Scotland Packing List – What To Wear In Scotland In All Seasons
Scotland Packing List
We’ve been traveling to Ireland for over 20 years, but until the last few years, Scotland remained a bit of a mystery. Since traveling to Scotland, though, we realized how much we love the country. Similar to Ireland, though, a lot more goes into putting together a Scotland packing list than one for most mainland European countries. That’s why we put together our top packing tips to help travelers figure out what to wear in Scotland – in all seasons.
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What To Wear In Scotland
Putting together a travel wardrobe for Scotland is important. It’s a gorgeous country, known for extensive coastline, stunning views, and a unique history. Scotland is also known for something else – weather. Rain and unpredictability rule the day. Scotland is also colder than other countries in Europe. As much as temperatures in winter rarely drop below freezing, temperatures in the summer don’t spike as much as they do elsewhere. I was thrilled for this during our most recent trip, though.
We live in Spain where summer temperatures soar to 90 or 100 degrees in the summer. We escaped Spain for our most recent two-week Scottish trip. As much as it was not as cold as it was when we visited Edinburgh in winter, packing for Scotland in the summer was just as much of a challenge. Particularly because we did it all with carry-on bags only!
In this post, I will talk about the weather in Scotland and how it might affect your Scotland travel outfits. I will also share tips on what to pack when you travel to Scotland besides clothing. Some of these tips might not be needed for seasoned travelers to Europe, but for others I hope to talk about some packing issues that people might not consider normally.
Scotland For Food And Drink Travelers
Most of the research I did on what to pack for Scotland focused on people traveling to hike or backpack through Scotland. I do share some tip for hikers, things to pack or consider when fully exploring the outdoors. Our tips, though, focus on the people who travel like us – on our stomachs. This includes travelers focused on city breaks to Edinburgh or Glasgow (both cities definitely worth exploring) or people focused on the Malt Whisky Trail and other food and drink tourism.
We spent a lot of time outdoors during our trip through the Highlands and Speyside and prepared for inclement weather. More so than we normally do when traveling. A lot of our advice, though, focuses more on the casual traveler, or the Scotland road trip traveler, more than the traditional backpacker.
Weather In Scotland
Like our Ireland packing list, a good number of our tips on what clothes to wear in Scotland focus on preparing for the weather in Scotland. They often say that Scotland experiences four seasons in one day. This is true and makes packing for Scotland a challenge. The weather does vary among the seasons, but it also changes day to day.
How To Dress In Scotland Pro Tip
The one concept that prevails through this entire Scotland packing list is that, overall, Scotland is cold and wet. There is no reason to wrap yourself in Saran wrap to make it through. Always remember – clothes dry, shoes dry. Be prepared for rain, but don’t stress about combating it. My Irish mother-in-law always says “you can’t do anything but talk about the weather.”
Creating a Packing List For a Scotland Vacation
When creating your own packing list, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions. Your needs might be different from my needs. I hope to cover all the scenarios, but understanding your goals and your plans will help.
- Are you hiking or biking around Scotland? Or, are you focused on city breaks or road tripping?
- How much walking will you be doing?
- Are you packing carry-on only (I always recommend this!)?
- Are you renting a car, taking a tour, or booking train travel?
How To Prepare For A Trip To Scotland
There are a handful of issues that I recommend travelers consider before even getting to Scottish clothing! Some of these are considerations for all travelers to Europe but some of them are for Scotland in particular.
Be sure to confirm your insurance needs before your trip to Scotland. Although for Americans, health services in Scotland are still reasonably priced in comparison, it is best to plan for the unexpected. This is particularly true if you are hiking, cycling, engaging in outdoor sports, or heading out on a road trip. If something goes seriously wrong, it’s important to have travel insurance. You just never know and it is better to be safe than sorry.
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Best Luggage For Scotland
We only own two pieces of luggage and we use these suitcases whether we are traveling for a long weekend or a month. Our carry-on sized bag from Eagle Creek can be expanded for extra space when checking it, but it is easy to maneuver and seems almost cavernous inside. I can carry this bag on my own up and down rail station steps and I can board a train with it all on my own. Even for a two week itinerary in Scotland, this bag was enough to hold all our clothes and accessories. Most important, these bags were small enough to fit in the trunk of our rental car.Get the Best Price on our Eagle Creek Luggage on Amazon
Day Bags For Scotland
Here is where I differ a bit from other travel writers. Eric carries a messenger bag as his second bag to carry our laptops, camera, and other tech. He generally does not carry this as a day bag. Instead, I carry the day bag, with some support from him. I differ here because we are not hikers, so I don’t always think a backpack is the best day bag.
