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What factors are important in deciding WHEN to visit Scotland?

This is a fairly common question. "I am thinking of June or August?" or "Is May better than September?" I always worry that weather seems to get the most consideration. Yet in my many trips to Scotland I have gotten a sun burn in September and been totally frozen in July. And I'll always remember my mom's comments about being glad she had. her lined jeans from Beans when they traveled to Orkney in May one year. Sam Heughan in Clan Lands commented that you could see four seasons in Scotland in one day. I think he's right! So, are there other factors to consider? Ones over which we have more control! What should you ask yourself when planning a trip?

Here's one from me, do you want to see the heather in bloom and the purple hills?

What else should be on the list? Maybe it's a very short list and really has more to do with your own schedule.

Pam

Posted by
4953 posts

One should expect rain, so wetness shouldn’t be a factor. Cold, maybe.

Timing of festivals, and whether one wants to enjoy the festivities or avoid crowds, should be considered.

Posted by
3201 posts

Spring or fall, just not the summer months. For me, there are no factors other than being flexible with what we see and visit, and when.

Posted by
4953 posts

Will Nessie be on holiday whilst we’re visiting? When will we be certain to see The Monster?

Posted by
5559 posts

I think festivals is a really good point. The Fringe and the Edinburgh Festival are not the only festivals in Scotland. I will always remember the) Tarbert music festival. I long to go to the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow in January, yes it is in January! 😎

Posted by
4737 posts

I look for the best times to see birds and wildlife. No use looking for puffins in October.

If taking a ferry, I would look at how rough a passage it’s likely to be.

A guide at the Castle of Mey commented that it was the same temperature on 21 June as 21 December - 12 degrees.

Posted by
5559 posts

The heather starts to bloom at some point in July and is around until mid fall. There are different kinds of heather! It seemed to me that it was most glorious in late August. By the second week of September it was definitely on the downward slope.

And I really agree about the festival issue. There is a festival in January that I would love to go to one year--Celtic Connections.

Another thing to think about is whether or not schools are in session.

Posted by
3895 posts

My big concern last year when I'd had a trip planned (and obvs cancelled) was midges. I'm from Nova Scotia - I can deal with rain and chill, but I HATE biting bugs with a passion - there are days I'm trying to garden and within a few minutes am cursing and stomping into the house because of black flies or deer flies.

I had my trip planned for the first few weeks of May, hoping to avoid the worst of them. Hopefully we'll be a go for next year, but still not holding my breath.

Posted by
5559 posts

When it comes to midges, I think that they are like mosquitoes. They love still warm weather, dawn, dusk etc. A frost kills them. So they start to emerge in May and disappear the end of September. Note that these dates correspond with the most light. Which points to the fact that these factors overlap.

Maybe I have been lucky, but in 6-8 weeks of walking over 6-8 years (yes, I have lost track!) I can count on one hand the number of times the midges were bad enough to prompt the donning of the midgie hat.

BTW if you are bug averse you need to avoid Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, New York, well, heck all of New England, Minnesota. Oh heck then there is the south! Hah, hah. And come to think of the same guidelines apply! You need to travel in the fall! Which I actually think is a marvelous time to travel.

Posted by
4953 posts

Pamela, I also think the Up Helly Aa festival in January in Shetland sounds like a blast.

Posted by
5559 posts

Cyn, yes! and then there is the Kirkwall Ba game on Christmas and New Years looks very interesting. Not sure you could participate, but fascinating.

Posted by
5654 posts

Midges. https://www.smidgeup.com/midges/midge-season/

Midges begin to emerge during May (usually mid-late May). These are
typically the non-biting boys. When the biting females arrive in early
June the season truly kicks off. Traditionally, our largest catches
(in Midge Forecast traps) have always been the first week of June.
Midge season then runs until early/late September.

Daylight hours. https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/@2638360

Seasonal climate: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/maps-and-data/regional-climates/index

Posted by
17 posts

Pamela, Thanks for the info on heather bloom times. I will definitely keep this in mind when we plan our trip.

Posted by
511 posts

Regarding midges. I have lived on Skye for a few years now and have experienced 5 summers here. I have never been bothered by midges before mid June and by now (early September) most are gone. They are only an issue when there is no wind and where I live there is usually a good breeze. They like still, cloudy days and seem worse near still water.

My personal preferences for visiting would be April to end of June, or early September.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
5559 posts

Skyegirl, I agree. I think that people over obsess about midges. So sad to let midges limit your enjoyment of this beautiful wonderful country.