Knowing what to pack for a trip to Scotland is important for anyone visiting the land of lochs, bagpipes and haggis.
It can also be quite daunting! I completely get it; after planning my first trip to Scotland I was slightly terrified to step on Scottish soil.
The Scots love to analyse the weather. And they love to complain about it. The weather is such a popular topic in Scotland that it can sound terrifying for non-Scottish folk.
Before I moved to Scotland I was living on a ski hill in Canada where temperatures dropped below -30°C [that’s -22°F] so I thought I’d be well equipped coming to Scotland.
Was I? Kind of- but to be honest, Scotland’s weather is nothing like I’ve ever experienced.
Now before you start panicking, don’t worry! I’ve got your back.
I am used to dressing for the weather here. Read on for my personal recommendations for what to pack for a trip to Scotland!
I’ve also created a packing list for Scotland printable that includes everything you need in your suitcase! You can find it at the conclusion of this article.
Read on to discover how to pack for Scotland like a local!
What to pack for a trip to Scotland
Hanging out in my backyard on a cool autumn day
Scotland packing list essentials
- Travel insurance. First on my Scotland packing list of essentials is travel insurance. I personally use Covermore as my travel insurance provider. When I was a travel agent this was the company we recommended to our customers. I’ve dealt with them on many occasions whenever my customers had to make a claim, and they’re really fair and easy to deal with.
- UK Power Adapter. Save yourself the hassle and the money by purchasing at least one UK adapter online. There is nothing more annoying than arriving in a new country and not being able to charge your devices! Get one that does it all, like the NEWVANGA International All In One Travel Adapter so you don’t have to purchase a new adapter for every country you visit.
- Battery pack. A battery pack is another lifesaver because if you’re in Scotland you’re going to be taking a million photos on your phone which dwindles away precious battery life.
- Water bottle. I love this collapsible BPA free water bottle by Chicmoda. It’s a great lightweight water bottle to travel with, and you can fold it up when you’re not using it. Space saver!
- Reusable bags. Pack some reusable bags to use for shopping and bring one to use as a laundry bag. Scotland is very plastic conscious and if you don’t bring your own bags to the supermarket or while shopping, you’ll have to pay for one. Save the planet and save some money by bringing your own reusable bags.
- Mirrorless Camera. I’ve written a blog post about my travel camera and the settings I use- but very briefly, I love my mirrorless Sony A6500. It’s lightweight, shoots 4K video and is excellent in low light. I pair it with the Sigma 16mm F1.4 lens for landscape photography and the Sony E 70-210mm zoom lens when travelling.
- Sunglasses. You’ll need sunglasses, especially during winter when the sun sits low in the sky and can be blinding if you’re driving or walking in its direction!
NEWVANGA International All In One Travel Adapter | Anker Battery pack | Chicmoda Collapsible BPA free water bottle | Reusable bags | Sony A6500 | Sigma 16mm F1.4 lens | Sony E 70-210mm lens | Ray Ban sunglasses
You can find my favourite clothing items, Scotland books and packing essentials in my Amazon store. These are all items I’ve personally purchased and recommend.
Click here for the USA store
Click here for the UK store
Backpacks for Scotland I recommend
A good quality backpack is always a good idea if you’re travelling in Scotland- especially if you’re planning on spending time exploring the outdoors.
I love Osprey as a brand; their packs are great quality, built with comfort in mind and they’re stylish too.
For a small backpack I recommend the Osprey Packs Tempest 20 Women’s Hiking Backpack.
For something a little bigger I recommend the Osprey Packs Tempest 30 Women’s Hiking Backpack. This is the pack I have; it’s perfect for a day hike or for spending the day exploring.
+ Read more: 50+ places on my Scotland bucket list
- Umbrella. If you pack a good rain jacket, you may not need an umbrella in Scotland. But if the thought of getting even the slightest bit wet bothers you, I suggest you invest in an umbrella when you arrive in Scotland. They sell them at most tourist shops or supermarkets in Scotland.