For Scotland, I carried a larger black handbag that fit under my arm. I have a Desigual purse that fits securely under my arm and is large enough to hold my camera and accessories. I brought this bag because I wanted to have a purse in Glasgow and we traveled to Ireland for three weeks after.
I also had a very lightweight, collapsible daypack for our more active excursions or to handle heavy rain days. When heading out, we always threw the daypack in our rental car in case I wanted to do a switch. For Scotland, I might suggest upgrading to a water resistant daypack, well, for obvious reasons.
Crossbody And Anti-Theft Bags
For traveling in Europe, generally, I do recommend a crossbody bag or even an anti-theft bag. For Scotland, if you are only exploring the Highlands, this might not be necessary. But, Glasgow and Edinburgh are different. They have a reputation for pickpockets as any larger city does. I recommend Travel-On as an anti-theft day bag option, which comes in a messenger or crossbody bag as well as other options. They make bags for men as well. If you are feeling concerned, these bags are a great option to provide a little piece of mind.
I don’t always use packing cubes when traveling, but I would recommend them for Scotland. They can serve a few purposes. We stayed at six different hotels over two weeks during our recent trip. Packing cubes can help organize clothing and accessories on trips like this. They can also help segregate dirty clothes or wet items. It’s Scotland, things will get wet!
Things To Consider Packing When Traveling To Scotland
There are some other items you might need when traveling in Scotland that don’t have to do with Scottish dress. These are some of our recommendations and considerations anytime you travel to Europe, with some modifications to our normal advice for the particulars of packing for Scotland. Here is our Packing List For Scotland (aside from clothes) along with a more in-depth description for each of these items:
- Credit Cards and Cash
- Money Belt
- Eye Mask
- Filtered Water Bottle
- Windproof Umbrella
- Camera, Smartphone, Memory Cards
- Portable WiFi
- iPad or Kindle Fire
- Power Pack
Passport Requirements For Scotland
If you are traveling from within the European Union, a National Identification card is sufficient to enter Scotland (for now). For the rest of us, a passport is required. Be sure to have at least six months validity on your passport. For example, if your trip begins on January 1, be sure that your passport doesn’t expire until after July 1. Scotland is part of the UK and the EU (for now), but falls outside of the Schengen Zone. Generally Americans can stay in Scotland for up to six months.
I recommend scanning a copy of your passport or taking a photo on your phone and keeping it in the “cloud.” This can mean keeping it in Dropbox, Google Drive, or even just emailing it to yourself so that you can access it if need be. I don’t recommend carrying your passport with you during the day in case your day bag is lost or stolen.
If you have your American driver’s license, that is sufficient to show ID during the day. If you are ever asked by a police officer, a photo copy of your passport is normally sufficient. If there is a serious issue, you can always present your passport later. This has never been a situation we’ve encountered in the 20 years we’ve spent traveling to Europe but readers have asked us.
This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about traveling in Europe, particularly for Americans. This advice comes from an American perspective. We have both American and Spanish bank accounts and all American credit cards.
ATM Cards And Credit Cards In Scotland
I recommend bringing one ATM card and two credit cards. Keep one credit card in your hotel safe, or hidden in a suitcase just in case your day bag is stolen during the day. Call your bank and your credit card companies before leaving to let them know you are traveling to Scotland and when so that they do not turn your credit card off for suspicious behavior.
Most important, check whether your credit cards charge Foreign Transaction Fees. Foreign Transaction Fees can be 2-3% of every purchase you make. Some cards have these and some don’t. Most of our Chase credit cards don’t charge the fee. The same goes for ATM cards. Just call to confirm so you are not surprised when you get home with random fees. I can place a travel alert on my Chase cards online and on that page it tells me what Foreign Transaction Fees are for each of my cards.
Accessing Money in Scotland
As for money, the easiest and best way to access cash when traveling in Scotland is to use the local ATM machines to withdraw Pounds. Because Scotland is part of the United Kingdom they only accept British or Scottish Pounds and not Euros. British and Scottish Pounds are equivalent. It’s just one is issued from the Bank of England and the other from the Bank of Scotland.
