“There are two seasons in Scotland. June and winter.” – Billy Connolly
It’s quite hard to sum up Scotland’s average weather as it varies so much from region to region – from the warm but rainy west coast to the drier east coast – but there’s probably a reason why the Scots chose “dreich” (dreary and bleak weather) as their favourite word.
While it’s true that Scotland is generally colder, windier and wetter than the rest of the UK, depending on the area and time of year you visit, you can often find temperate weather, drier days and even some sunshine!
However, the unpredictability of Scottish weather means that even if the forecast is predicting a bright and beautiful day, you may be caught out with a chilly breeze and heavy showers. Wherever and whenever you visit, it always pays to bring a raincoat and a pair of sturdy boots – just in case!
While it’s more common that you will experience four seasons in one day, here’s our guide to the ever-fickle Scottish weather.
Scotland’s average rainfall and temperature
According to Met Office data, Scotland’s annual average rainfall is 1570mm compared to a UK average of 1154mm – that’s enough rain to cover someone who is 5ft 1in tall, like Scottish singer Lulu!
January is the wettest month of the year, with an average of 177.5mm of rain, while May is the driest month, receiving just 84.5mm of rain on average - which is probably the reason for the Scottish proverb “cast not a clout till May be oot”, or, don’t take off your winter clothing until May!
Whatever time of year you visit, it’s always good to have some rainy-day activities planned – or make sure your holiday cottage is equipped with plenty to do. Here are some of our favourite Scottish cottages with games rooms.
The average temperature overall in Scotland ranges between 10.7°C and 4.2°C, compared to the UK average of 12.4°C and 5.3°C, so if you’re visiting from England and Wales it may feel slightly cooler than you’re used to.
The hottest month is usually July, with an average temperature of a balmy 17°C! The coldest month in Scotland is February, with an average temperature of -0.1°C – however, January may feel even colder as it’s the month with the highest number of ‘air frost’ days.
Where is the driest part of Scotland?
Scotland’s east coast receives far less rain than its west coast, which has the dubious honour of being one of the wettest places in Europe. It’s no wonder the west is home to some of the country’s best distilleries, though; as an old Scottish proverb says: “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky!”
On average, the Firth of Forth receives around 550mm of rain a year, which is less than Barcelona. However, the driest place in Scotland is a little further north – in 2018, Dundee was named Scotland’s driest city, deservedly earning its nickname “Sunny Dunny”.
In the Broughty Ferry suburb of Dundee, this property is close to many of Sunny Dunny’s attractions including waterfront restaurants, boutique shops and sandy beaches which are perfect for making the most of the dry weather.
If you’d rather stay in, the property is within half an acre of grounds which include a Swedish hut, a firepit and a covered bar – all providing the perfect setting for a Scottish garden party.
Where is the sunniest place in Scotland?
Officially, the sunniest month on record in Scotland ‘happened’ on the island of Tiree – the most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides – which received a total of 329 sunshine hours in May 1946. However, both Aberdeen and Dundee, on Scotland’s east coast, have higher than average sunshine hours all year round.
For one day of the year, Scotland’s Northern Isles have the honour of being the sunniest place in Scotland; on the night of the summer solstice, there is no complete darkness on the island due to their northerly position. However, the opposite is true on winter solstice, where it barely gets light!
The ideal setting for a summer solstice party, this Orkney home is surrounded by 2.5 acres of countryside and has large windows to make the most of the midnight light. Kids (and big kids!) in the group will love the games room which has a pool table and dartboard.
Around 3 miles away is the beach at Hinderayre Bay – an ideal location for a late-night dip if you’re feeling brave! Or you can visit the striking Italianate chapel which was built by prisoners of World War II.
Where is the coldest place in Scotland?
As you would expect, Scotland’s Highlands receive the lowest temperatures in the country due to their mountainous elevations. In fact, Altnaharra in the Highlands has the record for Scotland’s coldest-ever place, dropping to a chilly -27.2°C in December 1995.
However, these freezing temperatures make the Highlands a great place to see snow. Scotland’s average snowfall ranges from 15 to 20 days but some areas of the Highlands receive up to 100 days of snow a year! The snow sports season runs from November to April – if you’re planning a UK-based snow trip, you’ll love our guide to the best places to see snow in Scotland.
Only 9 miles away from Glenshee – Scotland’s largest ski and snowboard area – this lovely waterside home is great for a family snow holiday without having to leave the country. Surrounded by countryside, the former shooting lodge has bright and modern décor that you’ll love coming back to after a day on the slopes.
The handy boot room is a great space for leaving soggy snow gear when you come in. Then light the open fire in the sitting room and warm chilly toes or, if you’ve still got energy to spare, explore the 1.5 acres of grounds that border the River Shee.
Where is the warmest place in Scotland?
It may surprise you, but the west coast of Scotland is often warmer than the east, due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean currents – you can even find palm trees in Plockton in the Highlands!
However, Greycrook, near Kelso in the Scottish Borders, holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Scotland – reaching 32.9 degrees in August 2003. Kelso and Stirling have Scotland’s highest average summer temperature of 19.5°C – a balmy 2.5°C above the Scottish summer average.
Best cottage for sunbathing: Todrig House, Kelso | sleeps 4 + 1 dog
With both a suntrap courtyard and a lovely grass garden in which to soak up the rays, this charming cottage is a great base for sun-seekers wishing to explore Scotland. When you’re not enjoying the weather, there’s a games room for kids to play in, plus a tranquil and spacious interior to enjoy.
Kelso is only 7.5 miles away, where you can visit the 12th-century Floors Castle or Kelso Racecourse. If you’re a keen walker, this cottage is between both the Eildon Hills and the Cheviot Hills, so countryside rambles abound.
5 ways to prepare for Scottish weather:
- Look ahead at the weather forecast to plan your days out – we like the Met Office and NetWeather, as well as BBC Weather for lower-lying land.
- Wear the right clothing for the conditions – a Scottish saying is that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! Depending on the weather, this could include:
- A raincoat
- Welly boots
- Winter boots
Plus, spares of the above in case they get soaked through!
- Visit in the driest months – we have already detailed the driest locations in Scotland, but the country has less rain overall between May and August so time your visit for then and enjoy the best of the weather.
- Visit dry, windy and warm places to avoid the dreaded Scottish midges! If they can’t be avoided, check out our guide on how to repel midges before you leave home.
- Find a holiday cottage to come back to that meets your needs! If you’d like a roaring wood burner, a porch or drying room, a huge bath or a luxurious king-size bed to enjoy when you return from a day of adventuring, we can help. Take a look at our full range of Scotland cottages and choose the place that’s just right for you.