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Best Coat for Scotland in May??


My husband and I are taking a two week trip to Scotland in early May. We will be doing a bit of light hiking and touring castles, spending a decent amount of time outdoors. I have been on the hunt for the best coat/jacket to bring, but I am overwhelmed with all the options...I am looking for a little advice from someone who has been there or spent time in similar climates.

Thank you :)

Posted by
1317 posts

I think the way to go with Scotland is with layers, with the outer layer being both windproof and waterproof. I get hot really quickly when hiking and would wear (for instance) a technical t-shirt with a light long sleeved half zip on top (I have a trusty old Berghaus one and a Craghoppers or Icebreaker merino wool one as a guide). If really windy I also wear either a windshirt (custom made! - a failed sample from a Dales supplier - Lord knows why, I've worn it through thick and thin for years!) or a thin softshell (Mountain Hardware) which gets changed to a lightweight waterproof, previously Rab but recently replaced by a new (and untested) Mountain Hardware lightweight rain jacket in wet weather.

If walking away from civilisation, I'd also carry an extra, thin layer such as a long sleeved half zip shirt, a hat and gloves and a packaway pair of waterproof overtrousers as well and make sure I had on suitable footwear (boots or approach shoes). In winter this would all get ramped up a notch or two but in May you should be OK with slightly lighter stuff. And of course you'll need the ladies fit and style not to mention colourways for all the above!

I think in Scotland the attitude regarding the weather is hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst! Always better to have and not need as opposed to need and not have especially if off the beaten track!

Hope you get a suitable jacket and have a great time in Scotland!


Posted by
1603 posts

Don't forget to bring a hat. We were there at the end of May and into June and I was glad to have a hat on many occasions. I also wore gloves, but not as much as the hat.

As I recall, I bought the hat and the gloves there -- just a knitted wool toque and gloves (no inner layer). Totally sufficient and smushed up small enough to be shoved away in my day bag when unnecessary.

Posted by
8293 posts

Whatever coat you decide to buy, bring lots of wool sweaters to wear under the coat. We were in Scotland and Ireland late May, early June this year and never stopped shivering until we got to Edinburgh at almost the end of our trip. Take gloves and a scarf as well. Please note: I am used to cold weather and still found it unpleasant.

Posted by
2519 posts

I second the recommendation to bring layers. You could have sun/rain/wind/repeat in the span of an hour. I have a coat similar style to this one, but REI brand, in black. It's thin, but waterproof and accommodates plenty of layers underneath. Since it is solid black, it goes with everything and doesn't stick out overseas. I'd also suggest a coat with a hood - it's saved me from unexpected showers when I had no umbrella.

Posted by
1890 posts

I was in Scotland in March, and again in September. I brought layers of jackets. I started with a lightweight merino wool shirt, then a fleece jacket and then my Costco down jacket (which they have again in the stores for $49). I brought a packable rain coat that I only had to wear once...mostly to block the wind, not so much the rain. That with a hat, gloves, scarf were great for March.

In September, we were hiking...I wore a lightweight merino wool shirt, that same fleece jacket, a down vest for the colder days on the trail, and my rain coat. My fleece and rain jacket are Marmmot... the light down vest I got at Costco... for $16.. Don't forget rain pants if you are hiking.....

Layer, layer, layer. And bring a rain coat for sure. I recommend bringing a baseball style hat. When you put the hood up on the rain coat, one cannot see tend to look down at the ground. With the brim of the baseball hat holding the hood up, it keeps the rain off your face, and allows you to walk normally - looking forward.

There were lots of umbrellas around in the cities when it rained, although I was advised against one, since the wind was supposed to make them useless. I don't agree.... I'd suggest you also bring compact umbrella, just in case.

Posted by
5837 posts

My limited UK (Scotland and northern England) experience were all late May walks that match Ianandjulie's clothing recommendations. Expect anything from warm weather (wearing tech Tee as outer garment) to full layering (base layer, wool or fleece topped by hardshell rain jacket and overpants. And don't forget wool or synthetic socks and waterproof but breathable boots. Jacket should have built in hood.

Umbrellas may be fine in the cities, but are useless in wind driven rain crossing open moors.

Bottom line is layers for changeable weather.

Posted by
4174 posts

Speaking of wind driven rain...

I was in Northern England and Scotland from mid to late May last year. It was cold and rainy much of the time. Layers are the way to go, but I didn't do a very good job of that.

I can't wear wool, so I packed multiple thin layers of synthetics. Not warm enough! I should've taken fewer items and had more fleece.

This is what did work for me.

A fleece beanie style hat and gloves.

An Eddie Bauer women's Mackenzie trench coat similar to this one. It kept me dry all the time and warm in some situations, but not in the worst of the weather even with multiple layers underneath. The beanie helped keep the hood on. I never use an umbrella.

prAna men's Stretch Zion pants like these. These are not rain pants, but they dry out very quickly. I got men's because the women's similar pants had totally useless pockets. TSA alert: they were fine going through security at Tucson, but they set off bells at security in Seattle. I no longer wear them on the plane.

Two pair Cuddl Duds long underwear tops and bottoms. The bottoms were great under any of my pants. The tops were a very helpful base layer. They doubled as pajamas. They are lightweight and low volume for packing. That's important for me because I travel carry-on only.

Ahnu Montara boots like these. My feet never got wet or cold in spite of rain, wet grass, mud or puddles.

Sockwell circulator socks. These do have a bit of wool in them, but oddly, I'm not bothered by it. These are very good for long hours of walking or standing as well as for long hours sitting, like on the plane.

Do not underestimate how bad the weather can get or how quickly that can happen -- especially if you are outdoors. Be aware that indoors may not be as warm as you would like and that you may not be able to have any influence over the temperature at all.

Posted by
5837 posts

Here is a REI "expert advice" link on choosing rain wear:

My Patagonia "breathable" but waterproof 2.5 layer "hard shell" jacket with hood has served me for some 15 plus years including Nordic winter travel and UK spring walks. The breathable part is valuable under high exertion conditions with both a "Goretex" membrane and properly located vents. A plastic garbage bag works for keeping rain out but keeps body moisture in.

Breathability in waterproof/breathable rainwear is the game changer.
No one wants to play outside in a wearable sauna. The key to avoiding
that fate is “moisture vapor transfer,” which, scientific purists will
tell you, is what we’re really talking about when we say

Because even the most breathable rainwear can get overwhelmed during
strenuous activity, almost all backcountry rainwear has pit zips
(underarm vents). Some jackets go a step further, having mesh liners
in torso pockets that can double as additional vents.

A good hood design in important for high wind conditions. A good hood will create a "tunnel" shielding your face/eyes from side winds.

Hood design

Most hoods have brims and adjustments on the sides and in back in
order to fine-tune the size of the opening. Jackets without those
adjustments are intended for more casual uses.