- Buff. I recommend bringing a Buff facemask if you’re planning on heading out into the hills or visiting in winter. If you’re at the summit of a hill or mountain and a strong wind kicks in, you’ll be grateful for the protection!
- Bug repellant. If you’re heading into the highlands during the summer months you’ll want to be well protected against Scotland’s midges and if you’re going hiking you’ll need protection from ticks. I love Smidge– it’s seriously saved me so many times! You can pick a bottle up in most supermarkets or outdoor shops such as Cotswold Outdoor or Tiso.
- Maps of Scotland. If you’re looking for general area maps, I recommend these three: Northern Scotland, Western Scotland and Southern Scotland. If you’re going hiking, make sure you stock up on the correct Ordnance Survey maps.
Books about Scotland I recommend
Something I recommend that should be on your Scotland packing list is a good book. I’m a self-confessed Scotland book nerd; Scotland’s history is just so fascinating!
If you want to arrive equipped with some knowledge of Scotland, these are some of the best books about Scotland I recommend:
- A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver. This is a great book if you want to learn about Scotland’s early history through to today. There’s also a television series under the same name- you can find it online with some Googling.
- Bizarre Scotland by David Long. If you want a book that’s short, easy to read, and full of interesting and quirky facts, this is a fantastic book to read before your trip or on the plane. You’ll arrive with tons of random knowledge to impress your travel partner.
- Witch Light by Susan Fletcher. If you plan on visiting Glencoe and enjoy historical fiction- this book is a must read. It’s about a ‘witch’ living in Glencoe at the time of the Glencoe Massacre. The language is beautifully poetic and you’ll feel as though you’re right there, in the Scottish Highlands of Glencoe.
- North Coast Journey: The Magic of Scotland’s Northern Highlands by Brigid Benson. If you’re visiting the northern western highlands or driving the North Coast 500, this is a great book to have. It also makes a good book for your coffee table so you can reminisce about your time in the highlands.
What to wear in Scotland
The best answer to the question ”How should I dress for Scotland” is to layer. The weather is changeable, and sometimes you can have four seasons in one day!
How much you pack will depend on how long you’re visiting Scotland, and if you’ll have washing facilities available at your accommodation- so I’ll leave this up to you to decide.
These are items that I wear all year round and what I suggest you pack when visiting Scotland for every season:
- Long sleeve tops. For layering underneath a t-shirt or as a stand-alone.
- Cardigans. I recommend packing a couple of lightweight and warmer cardigans that can be worn buttoned up or unbuttoned that you can layer over a t-shirt.
- Sweater/ Hoodie. Something to throw on if it’s cool but not cool enough to wear a big winter jacket, or to throw on at the end of the day when you’re relaxing in your hotel!
- Gym leggings. I practically live in my gym leggings in Scotland. They’re great for around the house, hiking and exploring, and catching up for a coffee with friends in the city. I love my black leggings from The North Face. They’re incredibly durable [I hiked the length of Scotland in mine and they’re still going strong] and if you do get caught in a shower they will dry quickly. I also love this pair from Columbia Sportswear.
- Jeans. I wear jeans a lot in Scotland. You can dress them up or down; pair skinny jeans with a nice top if you’re going out for dinner or with a t-shirt for casual day attire.
- Sweatpants/ track pants. I suggest packing a pair of sweatpants to chuck on at the end of the day when you want to relax.
>> Read more: Common questions about visiting Scotland answered
What to pack for Scotland for each Season
What to pack for Scotland in December, January & February
Temperature: -5°C (23°F) to 11 °C (51.8°F).
The winter months in Scotland can certainly be chilly! Combine that with rain and wind- well, you need to be prepared. You might get the odd day where the temperature jumps to 15°C, however winter is the most consistent season in Scotland so expect low temperatures and rain. It usually snows in Scotland from January onwards [more common the further north you go], and a few days of light snow can be expected around January/February in Edinburgh. The daylight hours also drop drastically, leaving you with between just 6 and 8 hours of light.
