Even before we lived in Ireland, we made several trips to Scotland. We had a leg up, though, in putting together our Scotland packing list because of our years of traveling and living in Ireland. The two countries have a lot of similarities, including weather, which means we are pros on what to wear in Scotland.
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Scotland Packing List And Guide – Updated 2023
There’s a reason why Scotland is so beautiful – the weather. Scotland receives a lot of rain in a year, even during the summer. Winters can be brutally cold and it seems to be windy all year round. This is why packing for Scotland can be a challenge.
We’ve been to Scotland several times. My first trip was when I was 17 years old. More recently, we’ve visited Scotland in the summer as well as winter. So, we’ve seen the extremes.
This packing list for Scotland will include tips on what to wear, what to bring, and what to leave at home.
What To Wear In Scotland
Putting together a travel wardrobe for Scotland is important. It’s a gorgeous country, known for its extensive coastline, stunning views, and unique history. Scotland is also known for something else – the weather.
Rain and unpredictability rule the day. Scotland is also colder than other countries in Europe. As much as average temperatures in winter rarely drop below freezing, average temperatures in the summer don’t spike as much as they do elsewhere.
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.
Tips on How To Book Hotels In Scotland For 2023
Since leaving the US over a decade ago, we’ve traveled to Scotland numerous times. During these trips to Scotland, we learned a few things about booking hotels in Scotland.
We’ve even found some charming and less expensive guest houses in Scotland on Booking.com.
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 tips 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.
We also share tips for how to pack lightly for Europe, including cold and wet destinations like Scotland.
Weather In Scotland – Four Seasons Per Day
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.
Regarding Scotland’s weather, 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 from 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 said, “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 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 in Scotland?
Best Luggage For Scotland
Oh boy, I could spend thousands of words talking about this very issue. The most important thing when traveling in Scotland is to pack as light as you can. It just makes the entire trip around the country so much easier.
Now, I generally travel with a carry-on-sized bag that I can carry, roll, and lift wherever I need to without any help. Eric carries the same bag as I do. Occasionally I check my travel bag, but mostly that is because I carry toiletries that are not travel-sized.
All that said, I use this same bag whether traveling for a weekend or a month. I’ve used this bag for summer trips and winter trips and for business trips where I am packing a blazer. We’ve even used this bag to travel to Scotland in the winter, with all sorts of bulky clothes.
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Backpack For Scotland
It’s taken a very long time, but we’ve finally found the backpack for us. I fell in love with my Knack Expandable Bag the first time I used it for a long weekend in San Sebastian, Spain. Knack has, for us, created an easy-to-use backpack that can be used as a carry-on or for a long weekend away.
I’m able to bring my laptop an extra pair of shoes, clothing, and everything else all in this one compact bag. Knack Bags fits under the seat in front of you on a train or airplane. It’s lightweight, roomy on the inside, and easy to carry or attach to my Roam suitcase.
Check out the Knack Expandable Backpack Here.
If you do need to pack a lot but want to ensure carry-on only try using packing to organize your gear or compression bags to save space in your luggage.
Eric and I never used to use packing cubes. Not sure why, but now we do. We use the packing cubes from Knack Bags. They start out small and unzip to expand depending on how much you need to fit.
I use one for electronics and cords and another for undergarments and socks. They are so easy to use particularly when packing a smaller bag where space is important.
Crossbody And Anti-Theft Bags
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 peace of mind.
I didn’t used to 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!
If you do need to pack a lot but want to ensure carry-on only try using packing to organize your gear or compression bags to save space in your luggage.
We use the packing cubes from Knack Bags. They start out small and unzip to expand depending on how much you need to fit.
I use one for electronics and cords and another for undergarments and socks. They are so easy to use, particularly when packing a smaller bag where space is important.
Check out the packing cubes from Knack Bags.
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. We’ve added some modifications to our standard 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 or Smartphone
- Portable WiFi
- iPad or Kindle Fire
- Power Pack
Eye Mask For Sleeping
One of the best times to visit Scotland is in the summer. That said, if you are traveling to Scotland in summer, be aware that it rarely gets dark. You’ll experience lots of sunny days, but this means the sun sets about midnight and it starts to get light around 3 am.
Some hotels had blackout curtains, but others did not. 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.
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.
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 must for any packing list. 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 packing for 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 hiking boots for Scotland.
Although it is quite common to see the locals wearing hiking boots in Scotland, we tried to pack light. And, because we were traveling in Scotland in the summer we thought we could skip hiking boots and walking shoes. 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 allbirds ballet flats for dinners.
In the end, the best shoes for Scotland really depend 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.
Packing Rain Boots or Rain Shoes For Scotland
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. I have Joules wellies, and I love them!
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. That and a good pair of wool socks.
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.
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. It’s also important with waterproof shoes to have quick drying socks. While wool socks might sound appealing, they don’t dry quickly.
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.
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 the 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, on 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 rain 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. That’s the burden of winter in Scotland.
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 merino 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 Merino wool Henley t-shirt 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 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 the day)
- 1 cardigan
- 1 pair of jeans or skinny 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, or rain jacket
Eric brought a couple of short-sleeved polo shirts, a Merino wool t shirt, 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.
Other Scotland Packing And Travel Tips
There are a handful of issues that I recommend travelers consider when planning a trip to Scotland. Some of these are considerations for all travelers to Europe but some of them are for Scotland in particular.
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 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 photocopy 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.
Traveling To Scotland With Medication
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.
Money Issues When Traveling In Scotland
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.
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, fanny pack, 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.
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 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).
Buying travel insurance for your trip. It’s easily one of the top questions we’ve received over the past 11+ years of travel. While we generally don’t buy travel insurance, if it makes you feel more comfortable when traveling, then go for it.
Overall, travel insurance is not as expensive as you think but is a great investment if something goes wrong.
Travel insurance is important to have peace of mind during your trip. We recommend using World Nomads for travel insurance for every international trip you take.
You never know and it is better to be safe than sorry. This is particularly true if renting a car or doing any hiking or outdoor activities in Scotland.
They offer immediate quotes so you know the cost and coverage immediately. Check out World Nomads here.
Scotland Packing List – Final Thoughts
Scotland is a simply stunning country, but it does take a little bit more to pack for a trip. Sure, you want to be prepared for rain and unpleasant weather. In the end, though, the most important thing is to not think too much about it. Just enjoy the journey!
FAQs – What Kind of Clothes to Wear in Scotland?
By September, Fall has completely settled in Scotland. Average temperatures are in the mid-40s (F) to upper 50s. In terms of rain, it’s Scotland so there’s always a chance. In terms of packing, it’s best to pack layers. This way, when you enter a pub, restaurant, or museum, you can peel off clothing and be more comfortable. Make sure you have gloves, a warm hat, a scarf, and of course, a rain jacket.
Why not! Sneakers make for great walking shoes, especially when there are cobblestone streets (leave the high heels at home). Compared to hiking boots, sneakers are lighter and take up less room in your luggage. Many people would recommend a good pair of walking shoes, but depending on the style of sneakers, you’ll get more use out of them compared to walking shoes.
Summer in Scotland is stunning. Days are longer, much longer. Temperatures are warmer, but it does still rain. Even if it’s a lightweight, compactable, rain jacket, it’s a good idea to pack one. A lightweight rain jacket can easily fit in a checked bag or daypack. Have a rain jacket handy and you can thank me later.