There is no need to convert USD to Pounds at your bank before leaving home. There is no need to convert at the airport in the US or in Europe. Generally, the exchange rates and fees are way worse than simply withdrawing money at an ATM. Avoid ATMs that are located as part of a souvenir shop or convenience store in touristy areas – stick to the ATM machines at legitimate banks (i.e. Bank of Scotland). Most small towns in Scotland will have an ATM machine, but if concerned, try to stock up in larger cities and towns. Large TESCO supermarkets in Scotland also have ATMs, which is convenient when driving around the country. To find the closest ATM use Google Maps (click Explore – More – ATMs).
Money Belt or Passport Belt
As mentioned above, Edinburgh and Glasgow can be problematic with pickpockets so it is important to take precautions. A lot of people consider a money belt or passport belt when packing for Europe. We have not traveled with one since our first trip to Italy in 2000. First off, there is no reason to carry your passport with you during the day. Leave it at in your hotel safe and have a copy or a photograph on your phone instead. That way it stays safe.
As for money, Eric doesn’t carry a big wallet when traveling. He keeps his money in his front pocket where it is most safe. If you follow my advice above about keeping money in various places and not carrying all your credit cards with you, you should be fine. This is particularly true if you are used to traveling in big cities, like New York or Chicago. You just need to keep your wits about you.
All that said, if you would feel more secure using a money belt, we recommend this Stash Neck Wallet It includes an RFID blocker, which means that your credit cards are more secure. It also has room for a smartphone to keep it secure as well.
If you have prescription medication that you must travel with, try to bring it in the original bottle that shows your name and details. We’ve never been stopped, but you never know. This is better than bringing random pills in a pill organizer.
I don’t generally offer a medication or toiletries packing list, but there is one health issue that is unique to Scotland – Midges. Midges are small flying insects. They are found in wet areas. They can bite like a mosquito and are just not fun. Consider a quality insect repellant. Or, the Scottish use Avon’s SkinSoSoft to keep away the Midges.
Eye Mask For Sleeping
If traveling to Scotland in summer, be aware that it rarely gets dark. The sun sets about midnight and it starts to get light around 3 am. Some hotels had black out curtains, but others did night. If you have difficulty sleeping when it is light outside, I would recommend an eye mask for traveling.
Filtered Water Bottle
We’ve never had problems drinking tap water when traveling in Scotland. They have a reputation for crystal clear water. There are no safety concerns, but environmental ones. We try to reduce our use of plastic whenever possible. And, traveling with a filtered water bottle can just reduce any concerns you might have about drinking the water straight from the tap. To reduce your use of plastic, I recommend bringing a Brita filtered water bottle so you can fill up your bottle from the tap and carry it with you through the day.
Portable Coffee Maker
Scotland is a tea drinking country. Sure there are plenty of Starbucks and Costa Coffee shops in Edinburgh and Glasgow. But, if you are particular about having great coffee when traveling, a portable coffee maker might help. Check out our post on the Best Travel Coffee Makers for some recommendations.
It rains in Scotland. Did I already mention that. If you are used to traveling with an umbrella, be sure it is high quality and windproof. For us, I am happy with a quality rain jacket for Scotland rather than an umbrella.
What Technology To Pack For Scotland
We travel with a lot of tech, which is understandable considering our profession. I also recognize that even “normal” travelers want to stay connected while traveling.
Camera Or Smartphone
In the past we’ve carried some pretty hefty camera equipment with us when traveling in Europe. Sometimes, we still bring our Sony a6300 Mirrorless with a lens that takes amazing food photos. This trip we left our food lens at home in favor of our telephoto lens to capture scenery and animals! More often than not, I use my Samsung S9, which takes amazing photos and video, even at night. Eric recently upgraded to the Samsung S10, which does some amazing things! We also bring a simple tripod for our smartphone and a gimbal to take stabilized videos from my smartphone.
Extra Memory Cards
We uploads photos we take on our Smartphone to Dropbox daily and automatically. But, we also both have big memory cards in our Smartphones and on our camera. Either upgrade the size of your memory card, or pick up an extra before leaving home. You don’t want to miss out on idyllic Scotland scenery photos because you’ve run out of space. This 128GB memory card will mean you will never run out of space for your photos.