These are some of the items I love that get me through the winter months:
- Super warm winter jacket. My duck down jacket from The North Face is hands down the best investment I’ve ever made. Sure, it’s a little bulky, but it has kept me snuggly warm in any climate in Scotland. I wear this ALL the time, but mostly in winter, autumn and spring. In summer I’ll usually throw on a cardigan or long jacket if it’s cool.
- Windproof rain jacket. It’s essential you have a good quality rain jacket when visiting Scotland- you may rely on it a lot! I love my Rab Women’s Charge rain jacket and in my opinion, it’s the best rain jacket for Scotland travel. It’s extremely light weight, and uses stretch Pertex Shield+ fabric, a high quality fabric that is stretchy and breathable making it a super comfortable and durable rain jacket. It’s great if you’re going hiking and it’s stylish enough to wear in the city too. It’s suitable for all seasons due to its lightness.
- A scarf, hat and gloves. I love Barts beanies! I have this beanie [which is actually a men’s beanie- but you’d never know!] I also love The North Face’s Etip gloves for men and women; they are light gloves which allow you to use touchscreen devices while wearing them. They’re not super warm, but you can still use your phone without having to remove bulky gloves. You can always layer a thicker glove over top for extra warmth when it’s cold.
Black Women’s Leggings from The North Face | Columbia Sportswear Women’s Halo Leggings | Rab Women’s Charge Rain Jacket | The North Face Gotham II Womens Duck Down Jacket | Barts Wilhelm Beanie One Size | The North Face Women’s Etip Glove | The North Face Etip Men’s Glove | RAB Men’s Downpour Plus Rain Jacket | RAB Men’s Microlight Alpine Jacket
What to pack for Scotland in March, April & May
Temperature: 7°C (45°F) to 13 °C (55°F).
The spring months are my favourite time of the year in Scotland, particularly April and May. While March still resembles winter, the daylight hours are more generous and you’ll start getting your t-shirt days from April. The spring colours are in full force come May, making it the prettiest month in Scotland [in my opinion]. Occasionally you’ll get a little snow in early spring. The key for spring is layering and having a warm winter jacket you can bundle on if the temperature does drop.
As well as the essentials, you should also pack:
- Light scarf
- Light gloves
- A chunky and warm cardigan
- A few lighter cardigans
- Sunscreen. In Scotland it’s called ‘sun tan lotion’ in case of any confusion!
What to pack for Scotland in June, July & August
Temperature: 15°C (59°F) to 17°C (63 °F).
Summer in Scotland can be just as confusing as winter, if not more! Scotland does tend to get a few days per year where the temperature shoots up to 30-33°C [in 2018 and 2019 there were record heat waves in Scotland]. It can also drop right down in temperature, blow a gail and rain!
The sunlight hours are also massive- expect the sun to rise at around 4am and set around 11pm!
As well as the essentials, you should also pack:
- A couple of singlets
- 1-2 pairs of shorts
- Dress with short sleeves
- Jacket for the evening
What to pack for Scotland in September, October & November
Temperature: 8°C (46°F) to 14°C (57°F).
Winter and fall/autumn in Scotland are the wettest months, hence why it’s important that you have good waterproofs. It is also one of the prettiest seasons in Scotland, so it’s guaranteed you’ll want to spend some time outside. Daylight hours do start to dwindle, as well as the temperature. It’s a season where you’re likely to add a layer, remove it, add it again, and so on!
As well as the essentials, you should also pack:
- Light scarf
- Light gloves
- Warm cardigan
- Sunscreen [in September]
Best shoes for Scotland
The footwear you bring largely depends on what activities you’ll be doing in Scotland. I recommend packing at least 2 pairs of footwear: a pair of comfortable walking shoes for exploring cities and towns, and a pair that is a bit sturdier for hiking and spending time outdoors.
These are the best shoes for Scotland travel:
Good walking shoes for Scotland
If you’re visiting in the warmer months and you’re sticking to exploring cities and villages, I recommend packing a pair of trainers that you don’t mind getting a little dirty.
Cities can get a little muddy especially in parks. If it rains, there will be puddles thanks to the uneven, cobblestone streets. Make sure the soles of your shoes are waterproof.
