Packing tips & all the essentials you have to pack for Scotland to enjoy the Highlands, Isle of Skye, Edinburgh & beyond.
Scotland is an amazing country. It’s so easy to have the time of your life there. Just check out my list of 20 amazing things to see in Scotland to get a good impression. Since most activities in Scotland are outdoors and the Scottish weather is a bit, shall we say fickle, it’s a wise idea to think ahead. Here’s what to pack for Scotland and also what you should probably leave at home.
Things you should know BEFORE packing for Scotland
First of all, a word or two about the Scottish weather: Scotland can roughly be divided into the Lowlands (meaning Edinburgh and Glasgow), the Highlands and the islands. You will probably want to see the Isle of Skye (if it’s not on your list yet, read my guide to the Isle of Skye!) and the big cities. The climate in both areas is a bit different, though the general pattern prevails: Scotland is cold and wet.
Even in May, you will have 11 days of rain in Portree on the Isle of Skye – and that is the driest month of the year. In December it will be 20. July generally sees the highest temperatures, but it’s a rare day you will see temperatures above 17° Celsius. On a cold and rainy day, temperatures around 10° Celsius are more likely.
Edinburgh is a bit milder. With temperatures climbing up to 19° Celsius in Summer and an average of 9 days of rain (winter is 12).
The good news: The Scottish winter is quite mild. Actually, you shouldn’t even be expecting minus degrees.
The bad news: There is no summer. A local once joked to me on a particularly fine sunny day in May that they didn’t expect summer to be on a Tuesday this year. Even then it will still be somewhat cold. If you take a closer look at the pictures below, you will mostly see me wearing rather warm stuff despite the splendid sunshine!
Apart from the weather, it pays off to consider the rugged Scottish landscape. Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen are the only cities worth their name. If you want to go shopping or clubbing, better choose another country. Scotland is all about amazing landscapes, wildlife experience and beautiful castles (here’s my list of the most beautiful ones in Scotland).
Thus, you really should think practical and not like a fashionista. Your beautiful suede boots will not look as pretty after walking through a bog. You know, I don’t really love walking around in trekking pants and hiking shoes either. BUT they were created for outdoor activities and Scotland is the perfect place to enjoy an adventure or two. These thoughts really should govern your decisions when you are thinking about how to pack for 2 weeks in Scotland or more.
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What to wear in Scotland
You will get wet during your trip to Scotland, so no matter what you take along, you should have at least one set of clothes made for the colder & wetter side of the beautiful country. If you don’t need them, thank the Lord, if you need them, you will thank the Lord for bringing them.
Also, as the wetter is so fickle, thinking in layers is your best bet. There were days where I started out in a jumper, hiked through a glen in a t-shirt and needed a warm jacked in the evening because of extremely cold and wet wind. So, for Scotland you should pack:
- A waterproof rain jacket (not water-resistant, but truly waterproof! I am using one from the brand Columbia. It’s fairly cheap, light-weighted and truly waterproof)
- Trekking pants (Again, Columbia has some great choices like thee Cascades Explorer Pant; make sure to pick something water-resistant. I personally love Lundhags even more, but they are kind of hard to source in the U.S.)
- A fleece jacket or something similar (to wear under your rain jacket or on a warm day) I personally use one by Patagonia’s
- Jeans (or something you are comfortable with sitting in the car and walking around towns)
- Cotton socks & Trekking Socks (!!)
- Sweatshirts or jumpers
- cardigan or zipper
- Long-sleeved trekking shirt(s)
- One dressier outfit (for a night at the pub)
Even in summer, you really don’t need to bring a bathing suit. There are some really pretty beaches in Scotland (especially out on the Isles), but water temperatures are usually so low, that a day out on the beach is nothing you can be looking forward to – at least not to go bathing.
The best shoes for Scotland
You will spend most of your time in Scotland outdoors (except you just stick to Edinburgh and Glasgow, which I honestly don’t recommend), but usually also a lot of time driving around. Luckily, few Scottish mountains/hikes are truly challenging. You should bring along:
- Two comfortable pairs of walking shoes/trainers. I am using the Adidas Terrex Swift as they are also more or less waterproof and offer very good traction for medium hikes. (two, in case one gets wet)
- Waterproof shoes (depending on the season & your planned outdoor activities)
- One pair of shoes you would want to wear to a good restaurant
- (optional) hiking boots with high ankles. Only if you plan to go on a real hike (like the Cuillin Range); I can recommend the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots
Full leather boots are probably not the best idea, as you want something both water-resistant and fast-drying. Also, consider that full ankle support depends on your hiking skill and the terrain. If you just plan to visit the main highlights, full boots will probably be just too cumbersome. Just do me the favor and not hike Ben Nevis in flip-flops ;-)
Accessories to pack for Scotland
As I said, you will be on the road and outdoors, so you really don’t need to bother which necklace you want to bring. In fact, chances are higher that it gets tangled below your poncho than anyone taking notice. Some other things you will definitely need.
