Planning a trip to Scotland? That’s awesome! It’s an absolutely amazing country with so much to see and do that you’re bound to have an unforgettable experience. As you plan, you may be wondering what to pack. Pants? Shorts? A jacket? The list can seem overwhelming, especially when taking into consideration Scotland’s infamous quick weather changes. However, it doesn’t have to be. Strategically include a few critical items and you’ll be taking on the country like a pro no matter what conditions may come your way.
8 Essentials to Pack in Your Suitcase
*note: this is a recommended list for the warmer season in Scotland. I haven’t been there in the winter but photos I’ve seen indicate snow and cold so you will need to pack a bit differently.
Scotland can go from freezing cold and misty to blazing hot and sunny (yes, that does actually happen there!) all in the course of about 5 minutes. Haha! But really, the best way to be prepared for these changes is to layer. I usually include a scarf, light jacket (preferably waterproof), sweater, and hat. Some sort of convertible pants (think capris or zip off shorts) would be ideal, especially if you’ll be hiking and want to protect yourself from insects or flora & fauna. The first summer I was there, capris, a sweater, and a light jacket were my go-to’s. Last summer it was very hot and many times the family and I found ourselves sweating in shorts. The weather really can change quickly in both the temperature and conditions so planning clothing strategically is very important.
2. Waterproof shoes
Because Scotland can be quite wet, whether you’re exploring the cities or plan on hiking the great outdoors (trust me, you need to put this on your list of things to do), investing in some good quality waterproof shoes or boots is a good idea. When hiking, many trails are wet and can be quite slippery. Two of my sons and I went on an impromptu hiking expedition on the Isle of Mull and ended up muddy up to our knees as we trudged through bogs of deep ferns. It was really fun but I know one of my sons regretted the fact that his nice leather dress shoes were completely filled with mud (no exaggeration) by the time we were done. He had to wash them as best he could and hold them outside the car to dry as we drove the next day. To me, that part of the adventure was kind of funny. Maybe not so much to him.
3. A light raincoat
As I said before, it does rain a lot. However, it can also be warm in the summer. Be sure to pack a light raincoat that can breathe and with which you can possibly layer underneath.
Here’s a good one on Amazon
Please note that all Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. If you order something I may receive a small compensation, however, this will not affect your price in any way.
4. BUG SPRAY!
Oh, the infamous midges. What are those you ask? In my mind, they may just be the spawn of Satan. I suppose you could categorize them as a cross between a mosquito and a gnat. They’re very small biting flies that thrive in moist, lush wooded locations. As you can imagine, that’s most of the topography of Scotland. These little guys swarm en masse and greedily bite any area of exposed skin they can find. After they bite, you itch to high heaven for days.
So don’t shy away from the bug spray. I say reserve your DEET usage for this trip, especially if you’ll be hiking through the Highlands. If you remain in the cities, however, consider yourself lucky because midges won’t pose a threat.
5. A daypack
This is important especially if you’ll be out in nature, or plan to buy a lot of souvenirs in the cities ;). A daypack will help you be prepared to either put on more layers or take them off. It will also allow you to have water handy in case it gets hot. If you’re like me, you may become a bit hangry if you haven’t eaten in a while so bringing some snacks along is always a good idea too. Many locations outside the cities in Scotland are quite remote so planning essential supplies ahead of time is key.
6. Sun stuff
My first visit to Scotland was exactly what I imagined it would be: a few sunny days mixed into mostly overcast or misty weather. However, all that changed when I went back the second time. I laughed in disbelief when the locals told us they were going through a heatwave but much to my surprise, they weren’t joking. Although it was absolutely incredible to have sunny, blue skies for the majority of our trip, this heatwave was no joke. There’s got to be some scientific evidence out there to prove that Scotland is somehow closer to the surface of the sun than other location because sunny summer days are incredibly bright and can get crazy hot! A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and water in these conditions are vital. Trust me. I’m not usually a hat person but bought one in a desperate attempt to block the intense sun from beating down on even the smallest part of my body because it really was quite unbearable.
7. A good camera
Get ready, you’re going to see scenery in Scotland that even as you stand there staring at it you have trouble believing is real. If you’ve seen any photos of beautiful ancient castles, rolling green hills, or beautiful crystal clear turquoise water in Scotland, they’re probably posted pretty darn close to their natural form. Scotland doesn’t need a filter. It’s just naturally stunning and gorgeous. Like, other-worldly gorgeous. I remember driving through the Quirang on the Isle of Skye thinking to myself that it looked like a real-life painting. There are no words worthy enough to describe it. If you’re like me, you will want to stop every five minutes to take a picture. I’ve taken these with my iPhone, but a good quality camera would have made them even more amazing.
8. A map
For the most part, cell service is pretty decent around the country. We’ve been consistently able to pull up interactive maps on our phones for directions.
However, there are some remote locations where cell service may be interrupted, making a good old-fashioned map quite necessary. We discovered this as we drove across the Isle of Mull and right in the middle of the island, our phone directions stopped working. Silly us, we didn’t have a “real” map on hand. I mean who does nowadays, right? Luckily, there was only one road taking us from point A to point B with no towns in between so we were ok. However, things could have become quite interesting if we had to do any more navigating along the way.
As you can see, you don’t need to pack a lot in order to enjoy all the treasures Scotland has to offer. If you plan ahead and make sure to include some important basics, neither rain nor sun, nor dreaded midges will hinder your trip, giving you the ability to enjoy it all like a pro and simply savor every moment.