‘How can you cycle in that heat?’, my neighbour asked two days ago, when the temperature in Glasgow stood at 22 Celsius and the sun was blazing down, taking the felt temperature up a few more notches. It was a serious questions – that day was an exception, even in the Scottish summer which had only just started. Scotland does not necessarily have the best reputation when it comes to the weather and on the west coast in particular several completely dry days in a row are like Christmas and birthday together.
When you plan a trip to Scotland one of the things I can almost guarantee is that it will rain at some point. That doesn’t mean it is going to pour down every day, all day throughout your entire holiday – but a shower here and there is very likely. Now, don’t despair – there are a few coping methods to deal with the Scottish weather and if you follow them as good as you can, you will find that it is not so bad after all.
My top tips for dealing with Scottish weather
Tip 1: Chose wisely where in Scotland you go
One look at the map and you will understand why the Scottish weather has such a terrible reputation. The ‘secret’ lies in its location. Scotland lies basically unprotected from the Atlantic Ocean and all the bad weather rolling in from the sea hits the island with full force. It comes as no surprise that the Scottish west coast gets the worst of it, and rain gets trapped between the ocean and the high mountains of the Highlands. The logical consequence is that the east of Scotland is much drier than the west.
Take Edinburgh for example, where it rains a lot less than in Glasgow – but due to the lack of the gulf stream heating up the ocean on the east coast it is also colder. So, either you go where it’s warm and wet, or dry and cold – you choose…
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Tip 2: Get that “there is no bad weather”-attitude
The worst that can happen on a holiday, is when it rains, right? Wrong; so wrong. Don’t let rain ruin your trip!
Instead of missing out on all the highlights of Scotland along the west coast (think Loch Ness or the Isle of Skye) I found it a much better strategy to simply change my attitude. In the almost three years I have lived in Glasgow I have learnt to re-define rain significantly. I am now at a stage where I don’t call it ‘rain’ unless it hits my face. Drizzling or light raindrops are nothing to worry about, and most activities are still totally doable when it rains.
Tip 3: Prepare for bad weather photography
The photos you bring home might not look the way you imagined them before your trip, but making the best out of the situation is key here. Play with contrasts, change your settings to black & white, avoid having too much white sky in the frame, find bright coloured details and most of all – keep your camera dry!
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Tip 4: Bring the Right Equipment
If you ask me, the worst that can happen on a holiday is forgetting to bring the right equipment. A wise women once said, there is no such a thing as bad weather – there is only bad preparation. This rings especially true when it comes to the right rain-proof equipment for a Scotland holiday.
Once you’re cold and wet to the bone I would not be surprised if you wished you would have stayed at home. Being cold and wet is never fun. Seeing that the possibility of rain in Scotland in very high, especially if you want to hike in the highlands or explore one of the isles, making sure that you don’t get wet and cold is your most pertinent task.
Bring whatever rocks your boat: a waterproof jacket and overtrousers; hand warmers, a hat and mittens; sturdy shoes; an extra pair of socks; a little towel. While on a city trip in Glasgow or Edinburgh you can easily slip into a cozy coffee shop when it gets too wet, you won’t always have the same option when exploring little coastal towns or when you’re out and about.
Note, that this rings true for any time of the year. While May-August are usually drier than other months, there is no guarantee that temperatures will actually climb above 20C and stay there. Always be prepared for the worst weather possible. (That said, heavy snowstorms are not overly common – no need to bring a shovel…)
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Tip 5: Prepare a Plan B for bad weather
If everything fails, having a plan B for bad weather activities can save the day. Think whisky distilleries, historical castles, the many free museums in Glasgow & Edinburgh, cozy cafes or art workshops. There are so many things to do when the wind and rain are blaring outside.
Bad weather activities in Glasgow:
- museums such as the Riverside Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the Mackintosh House, the Lighthouse or the GoMA in town
- a brewery tour at WEST beer, DRYGATE or Tennent’s
- a free guided tour at the City Chambers
- a coffee shop or pub crawl in the West End
- a tour through Glasgow Central train station (read my REVIEW)
- watching a film at the Glasgow Film Theatre
Bad weather activities in Edinburgh:
- Edinburgh Castle
- Camera Obscura
- the National Gallery of Scotland
- coffee shop hopping in Stockbridge or Leith
- brunch at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith
- a tour of the Edinburgh Gin distillery
When planning a trip to Scotland coming up with a few coping strategies for the rainy days is inevitable. Better to be prepared for the worst and then surprised by two weeks of unbroken sunshine.
Do you have more tips on how to deal with bad weather on a holiday? Share them in the comments!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.