Scotland Packing Pro Tip
When traveling with a digital camera, delete all old photos off of your memory card before leaving home. Then click “reformat” in your function settings. This will clear the memory completely on your memory card leaving it completely empty for new photos. If you don’t occasionally reformat your memory cards, they continue to hold a lot of old data, which takes up space.
I wouldn’t normally suggest binoculars for a trip, but Scotland is known for nature. If heading to the Highlands, heading out on a boat, or if you are just really curious, consider a small pair of binoculars if you have the room in your luggage.
Portable WiFi Device
Things are changing rapidly in this area. We have Spanish mobile phone numbers, which allow us to use our phones anywhere in the European Union, without roaming charges. I know some Americans have international roaming plans or plans for $10 a day overseas. For our laptops, we rely on hotel WiFi. In some parts of Scotland this is not all that reliable. We even had problems with WiFi in England recently. For people who need to feel connected, we recommend a Portable WiFi device, like the one from SkyRoam.
We don’t tend to take our SkyRoam with us when on a city break to Lisbon or Bologna, for example, but brought it with us for Scotland and Ireland, just in case. If staying in a B&B or country hotel with poor WiFi, this is our backup. You can use it on multiple devices and it acts as a battery pack to charge your phone too.Use Code WHITROAM For Special Pricing on SkyRoam
iPad or Laptop or MacBook
We always travel with our Macbooks, but that’s because we work while traveling. There are some great laptops for travel, but if heading out on an actual vacation an iPad or Kindle Fire might work well. This will help you stay connected and provide reading material, hopefully by a peat fire in the evenings with a dram of whisky by your side.
We always travel with at least one portable battery to top up our smartphones during long days of sightseeing. We also carry our charging cords with us during the day because there are often cafes or restaurants where we can top-up along the way. We’ve had a few power packs from Anker that have worked well.
UK Travel Adapter
A proper travel adapter will help you charge all of your devices while traveling. I recommend taking multiple adapters on a trip. We generally carry at least four on each trip, two for our laptops and two for our phones, so we can charge most of our devices at one time. This is important when you have long days and might not have a ton of time to charge up at the hotel. A Universal Adapter is a good value because it can be used in Europe, the UK, and Asia. When in the UK and Ireland, we always bring a few UK adapters as well.
Scotland, like the UK, has a different shaped electric outlet than the rest of Europe. Most universal travel adapters will work in Scotland, but I always carry at least one UK-specific adapter as a backup. Look for a UK adapter, or a “Type G” adapter, which will work in Scotland, England, and Ireland.
Travel Accessories And Clothing To Pack For Scotland
Let’s start moving into what to wear in Scotland and what to pack. For Scotland (unlike traveling in Italy), I tend to focus more on function than fashion, but there are a few ways to dress up or feel a little more feminine.
First, what do people wear in Scotland? It’s important to note that Scottish fashion is very casual, particularly outside of the big cities. Think jeans, sweaters, and boots, almost all the time. Even during the best weather in Scotland, it’s not common to see people wearing short shorts or skirts, except maybe the youth (which I am not).
The Best Shoes For Scotland
Here’s where our advice differs a bit from what others might say. Many people who write about Scottish apparel for travelers focus on hiking. We did not pack boots for Scotland. Although it is quite common to see the locals wearing boots in Scotland, we tried to pack light. And, because we were traveling in Scotland in the summer we thought we could skip boots. For us, the gamble worked out well.
I brought sneakers for our summer trip, which were fine for walking around even in wet grass (they dried quickly). I brought my trusty Birkenstock sandals and wore those the most. I even wore them in the rain and they also dried quickly. I had a simple pair of ballet flats for dinners. When we traveled to Scotland in winter, though, I packed a pair of ankle boots. For both trips, I didn’t feel that I missed not having some good Scottish rain boots. That said, when we visited a farm in Speyside, they offered us some wellies, and I was happy to have them.
In the end, the best shoes for Scotland really depends on how you plan on spending your time. If you are hiking, walking, fishing, or traveling in winter, you probably need something a little more hefty than what we traveled with.
Recommended Shoes For Scotland
That said, the best walking shoes for Scotland are ones that are practical and water resistant if you plan to do a lot of walking. As for the type of shoes to bring to Scotland, if staying in cities and villages I try to choose something a little more stylish than a hiking shoe, so it is something I can wear out for dinner or to the pubs. If you plan on doing a good amount of walking, then a good walking shoe is in order. This could be a waterproof shoe or a boot/sneaker hybrid.