My favourite lightweight sneaker to wear in summer is the Skechers Women’s Ultra Flex-Harmonious Sneaker. These are great for the plane and for strolling through towns or villages. They’re breathable and if they do get damp they dry pretty quickly. They’re super easy to wash in the washing machine too. They don’t have the best grip however, so I wouldn’t recommend wearing them hiking or for anything too strenuous.
They’re perfect for navigating cobblestone paths in small towns and cities, and they can handle small hiking excursions. They have great grip, they’re waterproof, warm and best of all, they’re stylish.
Whatever shoes you bring to Scotland- make sure they’re waterproof. It wasn’t until I moved to Scotland that I learned the hard way that some of my shoes had holes in the soles!
The best hiking boots for Scotland
If you’re planning on going hiking in Scotland, I love and recommend my Scarpa Terra hiking boots.
I hiked the length of Scotland in these boots in 2018, and they’re still going strong!
I wear these boots all-year round. I pair them with merino wool socks when I’m out hiking or travelling Scotland. Merino wool regulates your temperature, ensuring your feet won’t overheat or get too cold.
If you’re visiting Scotland in the cooler months you’ll be switching between indoors and outdoors quite a bit, where the temperature changes drastically. I have these Smartwool ankle socks to go with my trainers and a few longer pairs for hiking.
If you’re planning on hiking in Scotland I highly suggest you break in your hiking boots well before coming to Scotland. Whenever I buy a new pair of hiking boots my feet always break out in blisters- I don’t want this to happen to you on your holiday!
Skechers Women’s Ultra Flex-Harmonious Sneaker | Timberland Women’s Premium Waterproof Boots | Scarpa Terra Women’s Hiking Boot | Smartwool Hiking Socks | Timberland Men’s Premium Waterproof Boot | Scarpa Terra Men’s Hiking Boot
What to wear for going out in Scotland
The great thing about Scotland is that the attire is pretty casual.
So what do I wear going out? Usually I’ll wear jeans, a nice top and a jacket. Sometimes I’ll wear a dress and pair it with black leggings if it’s cold. I tend to dress pretty casually. I’m all about comfort!
If you’re used to dressing up to the nines when you hit town you won’t look too out of place in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Anywhere else you may turn a few heads!
To give you an idea of what is acceptable to wear out for dinner, check out the following image for some inspiration.
What should you NOT wear in Scotland?
As well as knowing what to pack, it’s useful to know what not to wear in Scotland. Here are a few suggestions of what to leave out:
As I mentioned before, attire in Scotland is very casual. When I go out for dinner in Edinburgh I’ll often wear jeans and a nice top with a jacket, or a nice dress with leggings. If I wear heels at all, they’re usually wedge boots with a small heel. I never wear stilettos, and I don’t recommend you pack them!
I sometimes see women wearing stilettos in Edinburgh or Glasgow on a night out, but watching them struggle walking over cobblestones gives me the fear. It’s not worth the risk of rolling an ankle.
Unless you’re going to a swanky restaurant in the city, there’s no need to dress up to the nines.
Unless you’re going hiking, I don’t recommend you wear waterproof pants over your bottoms. If it rains, a long rain jacket and/or an umbrella will be enough if you’re exploring cities and villages in Scotland.
I’ve only ever had to wear waterproof pants when it’s rained when I’ve been out hiking; there’s no need to wear waterproof pants these if you’re in a city. You’ll look a bit strange!
Unless you want to have an ice bath, I don’t recommend bringing your swimming trunks unless you’re planning on going somewhere with a heated pool. The temperature of the ocean is what Scots like to refer to as ‘baltic.’
A kilt – maybe!
The Scots only tend to wear kilts to special occasions, such as a wedding. You’ll see pipers playing on the streets in Edinburgh fully kitted out in their kilts, but that’s about it.
Scots don’t generally wear kilts as an everyday outfit, but you know what? It’s your holiday and if you feel like wearing a kilt, just do it!
You may get the odd laugh or an eye-roll, but the Scottish are generally pretty humorous folk and may have a wee giggle at your expense.