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winter travelers in Scotland SOS

This is not our first time in Europe for winter however this is our first time in Scotland, we want to know what to expect with weather, how much can we plan in a day?
What are the must sees and dos of Scotland at this time. We will be there New Years Eve so we heard that Edinburgh is the place to be.
Can we get around the country without a tour and renting a car?
We have about 2wks, too much time?
Any and all advice is greatly appreciated.

Posted by
1207 posts

I looked up the average temperature for Edinburgh in December and January and it is 42 F day and 35 F night. Dark at 4:30 pm. It mostly snows in the Highlands. The Travel Scotland site encourages Winter travelers. Castles in a snowy landscape looked beautiful. If you like winter sports like cross country skiing it could be a blast. If you like culture and cuisine the Big Cities are at their party best. Glasgow and Edinburgh have World Class Museums and Art Galleries. Check Historic Scotland site and World Heritage site for Holiday events. They do have a lot of Whisky available...lots of Pubs.

Posted by
5663 posts

Can we get around the country without a tour and renting a car?
Depends. We didn't need a car in Edinburgh or getting from Edinburgh to Glasgow/Milingavie or Fort William. Local transit and coach/train between towns worked well. A car in Edinburgh in my opinion is more of a handicap than convenience.

...we want to know what to expect with weather....
You will be prepared if you expect anything but the mean. Mean Edinburgh air temperatures may sound mild with a mean high of +7C and mean low of +1C, but extreme temperature range from a +15C high to below -10C in the December-January season.

This region includes the cities of Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. The
principal geographic features comprise the valleys and estuaries of
the eastward-flowing Rivers Tweed, Forth, Tay and Dee and extensive
upland areas including the Grampian Mountains in the northern part of
the region and the Lammermuir Hills south of Edinburgh (rising to 500
metres above sea level). The highest point is Ben Macdui (1309 metres)
near the border of Grampian with Highland.

January is the coldest month, with mean daily minimum temperatures
varying from about 2 °C in areas of East Lothian and Fife bordering
the Firth of Forth and on the NE coast of Grampian, to less than -2 °C
over the higher ground. Extreme minimum temperatures usually occur in
January or February. Examples include the UK record low temperature of
-27.2 °C at Braemar (Grampian) on 10 January 1982 (a record shared with Altnaharra, Highland). This occurred during a severe cold spell
across Scotland with some night minima below -15 °C and day maxima
below -5 °C on several days. Conversely, to the lee of high ground
temperatures can occasionally reach up to 15 °C in winter when a south
or SW airstream warms up after crossing upland - an effect known as a
fohn wind.

The number of hours of bright sunshine is controlled by the length of
day and by cloudiness. In general, December is the dullest month and
May or June the sunniest.

Eastern Scotland includes the sunniest places in Scotland, these being
on the coast of Fife where the average is about 1500 hours per year.
Other coastal places, for example in East Lothian, average more than
1400 hours but sunshine averages are lower elsewhere, and are lowest
over the Grampian mountains (less than 1100 hours).

Rainfall tends to be associated with Atlantic depressions or with
convection. The Atlantic Lows are more vigorous in autumn and early
winter and bring most of the rain that falls in these seasons.

Rainfall is generally well-distributed throughout the year. The
frequency of Atlantic depressions is normally greatest during the
autumn and winter but, unlike other parts of the UK, Scotland tends to
remain under their influence for much of the summer too. The wettest
months tend to be in autumn and early winter, whereas late winter and
spring is normally the driest part of the year.

Over most of the area, snowfall is normally confined to the months
from November to April, but upland areas often have brief falls in
October and May. Snow rarely lies at lower levels outside of the
period November to April.

Posted by
2520 posts

as an Edinburgh resident I can say you just never know what to expect but it will be cold ,around freezing and if the wind get blowing it will feel a lot colder, if the rain comes along then it will be bloody freezing and miserable .wrap up warm and have waterproof and windproof clothing.You may also get some wonderful cold frosty sunny days,cold yes but very pleasant and I love these type of winter days.
as to getting around public transport will be limited 25th and 26th December and much the same on 1st and second January, there are usually no trains on first of January.
Also be aware of the limited amount of daylight.that time of year it won't be light till around 9am and will be dark by 4.00pm

Posted by
169 posts

My part of Scotland wasn't affected by ice and snow last Hogmanay and after, rather it was rainfall and lots of it.

To some extent I think winters in Scotland are getting wetter, although ice and snow still occur. The weather may not be your problem though and lack of daylight hours may be.

This site may help in your travel planning if you don't want to hire a car

Lots of tourist attractions will be closed and you'll need to bear that in mind.

Posted by
5029 posts

As a general rule (rules are there to be broken), the snow is worse in February than January. The past 2 winters have been relatively mild, but wet. You don't need a tour and a hire car is advisable. Avoid the Highlands if bad weather is forecast.

In addition to the short daylight hours, check if you plan on visiting any castle, attraction etc that they are open at that time of year. Some close for the winter.

You will barely touch the country in 2 weeks. You don't need a car in Edinburgh and can take the train to Glasgow c one hour.

Posted by
2353 posts

I do not know where you are from - you might add that to your profile - but Edinburgh is damp cold so it will feel much colder than the thermometer says - especially if the wind is blowing. Wear appropriate clothing and you will be fine.

Posted by
10 posts

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO RESPONDED!!!!!!!!!! We are currently discussing all your advice and seeing what will work for us.