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Scotland in January

Just want to get peoples thoughts on going to Scotland in January. I recently read an article of the beauty of the highlands in the winter. Curious if anyone has been during this time of year. We’ve been to Ireland in January and absolutely loved it. We are outdoors people in our early 40’s no kids.

Posted by
1226 posts

Hi Aly
Well it wouldn't be my preferred time of year to visit (and I live in Scotland year round!). You might get lucky and have some clear, blue sky days when a winter hike is just the ticket, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Some Highland roads are well maintained (the main A roads) and are usually open, but many of the minor roads are not gritted and can be closed due to snow. To give you an idea, there is an entire Facebook group dedicated to the state of the road between Skye and Inverness and it is at its busiest in the winter when members report on whether it is possible to get to and from Inverness. The climate in Ireland is milder than the Highlands of Scotland and they get much less snow and ice than we do, so I wouldn't bank on the conditions being the same here as you experienced there.

Also many of the attractions such as castles close during the winter, as do many smaller B&Bs and restaurants, so you apart from hiking you might find there's not that much to actually do. As for hiking, you would need to be well prepared with appropriate clothing, boots, trekking poles, maps, compass, etc, etc. If you are even thinking of going up into the mountains I think you would need even more specialised equipment to avoid becoming a mountain rescue statistic. Conditions can change extremely quickly here with cloud descending onto the mountains and what was perfect visibility rapidly disappearing leading to disorientation and danger. It can also be extremely windy here, which blows the snow about. Of course, it might be mild winter with no snow, in which case it's likely to be wet and windy and not that much fun for hiking.

If you're happy to come, maybe rent a cottage with a nice wood burning stove, hunker down, relax and get out and about when the weather permits, then it could be perfect, but if you need to be out hiking every day and expect clear blue skies and glistening frost on the trees, then you could be a bit disappointed.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
3122 posts

I can't disagree with the previous post. However, Scotland is a big place and the winter weather does vary somewhat depending where you go. Instead of risking getting stranded in the northern highlands due to road conditions, you might choose locations at sea level that are reached by main roads from the cities. St. Andrews and the coastal road to Anstruther comes to mind. There's also Dumfries & Galloway.

How long are you planning to be there, and do you want to move around every 2-3 nights? Are cities out of the question, or would you enjoy some time in Edinburgh and, say, Stirling?

Posted by
245 posts

Thanks! Great advice. We have 3-4 weeks. And we absolutely will visit the big cities. Just wanted to get out and visit the highlands as well as other areas too. We prefer staying in one spot for a few days before moving on.

Posted by
5428 posts

I've driven through the Cairngorms in February and whilst I enjoy a strenuous walk I would never consider hiking at that time, we're talking mountaineering conditions and you need local experience to even consider hiking there in winter conditions.

Posted by
5678 posts

The highlands may be a bit dark, but Glasgow is hopping in January. My bucket list includes going to Celtic Connection some January and listening to some of the best Celtic music around. Here's the link to 2020. I would so go to hear Duncan Chisholm. Blazing Fiddles is great! I see the Peetbog Faeries! Phil Cunningham is playing. Of course, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas are playing. Ooh, Cherish the Ladies in the third week. And for something different, Salsa Celtica is playing. And there are so many bands that I'd never heard, but would like to!

So, you might want to check out the schedule and swing through for a couple of your weekends. The program is for three weeks.