Scotland is beautiful. We know this, but we also know that despite how beautiful it can be (even in the rain!), the weather is unpredictable. One minute you’re warm and enjoying blue sunny skies and in the next minute, a large grey cloud swoops in and is pelting you with rain only for it to change right back again! Before you head to Scotland, you need to know what to pack. When packing for Scotland, you need to know first what you are planning to do while you are there. Are you heading to the cities or going to mix in some outdoor fun? I know I certainly recommend hiking! It is the best way to get out and truly experience Scotland in all of its glory.
My number one advice for handling the weather in Scotland: You have to just accept it for what it is and roll with it.
After arriving in Scotland at the start of January 2020, I quickly realized that I had overpacked… and under packed. I packed too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right ones.
To make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did, I will walk you through the essentials for travelling to Scotland.
I am a light packer. I don’t like to carry around a whole bunch of stuff only to end up carry extras, but these are the necessities I believe everyone should have.
My Top 10 List of Must-Haves for Hiking Scotland
- Layers. Particularly a good pair of thermals!
- Hiking boots or shoes with a strong grip.
- Extra shoes!
- Socks! Lots of them.
- A light-weight rainproof jacket.
- An extra hooded-coat
- An ear warmer headband or earmuffs.
- Thin but warm gloves.
- A light and comfortable backpack.
- Water and snacks!
Because of the fluctuating weather, layers are essential. You need to be able to strip down when its warm and pile back on when its cold.
The one thing I did have when I got there (thanks to my wonderful mother) was several sets of thermals: Long sleeve undershirts and leggings that I was able to wear underneath my other shirts and pants. They were absolute life-savors, and I don’t know how I would have managed without them.
The brand I had was 32 Degree Heat, and you can find them on Amazon. They were thin but warm and perfect for layering with t-shirts, other long sleeves or jumpers.
SHOES AND SOCKS
The next three items on my list of must-haves all go together really. Hiking around Scotland your feet are going to get wet! You need to make sure that you have at least two pairs of good shoes or boots with extra socks to switch out. I highly recommend having hiking boots AND a good pair of trainers.
When I went hiking, I often took three pairs of socks for each trip I went on to be safe. I had my hiking shoes which are my favourite shoes in the world! My Salomon’s Speedcross Trail Running Shoes never let me down. I cannot wait until I get my Salomon hiking boots because the only thing that I needed was a higher and more stabilizing ankle.
Number five on the list is a nice light-weight rainproof jacket. Right before I left my grandmother got me the L.L.Bean Primaloft Packaway Jacket, and I have to say – it was pretty fantastic! It was light and easy to pack, it had plenty of pockets for extras, and it kept me warm and dry!
I loved my packaway jacket, but I do recommend having a heavier hooded coat for colder and windier days. When hiking, you tend to warm up pretty quickly and it’s nice to have the option of having something a little lighter or heavier depending on the day.
HEADBANDS AND GLOVES
Some people will tell you to make sure you have a hat, but for me, an ear-warming headband was just the thing. It kept my ears warm without making me feel overheated by a full hat. You will see that in many of my pictures I am wearing my favourite head wrap.
Now- here is a tricky one for me. I don’t like gloves – I never have – but, I do recommend that you have some. Your fingers will get cold! I ended up finding some thin gloves with touch-screen fingertips on Amazon. They helped dull the sting from the cold but still allowed me to use my hands as normal.
A BACKPACK, WATER, AND SNACKS
Last, but very important, is a backpack with snacks and water.
One of the wonderful thing about Scotland is that the tap water everywhere is very clean and tastes wonderful. You don’t need to waste your time buying plastic water bottles, just get yourself a vessel and keep it full.
When taking long hikes, you need to make sure you have a backpack to carry your extras that aren’t going to hurt your shoulders, neck or back. On Amazon, there are many to choose from and in my opinion, you can’t really go wrong as long as you keep it light and make sure the straps are thick.
You need enough water to stay hydrated and snacks are important to replenish your energy. I recommend things like granola bars, fruit, peanut butter wraps and other kinds of foods that are easily portable and won’t go bad too quickly.
What To Pack (In General)
When planning your trip to Scotland (or anywhere in the UK really) you need to pack many of the same things I listed above. Layers, extra shoes, a rainproof jacket, but there are a few things I want you to add to your list for just everyday items.
- A heavier coat with a sheltering hood.
When I got to Scotland I didnt have a proper cold-weather coat… I thought I did, but I didnt. So, one of my first purchases was a Protest Faux Fur Ski Jacket. It is extra warm and extra cosy, and perfect for those extra cold and windy days!
A ski jacket may seem excessive but it was perfect for me and having the faux fur hood kept me warm on my long walks around the city and on cold nights.
2. Thick soled shoes!
Showing up in Scotland with cute wedges and my vans… I wasn’t prepared at all for the cobblestone streets and uneven pavements. Every traveller to Scotland needs to make sure they have at LEAST one pair of good walking shoes. Whether you bring boots or a good pair of trainers, you need to make sure you have support and comfort on your feet!
3. Plenty of trousers (pants) and jumpers (sweaters).
Packing some good jeans and warm jumpers (with layers underneath) just makes sense for all of the seasons.
Back in the states, when people ask me about Scottish weather, I tell them that it’s not as cold as in America and also, not as war. On average the temperature varies between lows of 30 and 40 to highs of 60 and up to 70.
The trick to handling any climate is setting your mind to adapt. Being able to handle a fluctuation between cooler and warmer days mentally is key.
Now that you know what to take for hikes and the essentials for packing for your trip to Scotland, I hope feel more prepared for your next adventure! Good Luck!
With an attitude of gratitude,