Against popular beliefs, Scotland is a great place to visit in the winter! From snowy hikes on its beautiful mountains, to quiet roads and romantic getaways in the Highlands, there is so much to see and experience during the offseason. Read on for my list of 10 ultimate reasons why you should travel to Scotland in the winter!
It is more quiet
- Scotland has become an incredibly popular destination for both domestic and international tourists over the past few years. This means that during the summer months it gets very busy. This affects roads, parking and accommodation, as well as tourist destinations and sights. Scotland is renowned for its historical sites and rugged beauty – and it can be difficult to get the best of these during the busy periods! In the winter months everything calms down and the pace of living returns to normal. For an authentic sense of Scotland, I definitely recommend visiting in the winter!
Moody is what Scotland does best
- People often focus on how bad the weather is in Scotland, and doubly so in winter. But there is another side to this. Moody and cloudy skies, misty mornings or snow topped hills make Scotland extremely scenic. They also provide ample photo opportunities everywhere! So, arm yourself with a good waterproof jacket, a sturdy pair of boots, and be prepared to be blown away by the beauty of Scotland.
The whole country is crazy about Hogmanay
- New Year, or Hogmanay, is very important for the Scots. Traditionally, it was a more important celebration than Christmas. Hogmanay traditions vary regionally and can include gift-giving, visiting houses, traditional music and singing, and of course plenty of whisky. The city of Edinburgh is well-known for its Hogmanay street party which is worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime! Personally, I prefer to spend my Hogmanay in the Highlands, enjoying the nature and popping in to a local pub or hotel after a long day out to join into the festivities.
You might experience snow
- Due to its northern location, Scotland frequently gets snow during the winter months. This is especially true for the Highlands where snow-capped mountains are customary during the winter. There are even multiple small ski resorts in the Highlands you can visit enjoy the Scottish mountains during the winter months! If you want to do winter hiking in Scotland, be prepared for the seriousness of these little mountains with good kit, preparation and the necessary skills to stay safe!
…and northern lights!
- Although Scotland is not known for the northern lights in the same way as Iceland or Lapland in Scandinavia, it can be possible to spot them during the winter months (if you are lucky and get clear skies). Best times for this include cold and clear winter nights in January and February. The Aurora can be spotted anywhere in Scotland, although you’ll have better chances the further north you are.
Wildlife is more active
- Are you into spotting animals or birds? You will have better chances of spotting wildlife from whales and seals to deer and otters in the autumn and winter months. This is partially true due to there being less people around!
There are no midges
- Scotland’s infamous midges can ruin holidays. However, there is no need to worry about the wee terrors in the winter! For that reason alone, I would recommend you visit Scotland in the during the colder months!
It keeps tourism more sustainable
- Scotland has become incredibly popular tourist destination as of late, which has resulted in some communal exhaustion especially in the small and remote Highland communities. They are most affected by the tourist traffic due to poor road infrastructure and lack of public facilities such as toilets. Therefore, traveling to the more popular destinations during the off-season is more sustainable and divides the load on the land and the local communities more evenly throughout the year. The winter gives the locals a chance to rest and recover. And you are more likely to bump into people willing to share their country, history and home with you! Visiting in winter gives you best chances to experience Scottish hospitality like it used to be!
It is cheaper
- Many accommodations, sights and activities offer cheaper off-peak prices during the winter. So if you are traveling on a budget, it is worth considering to visit Scotland in the winter.
Scotland is basically designed for getting cosy!
- I mean it! There is nothing better than staying in a cosy Highland cabin or a hideaway during the winter. Getting in from the wind and rain and wrapping yourself in a lovely woollen blanket in front of a roaring fire. Many traditional Scottish dishes from the hearty cullen skink to the renowned haggis are ideal for warming up with – and just what you want after a walk in the cold. Not to mention sitting down to enjoy a dram of good whisky at the end of the night, listening to the wind outside the windows.
Are there any reasons to not visit Scotland in the winter?
In my opinion the answer is no! However, there are a few things you should consider. Firstly, the weather – it rains a lot, even more than in the summer, and that means you need to be armed with the right clothes to deal with it. It is also frequently cold and windy, which might cause disruption in how the ferries run, or close major road bridges. Therefore, always plan your trip with a few options and keep your eye on the weather forecast!
Secondly, Scotland frequently gets snow over the winter, which is something you should consider especially if you plan on driving around. Occasionally, roads have to close due to the snow and it can cause major disruption in public transport and services. While this is pretty rare, it is something to bear in mind especially during January and February.
Finally, some campsites and tourist destination are either closed or open for very limited hours during the off-season in winter. This does not mean there aren’t any things to do, but if there is a specific place you’d like to visit, it is good to check the opening hours beforehand.
Good luck with planning your dream holiday to Scotland! And don’t hesitate to get in touch for recommendations or if you have any questions.