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.
Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I do not recommend products I have not reviewed thoroughly myself.
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.
Great list, Norman! I was in Scotland hiking in August and can confirm, that was no summer ;-) except for this one day I lucked out on my hike to Old Man of Storr – it was sunny, hot and I lasted for about five hours :D
As I was only hiking and backpacking, I only had trekking stuff on me – a fast drying pair of pants is indeed crucial. I also found that taking two buffs – for head and neck was needed. When I was hiking some days, I had a merino buff on my head, then three layers of various shirts/jackets and the cold wind was getting through anyway ;-)
BUT IT WAS ALL SO WORTH IT! :D
well, i guess you just have to expect rain and cold weather in Scotland and enjoy it anyway! My jackets all have hoods and I for me that was enough. But obviously, some people might want to bring a hat or scarf. :)
this is very helpful for me as my family is travelling there in July for 10 days. I was surprised by the temperatures! its much cooler than here in the US near NYC.What is a buff?
yeah it’s quite cold, especially when it rains. A buff (brandname) is a multifunctional headband.
Hi, My family is heading to Scotland the first of August & this is the best advice I have found so far! I love the links to Amazon. Thanks so much!
thank you for your kind words. I know what a hassle packing sometimes can be! Enjoy Scotland!
Thank you Norman for your travel tips, they have been very helpful. I had no idea Scotland would be that cold during the summer! I am looking forward to it and will be prepared.
glad I could be of help! And yes, Scotland can be quite cold. But it’s quite far up north as well! :)
Very helpful information ???? but you haven’t mentioned anything about the midges ? We’re going to Skye for a few days and wondered if they were a problem.
well, in some areas they might be. But frankly speaking I never had any problems. But I guess this is a seasonal thing. Never visited in August :P
usually the wind will keep the smaller flying critters from being too bothersome.
When we were there in 2013 for World Pipe Band Championships, we packed parachute cord and clothes pins. Packing light means you may want to do some light laundry in sink or shower, and dry overnight over tub. Don’t over pack. Nobody cares that you’re wearing the same outfit twice!
Good idea Rob. My itineraries are usually so packed that I really cannot spare the time for washing clothes. Besides, never ever saw the downside of bringing a bigger suitcase. If you go backpacking (which i never do), every single gram counts, tho! :P
Thank you for the useful tips Norman! I’m from Australia and leaving in 3 days to study in Dundee, Scotland for 5 months.. time to get packing!
That sounds great Daisy! Wishing you a wonderful time. I am sure you will enjoy Scotland.
Thanks so much!! This has been really helpful! Cheers :)
Thanks norman, it was really helpful..i am from pakistan and leaving for glasgow on 14th september to study there for one year.its helping me for packing right now?
Love this. You gave me some great tips…like the flashlight and the extra SD Card for camera. I know this is crazy, but I am visiting Scotland in November! (Who does that???) No doubt, it will be colder than you suggested above. I am expecting nothing colder than Chicago in the winter. Would this be a fair assessment? I am not trekking the mountains, but will be touring Edinburgh, Highlands, and Skye. I have a tour guide but trip involves, walking & driving, exploring the countryside, and in and out of Castles/Abbeys. With the varied sites and in & out of car, I am not sure what exactly I need for footwear. I am bringing waterproof boots. Do I need waterproof trainers as well? I didn’t plan on anything waterproof in clothing (as you suggested above) but I do have a long, -20 degree down coat to top off my clothing. Will this be sufficient in keeping me dry and warm in and out of sites/walking tours? (Hat gloves, and scarves will be a part of the mix.) Can I dress a little less “outdoor” with my itinerary…layering coat/hat as I step outside/walking around? As a woman, I do like to look nice too. But I want to be dry and warm. Is there a balance between fashion and fighting the elements? Ha!
great I could be of help. You’d only need proper boots if you do trekking, otherwise normal waterproof mountain trainers will be sufficient.
Also, know that it doesn’T get all that cold. A down coat might actually a bit too much. (there will probably be no minus degrees in November)
As for less outdoorsy..sure, dress the way that suits you best. But remember: it can and will rain and not too many people will care if your coat looks nice ;-)
We are leaving for Scotland shortly.
Since we are going to some cool windy places like Skye and the Orkneys, should I bring my lightweight winter ski jacket? Or will I be too warm? Gloves, too?
