll be fine. As Sir Billy Connolly says: ”There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.”
Do I need waterproof shoes?
The most important thing about packing footwear suitable for Scotland is to make sure the soles of your shoes are waterproof.
Scotland likes to hang on to water; it tends to sit on top of the ground, so don’t expect to sit on the grass and not get a wet bum! You’ll also learn just how waterproof your shoes are. When I first moved to Scotland I discovered my Vans had several holes in the sole – I quickly switched them for a new pair of Nike trainers, which I basically live in now.
To give you an idea, there are most common types of footwear I regularly use in Scotland:
- Nike trainers
- Scarpa Hiking Boots
- In autumn and winter: Boots (Wranger or Timberland)
- In spring and summer: Comfortable sandals
I have never worn gumboots or waterproof foot covers, I hardly ever wear heels (cobblestones and heels don’t pair well). Occasionally I’ll step in a puddle and get the tip of my shoe wet, so it’s a good idea to pack shoes that was water-resistant or fully waterproofed.
In summer, I often wear sandals as their pair well with midi dresses and jeans. They’re a bit more stylish if I’m going out for lunch, or an early dinner.
In the cooler months, if I’m going out for dinner, I’ll wear boots. You can dress boots up or down – they’re great for light hiking and exploring during the day, but also look good if you’re wearing a dress or jeans.
What you really should be worried about
If anything, the main thing you should worry about is the changing temperature in Scotland. The temperature can vary from day to day, even hour to hour.
Spring and autumn can be the most challenging times to dress in Scotland, as the weather can be so varied. I’m often seen taking my jacket on and off during the course of the day – what you wear entirely depends on the activities you’ll be taking part in, and the rise and fall of the temperature.
April or May can also feature a freakishly warm day – up to the high 20’s (Celcius). That’s between 77 – 86 Fahrenheit for anyone reading this from the USA.
It’s also known to snow in April! So yes- the temperature can vary from one extreme to the other in spring!
What should I pack for a trip to Scotland?
The best advice I can give you for dressing in Scotland is to pack layers and a rain jacket.
Also, be sure to check the weather forecast the day before so you can plan your outfit.
I hope this quick guide to the weather in Scotland has put you at ease. Scotland’s weather is just like the rest of the world – I often say it’s similar to the weather in New Zealand, it’s just 5 degrees cooler on average!
If you’re from a warmer country, such as Australia, or parts of the USA including California or Florida, you may find Scotland a bit chilly. Just make sure you bring a versatile warm jacket you can throw on at any point.
The main message I want to communicate is don’t worry too much about the weather in Scotland. If you get here and find you need to purchase warmer (or cooler) layers, there are plenty of clothing and outdoor shops available in the cities and major towns.
Do you have a question about the weather in Scotland? Leave a comment for me at the bottom of the page and I’ll answer it for you.