I am hoping to get over to Scotland in 2020 - specifically the Highlands and the Western Islands. (ie Aberdeen, going west to the Isle of Skye). It looks like I might not be able to get away until early October. I have read mixed reviews of the weather in the Highlands in October. I have heard everything from beautiful Autumn weather to brutal cold and constant rain/snow.
Has anybody here been to the Highlands and the Hebrides in October? Was the weather reasonably nice, or should I try to find another time?
The weather is going to stink, but don't let that stop you. Scotland is about wind and rain, with a pint of beer at the end of the day to wash it all down. Seriously, the biggest issue will be that Scotland has a very moist cold, kind of like November in the Northeast. You won't get snow, just a damp chill. The other think to keep in mind is how far north Scotland is. Aberdeen is at 57 degrees north. If you go in late October, plan on only about 8 hours of sunlight a day.
Thanks for the reply. I actually misspoke when I said Aberdeen. I meant to say Inverness, which of course is even farther north. The lack of sunlight will be a bit concerning, but if I really luck out and actually have clear weather (a great rarity I know), then I will get several hours of good stargazing.
The other option for me is August but I know the midges are very bad at that point, and there will be a lot more tourists out and about. I think I would rather deal with cool and damp weather as opposed to midges. At least rain doesn't bite.
I think you are better going in October than August. August will be packed with tourists. Also, you are correct, with good weather, you have a good chance of seeing the northern lights.
Yes, and I would like to avoid tourist season. The single-track roads will be a lot more pleasant if they are not crowded. I plan to rent a car and drive so I am hoping to avoid busy roads as much as possible.
I have been in England and there is no way that I would drive through big cities there, but in rural Scotland I'm certainly willing to give it a go.
It depends a lot on where you are from. I'm from sunny California and I honestly did not find Ireland or Scotland bad in November. I thought the rain was really characteristic and fun in a way that gave it this moody historic vibe. There was a few times where I was wet and cold, and castles are a bit hard in the rain. Hours for things are a bit less so you'll fit less into a day if you're one of those who likes to shove it all in. Also, be aware if you are driving that driving in Northern Scotland as it is - you're on the opposite side of the road on narrow 2 land roads most of the time. In the rain it gets a little scarier. So if that makes you nervous take that into consideration.
Also look up time tables for trains or events - some places may not be open in October - though they mostly should be.
You're going to love Scotland no matter what. It's absolutely beautiful, the people are lovely, and there is so much history. I am going back again this December, if that tells you anything! :)
Welcome to The forum. Thank you for your reply. The narrow roads don't really bother me. I grew up driving on winding narrow mountain roads in West Virginia so I will probably feel right at home on the rural mountain roads.
I spent most of my life in the midwest so cold doesn't really bother me either. I also enjoy shooting photographs and the rain and fog can add some intrigue to images especially in an area like Scotland where it's expected.
Overall, I am leaning more towards wanting to go in October then going during the tourist season even if October does tend to be a little cool and damp.
Hi there BelfryBat, we're here in Scotland now for the past week (gathering story material), 1 more week to go. My observations so far. Edinburgh has been the only thing really crowded so far, but we expected that as the Fringe festival and Royal Military Tatoo are going on. But I'd still come in August, if nothing else to experience the Tatoo. It was absolutely wonderful. We usually travel off season, but we're already talking about coming again next summer, to see it again plus all the highland games festivals are in August as well. We've driven from Stirling up to the Speyside/Aberlour area with no issues. My recommendation is to get an automatic transmission, even if it cost more, it's well worth it for one less thing to worry about while getting used to left side driving. The narrow roads aren't too bad, the most worrisome thing is that the Scots drive FAST, and are a bit impatient and hug your rear bumper waiting to get around you, so we usually try to pull off to let them around if possible. But we're slowly getting up to speed and more comfortable. Another thing that might help is to try to take the train from Edinburgh or wherever to someplace a little quieter like Stirling to get the car, it's much easier to get out of the city and not nearly as nerve wracking. Nothing we've been to besides the Royal Mile in Edinburgh has been packed, and we've enjoyed the warm weather , long hours of daylight (9:05pm here and still enough light to enjoy a walk) and intermittant rain for atmosphere. The Scots are some of the friendliest and most helpful people we've encountered (except if you're in front of them on the road, lol), and we love it here so far. We'll definitely be back. And my vote is for August to see the Tatoo and Highland games. Good luck with your plans!
Thanks for the reply. Late April to mid May might be another option for me pending my work schedule. I am thinking about flying into Inverness.
I agree that October will be better than August. We were due to walk the West Highland Way in September and were told that it may be crowded with tourists at this point. Turns out I have cancer (I'll be fine!!) and we had to push the trip back to April 2020 anyway. That is a time that we will be missing most of the tourists and it won't be too hot or too cold to camp in the Highlands - for us anyway.