I like being warm.
We will be hiking a lot and looking at old ruins, so outdoors as much as possible.
Any items us gals need to bring that you may not have included?
i don’t think a ski jacket is a good choice. Rather a proper rain jacket and something warm below, as this will be much more versatile. You don’t get minus degrees in Oktober in Scotland, so why bring it?
A warm hat (against the wind) might be a good choice :)
You’ve answered almost all my questions! Thanks for the great packing advice but one more little detail about raincoats in the Highlands… I have a nice one with a hood and a button in liner for warmth. Will I need the liner in May?
Thanks for your help,
Well…the weather in Scotland is a bit fickle. Normally I’d say you won’t need a liner, but if you get one week of rain you might wish you had one.
Let’s put it that way: I wouldn’t buy one and just bring a nice warm jumper to wear underneath.
Thank you for the great packing list. Seems that I am one lucky girl as I only had around 3 days of rain in total during all my Scotland holidays (I am going for the 10th time next month!)…
Never needed a bathing suit, though. ;-))
Best regards, Tanja
How about some repellent for the midges?
That really depends on where and when you are travelling. If you are visiting the Highlands in summer, then some insect repellant is needed!
Great list, spot on! Even at pubs you will often see a ‘muddy boots welcome’ sign.
But.. as a South Scotland loving lass my heart broke when I read “Scotland can roughly be divided into the Lowlands (meaning Edinburgh and Glasgow)…”.
There are miles and miles of Scotland south of these 2 cities with loads of history and splendid scenery and coastlines, and best of all, the lack of tourists, as everyone rushes to Skye ;)
thank you for your input! I totally agree, there is a lot of beautiful scenery in the Lowlands – but as this is a packing guide and I was rather speaking in terms of weather patterns and packing requirements, there was no room for that. :)
Thank you for the great packing list.I think your list helping me when i will go for scotland. Not only me but also everyone who wanna thinking about scotland. I must follow these tips when it will be my turn. If you had more insight i will greatly appreciate it. Thanks for the sharing such a helpful article.
Thank you for the packing tips!
Could you please tell me where this picture was taken? https://www.annees-de-pelerinage.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/hiking-in-Scotland.jpg
glad I could be of help. That picture was taken on the hike to the old man of Stor :)
We are thinking for go scotland in next month with my whole family. I think your list helping me when i will go for scotland. Can you recommended some place where we can visit when we are going there? Thanks for the sharing such a informative article.
I am sure this list will help you a great deal: https://www.annees-de-pelerinage.com/20-essential-things-to-do-in-scotland/
Wow! Very detailed! Such a good and helpful read. My family and I are planning to visit Scotland (Edinburgh and the Highlands) for 10 days. We are bringing our 2 kids ages 11 month old and 6 years old and I am so eager to know what to pack. I want to be very prepared especially bringing out two little ones. Thank you for this read. And any other recommendation or advise when bringing kids? I would really appreciate! Thanks!
I’m 70 and went alone to Mull first of June, where I met up with a group of 10. Only took a carry-on and traveling crossbody that’s thief proof and converts to a day backpack.
My advice is a rain jacket with a hood and baseball cap (works for men and women..hood up over or hood down. Bought my cap at a Whiskey distillery!). My jacket has multiple pockets with snaps. No umbrella! Ran into 70 mph winds but otherwise never used an umbrella.
I didn’t take trekking boots just waterproof Nike’s and a spare town walking shoe.
No camera, just my iPhone 8plus and a waterproof case. Extra power source for the plane and train.
Adapters for UK.
Dress in layers because the sun comes in and out. Sunscreen is a good idea!
Don’t overpack. I brought one skirt and a scarf, a little basic makeup and meds. A folding, packable cane for walking rough terrain.
I stayed at Lochbuie on Mull for 9 days and we visited islands in the area (St. Brendan’s Isle and St. Kenneth’s Inch, Iona), then Kilninian and Mull Monastery of all Celtic Saints.
Last items I have food allergies and fibromyalgia so I couldn’t eat anything for 30 hours! I packed high protein bars (mine are special) and gluten free items. I had a self inflating back pillow that made the plane trip a good experience.(deflated it rolls up and fits in my purse).