- Daypack (waterproof or buy a waterproof cover ); I got a special camera backpack I am very satisfied with and basically carry it wherever I go (check it out here); Either way, pick something to store some little extra clothes, some snacks and a bottle of water on your hikes
- Umbrella – as I said before, it does rain a lot (so something like this)
- A scarf (against the wind/chill in the evening; good for the airplane as well)
- a small dry-pack for your electronics if you plan to do a little boat trip (which I recommend; I am using these)
- Also, consider bringing walking sticks if you are not as nimble anymore (or like to remove some strain from your knees).
- A hat (there can be a lot of wind)
- (optional) a hiking cushion; there are tons of stones around to sit – no worries, but they can be cold.
As for sunglass, weird as it may sound, I’d urge you to bring some. Sun is not unheard of (as you can see on my pictures) and I like wearing them on the boat – mostly against the wind.
Electronics & Gadgets
Electrical sockets in Scotland supply electricity between 220 and 240 volts. The primary socket type is the British BS-1363. Depending on your homeland, you will have to adjust for that, by bringing an adapter or even a step-down transformer (in case of US citizens)
- Power adapter; Buy an international one you can use on your next trip
- (optional) step-down converter: This one is cheap and does the job
- Good camera & extra SD cards
- An e-reader (I used to read only paperback. Loved the smell and so on, but these days I always got my Kindle Paperwhite along. Need a new book, just download it – also saves luggage space)
- A flashlight (only for winter months)
- Binoculars. There’s tons of wildlife to see. I am using these binoculars from Vanguard. Light and served me well on my travels
I also took along my a dual voltage travel hair dryer – not all guesthouses will have one. But that’s just personal preference because my hair dry super slow and I hate nothing more than wasting half an hour in front of the mirror using that model from the 80ies (with a high focus on smelling of burnt hair and not so much built for its drying capabilities) supplied by the landlord.
Toiletries & Medicine
Scotland is as civilized as it gets. You won’t need any special vaccinations or any precautions against diarrhea. You will probably stay in guesthouses and bed & breakfast kind of accommodations, so girls will want to bring their favorite conditioner and body lotion. Other than that bring:
- Travel first-aid kid (in case someone stumbles during a hike; so something like this)
- Compeed blister plasters (you are walking a lot)
- (optional) something against a cold
- Some painkillers for the night after the pub ;-)
- If you are visiting in Summer, you will need something against midges so something like this, with a high Deet concentration. Especially after a mild winter, the “smidges” can be a horrible plague.
Last, but not least, you might want to consider bringing sunscreen if you are visiting during the summer months. Chances are pretty low that the sun will shine continuously, but it’s not unheard of either, especially on a boat trip. During my last visit, I actually managed to get a sunburn. A sample-sized bottle will suffice!
Other items to bring to Scotland
Now this list is already rather long and there really isn’t anything I haven’t covered. As usual, I recommend to take copies (digital & paper) of your important travel documents along and store them in a safe way. You also will want to get a hardcopy travel guide (l think the Rick Steve’s Scotland guide is currently the best out there)
Don’t overpack for Scotland, as most people move around a lot and it’s just super annoying if you are traveling with too much luggage. Consider using packing cubes (these Amazon basics are more than sufficient). They really facilitate the whole packing and unpacking procedure.
But also, a word of warning in case you plan to pack too light. While there are stores in the Highlands, it can be quite a nuisance to search for them and they might not have what you want.
What not to wear in Scotland
Pretty dresses, suede shoes, and that lovely blazer are really not made for Scotland. Try to stay away from anything that takes a long time to dry, and rather invest into versatile water-resistant gear – except you are just visiting Edinburgh
Also, try to stay away from overly thick and warm clothes. While it can get quite cold (especially on those rainy and windy days), the Scottish weather changes rather quickly. So, the moment the sun comes out again, you will want to be able to shed some layers. It might sound a bit trite, but the onion principle is really the best idea.
What else should you not wear in Scotland? Well, you’ll also experience a lot of wind in Scotland, especially in the Highlands. If you are a rather sensitive person, a nice hat and a light scarf will be your best friend. And remember that a wide-brimmed hat and wind don’t go all too well together. So, you really should avoid jackets or pants that are cut a bit too wide.
That’s it. That was my list of what to pack for Scotland. If you got any questions, feel free to ask them below! And don’t forget to pin this for later.