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Scotland in March 2021

Bad planning on my part...I checked the weather, but didn't think about things for tourists being closed in March. Planning a trip March 2021 ( if they allow us to travel by then). I have since seen articles that state tourist season doesn't open until April. I have already booked 3 weeks of time share, booked flights, and booked rental car for Mar 7-28 2021. We will be staying first night in Edinburgh, and then driving to Aberdeen and Inverness respectively for our home base lodging, but plan to drive around Scotland to see the sights. We would like to visit castles, lochs, museums, basically anything! I want to trace my ancestry to Isle of Sky, and visit MacLeod Castle if possible. Also Isle of Lewis to the Callanish stones. I am a big fan of the series Outlander, and have been researching filming locations. Fife looks like a quaint place to visit. I wanted to ride the Jacobite train, but saw where that will be closed. I just do not know what else will be closed in March. I have seen places where I can book tours in March, but we really want to do this on our own. If any of you have been to Scotland in March, maybe you can give me some pointers and insight. Anything will be helpful. Thank you in advance.

Posted by
4570 posts

Our very first trip to Scotland was in March 1999, on a quick visit to Edinburgh from London by train. Didn’t venture outside the capitol, and it was just for 2 days and nights, admittedly 21 years ago! If you’re just planning on a single night in Edinburgh, this might not be entirely helpful, but the Edinburgh Castle was a great visit, as was strolling the Royal Mile and visiting a couple pubs. Day 2 included stopping at Holyrood Palace before a hike up Arthur’s Seat. The weather had been pleasant enough the whole time up until then, but descending from the summit, the wind started getting strong, and then it absolutely poured cold rain. The rain kept up the rest of the night, so we didn’t venture out. Scenery and natural geologic features are such an attraction on Skye, and they’re always open for viewing! Whatever else is open, weather might or might not dampen your outdoor plans, but I’d suggest you expect rain. Hope you get to see and do what you’re hoping for!

Posted by
4570 posts

Driving around Scotland takes time, even if you don’t stop for photo opportunities (you will want to stop!) and if using Google Maps, add 25%+ to their times, even without stopping. As others have said, being based in the cities isn’t the best way to see the countryside.

Dunvegan Castle is closed for the winter until 1 April. If you want to see Skye, four nights is the absolute minimum time that I would spend there - three full days.

Plan for four seasons in one day weather wise. This also means that ferries could be cancelled if the sea is rough. There’s a good chance that you will find some snow in March so your plans should have a Plan B!

Posted by
1710 posts

If there's any way possible, change your trip to April.

We accidentally stumbled upon a great time to visit. We booked our trip for the week after Easter. Holy week is a very popular time for tourists and most of Scotland opens up to take advantage. Right after Easter there's a lull but almost everyone stays open.

We also lucked out weather-wise. We only had one day in 10 where there was a steady rain. It was mostly cool and we woke up to frost on the car a few mornings. There was still snow in the higher elevations, though much higher than we ventured.

I agree about Skye, especially if you feel connected. You really need four days to do it justice. Go back and look at your Scotland bucket list, then go online and check normal season dates. Also check the date for Easter 2021. If you can't change, all is not lost. There'll still be plenty to do and see.

Finally look into staying at small B&Bs. That's what we did and had a great time. For Glasgow and Edinburgh, we stayed in a bedroom community and commuted into town. You can get around fine with public transportation and even using taxis will probably not be any more expensive than parking.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you for the input. Unfortunately, changing dates are not possible at this point. Even though we are going to be based in Aberdeen and Inverness, I am not opposed to spending some nights in the remote places such as Sky and Lewis. Riding another train sounds like a good plan if that is a possibility. All the suggestions so far are good ones, and will use them. Looking forward to reading any suggestions as long as I can do them for the dates listed. Keep them coming!!

Posted by
196 posts

Don’t despair - it’s not as bad as you might think...You may find some of the smaller B&Bs may not have reopened although it should be possible to find accommodation if you are prepared to be flexible. Also ask if they can suggest somewhere else to try as many of the B&Bs have a support network and pass prospective customers on if they can’t take them.

The scenery is always open. Many stately homes will still be shut, but not all of them. Do some research as I found that Falkland Palace is open in March. Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle, Georgian House and Gladstone’s Land in Edinburgh as well as Rosslyn Chapel will all be open. The major museums in Edinburgh and Glasgow will be open too.

Many ruined castles in the ownership of Historic Scotland will be open eg Blackness and Craigmillar Castles around Edinburgh. Huntly and Duffus Castles near Aberdeen and also Urquhart Castle are also open.

As someone has already pointed out there is a daily train service that runs between Fort William and Mallaig. Not only will it be a lot less busy than the “Jacobite’ steam train, you may find views are better. It is also cheaper!

We’ve visited Isle of Lewis in March. Be prepared for cold and wind as well as rain. But when the sun shines it is magical... There is free access to Calanais stones at any time. I can’t find out any information about the Visitor Centre but to be honest it doesn’t matter if that is shut! There is also free access to Dun Carloway broch too. Make sure you visit the Blackhouse at Arnol which is open.
https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/the-blackhouse-arnol/

This is a fascinating visit and it doesn’t seem possible that people were living in places like this until the 1960s... Make sure you allow plenty of time to talk to the custodians who are a wealth of information about what it was like to live in one of these houses - In fact it was a lot healthier than in the ‘white houses’ that followed it. You can read more about life in one here.

http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/presocialhistory/socialhistory/social/folkmuseums/arnol/arnol_one/index.html

Build in plenty of time and have a contingency plan for the ferry to Harris or Lewis. These can get cancelled if weather is bad. If you are planning on doing Skye then it makes sense to book the Uig to Tarbert ferry. This is a shorter route but can be quite rough. If you are on Harris and Lewis and the Uig ferry gets cancelled, Calmac will probably rebook you on the Stornoway Ullapool ferry instead. This is a ,longer route but less chance of cancellation.

Posted by
6133 posts

Unfortunately the days in March in Scotland are very short and it gets dark early — and the UK doesn’t start Daylight Saving Time until the very end of March.