I left room to bring home a few souvenirs.
thank you so much for your detailed comment! I only spend 2 days on Mull. I so want to stay longer on the isles – i found them so calming and could actually *breath* imagine living there!
Bonnie, what kind of high protein bars did you pack?
Great job Norman, I think this will help me out a great deal. Like CharmingHye wrote in July, I’ll also have a couple young kids with me (4 & 8 y/o). Any additional advice regarding kids, what they may need, etc..?
I really don’t have a lot of experience with traveling with kids (though I myself traveled a lot as a kid :P).
A good rain poncho for the kids and waterproof shoes is probably what you want to take (usually kids care way less about the rain than adults).
Also, as you are bound to be on the road quite a bit, you might bring something to entertain them in the car.
You are a life saver! My husband and I are off to Scotland for a ten day tour in three weeks and I’ve been trying to figure out what to pack. Your list was PERFECT. Thanks so much for the help.
Hey Ruth, glad to be of help :)
Thanks for your great and informative post. Such an important post you make that help me moe to ready my backpack. This is my second best place for outdoor gear land.
We will be in Scotland in mid February. Our home base will be in Edinburgh and we will be spending time in the city but also going up into the Highlands . What typical weather can we expect and what should we wear during that time of year?
I am not a meteorologist, and I haven’t visited Scotland in February myself. Temperatures should be close above the freezing point, with frequent rains. So warm sweaters, water proof jakets, waterproof shoes ;-)
There can be snow in the highlands.
Dear Norman, thank you so much for this list! I’ll be spending time in Scotland in December and January. I’ll also be going to the Highlands and was wondering if a pair of waterproof pants would be necessary. I already got a pair of quick drying trekking pants as you mentioned, but was not sure whether or not I should take my ski pants with me as well. Hope you can advise me on this. Thanks a lot in advance! Kind regards, Carina
well, that is hard to tell. Typically, January and December count among the months with the highest precipitation. In the Highlands that can mean snow, while it will be soggy weather down low.
If you really plan to do some heavy treking no matter the weather, then I’d say you really need something waterproof & warm. Otherwise, some warm underwear or some comfortable ski pants might be okay. It really kind of depends on your activities. Generally speaking, ski pants are usually too warm for outdoor activities where you move around a lot. They are good for sleigh rides or a walk through the snow, though
Anyways, sorry to be so vague but it really depends on what oyu plan to do.
Thanks so much for the tips. I’m heading to Scotland on 25 June 2019 for 3 weeks. Your list is very helpful.
Great tip but you never mentioned midges!! :) Essential if you travel from May to September : SMIDGE!!! it is the only insect repellent that works for the very aggressive Scottish midges (I think it is made in Scotland by the way!)
Well..you are absolutely right, insect repellent can be a life safer, but it does depend a bit on which part you are visiting. In the highlands it’s a must
Extremely informative and great tips! My husband and I will be travelling to Scotland, for 3 weeks (December 2019/January 2020), from a sunny and hot South Africa. Many months to plan and purchase essential waterproof items etc. Would be our first white Christmas, if it does snow….does it snow in December/January? Super excited!
This was an absolutely perfect guide for what to pack for Scotland, thank you so much.
We were there in the first half of September 2019, and had everything from 19 degrees and sunshine to 8 degrees, driving rain and gale force winds. Just what we expected. The advice for Skye was perfect. I wore my mid-thigh length waterproof hooded coat with a cotton scarf, gloves and ear warmers and was nice and warm. I needed my down vest under my coat for the highlands. In the lowlands, I didn’t need the vest. Women might consider a dress/tunic that can be worn over leggings for evenings and the leggings can provide extra warmth if needed under a pair of pants.
Waterproof hiking boots were a must, with a second pair of comfortable shoes for walking around town. Lots of cobblestones, hills and uneven pavement.
We also brought pack-able walking sticks which proved to be a real help in the Highlands and even in Edinburgh. We carried a waterproof day pack with our extra layers in it which turned out to be a good tip.
Note: the fancier restaurants wanted men to have a collared shirt(golf shirt was okay), pants (no shorts), and no trainers(running shoes).
Thanks again for all of your tips.
thank you for your wonderful feedback and glad I was able to help you prepare for your trip!
And walking sticks is actually a pretty good tip. Will incorporate that!