Recommended Year-Round Shoes For Scotland
For women, I recommend an ankle boot like these by Lucky Brand (which come in a variety of colors and designs), or for a hybrid shoe I’ve always been a fan of Merrell walking shoes. For men, I would recommend an ankle boot from Clark’s or again a waterproof Merrell walking shoe.
Packing Rain Boots or Rain Shoes For Scotland
If you do plan on doing a lot of walking, particularly if traveling to Scotland in the winter, a lightweight rain boot or shoe may be helpful. This really depends on your itinerary and whether you have space in your luggage. If you have a good walking shoe and maybe a few pairs of travel socks that resist the water, this might not be needed.
Just in case, I recommend these London Fog rain boots for women, which come in so many fun colors and designs. Or, try the more classic looking Crocs rain boots for women. For men, check out these Tretorn rain boots. The men’s rain boots just don’t come in the same fun colors as the women’s.
Scarves For Scotland
There are a few options for scarves when traveling to Scotland. For summer, a fashionable scarf is sufficient to keep away the chill. If traveling in spring, fall, or winter, or you plan to do a lot of hiking, a moisture wicking scarf is best. These scarves can keep you warm while keeping the moisture away from skin.
Also if traveling to Scotland in winter, perhaps consider a blanket scarf. This is a hefty scarf perfect for cold weather. But, it can also be used as a blanket on the plane, or trains, or if you are feeling the chill at the hotel.
Pack For Layers And Wear Wool
The most important thing about packing clothes for Scotland is to dress in layers. We kept most of our jackets in our rental car when driving around the countryside. That way we could grab our rain jackets if need be, or shed an outer layer when it got warmer. When in Glasgow, I threw our windbreakers in my purse just in case. In Edinburgh in winter, we dressed warm for outside, but shed layers as soon as we stepped in a pub.
We spent the bulk of our time during our last trip in Moray Speyside, exploring the stunning coastline, visiting whisky distilleries, and even visiting farms. I felt comfortable being casual during the day and dressing up a bit for dinner in the evenings. In the cities, though, I felt a little uncomfortable wearing jeans and a t-shirt our first night out and dressed up a little bit more after that.
We also packed some wool clothing for our summer trip. Wool&Prince offered us an opportunity to wear practical clothes, that were still stylish. Everything we own from WoolAndPrince is either wool or a wool blend. It was perfect for the Scottish weather. And, it offered us an opportunity to look a little nicer. This was particularly the case with my wool& dress, which I was able to wear for a tasting menu dinner at the Dowan’s Hotel. Eric spent most of the trip wearing his wool Henley and a fab wool dress shirt. Best of all, because the clothing is made with wool, it doesn’t need to be washed as much as cotton or cotton blend, making it perfect for travel!
Scotland Packing List
Keeping all of this in mind, here is what I brought on our trip to Scotland in the summer, which included both visits to the countryside, coastline, and cities.
- 4 t-shirts and tank tops for layering
- 3 long sleeve shirts (a black one for dressing up and two more casual ones for day)
- 1 cardigan
- 1 pair of jeans, 2 pairs of khaki pants (I also brought capri pants but never wore them)
- 1 dress
- Sneakers, sandals, ballet flats
- Denim jacket, rain-proof windbreaker
Eric brought a couple of short-sleeved polo shirts, one pair of jeans, one pair of pants, a long-sleeved henley, and 3 long-sleeved dress shirts. Honestly, we managed to just wear the same thing over and over. The benefit of traveling in Scotland is that it is not overly hot and everyone is pretty casual. We were able to travel carry-on only for the two weeks.
Scotland Rain Gear And Outerwear
Eric and I each brought a rain-proof windbreaker to Scotland, which I actually did not use as much as I anticipated. I was glad I had it though. There are a few other additions or changes to be made based on activities or seasons. When we traveled to Scotland in winter, we wore much heavier jackets. I would also add a hat and gloves. Even though it doesn’t generally get super cold, it is a wet cold. If hiking, I would recommend one or two pairs of quick dry pants, water resistant socks, and waterproof hiking shoes.
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Scotland Packing List – What To Wear In Scotland
Scotland is a simply stunning country, but it does take a little but more to pack for a trip. Sure, you want to be prepared for rain and unpleasant wether. In the end, though, the most important thing is to not think too much about it. Just enjoy the journey!