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Whether you enjoy skiing, exploring snow-covered cities, or want to chase the Northern Lights, Scotland in winter is a cool place to be. The winter months extend from November to March. Although the temperatures take a dip and the weather isn’t completely reliable, you can still find plenty of things to do in the winter.

Some of the best places to go on your trip to Scotland in the winter include the country’s national parks, like the Cairngorms and Galloway, where you’ll find adventurous activities like mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, snowshoeing, sledding, and more. Add in the amazing cultural events in cities like Hogmanay, Burns Night, and Up Helly Aa, and you’re in for a treat. Read on to discover the enchanting experience that awaits you when you choose to spend your winter in Scotland.

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Weather and Temperature in Scotland during Winter

Courtyards in Glasgow are snowy on your Scottish trip in December.
Pack warm clothes if you are heading to Glasgow in winter, as it is among the coldest Scottish cities.

Scotland's winter weather can leave much to be desired; it is the coldest time of the year and one of the rainiest. It’s not unusual for roads and paths to be snowed in, especially in the northern Highlands, where temperatures take a dive and roads aren’t as maintained as they are in the cities. There is an average of 15 days of snowfall in Aberdeen alone. Scotland’s temperatures in winter rarely get above 7°C (45 °F), meaning layers are a must.

In Aviemore, a town in the Cairngorms where snowsports are popular, you can expect 72 mm of snowfall in January alone and temperatures going below freezing. The average temperature ranges from -1°C and 2°C.

Also, due to the northern position of Scotland, the daylight hours are at their shortest during the winter months. In Shetland, one of the country’s northernmost spots,there are only 6 hours of light a day during December.

  Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar
Avg high 9°C (45°F 7°C (45°F) 5°C (41°F) 6°C (43°F) 7°C (45°F)
Avg low 3°C (36°F) 2°C (36°F) 1°C (34°F) 1°C (34°F) 2°C (36°F)
Daylight hours 9 7 8 9 10
Rainy days 17 16 17 13 15
Precipitation 70 mm 70 mm 70 mm 150 mm 70 mm

For a more seasonal overview, check out our guide on the best time to visit Scotland.

Other related articles:
Scotland in November
Scotland in December
Scotland in January
Scotland in February
Scotland in March

Why visit Scotland in Winter?

Visit the colorful houses in South Queensferry, Scotland.
Expect cold and rainy weather in the first part of March in Scotland.
View of McEwan Hall's dome during sunset in Edinburgh.
Witness how the Scottish people celebrate Christmas in December.

If you’re thinking about touring Scotland in winter, there are a lot of great benefits despite the not-so-great weather. Here are a few good reasons.

  • Winter sports: If you love hitting the slopes or want to learn a new sport, winter in Scotland is the perfect time and place. There is plenty of snow in Scotland this season. With world-class slopes in Glencoe and the Cairngorms, you can try your hand at skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and more. For those feeling adventurous, you can even learn how to ice climb.
  • Lower rates: Given that wintertime in Scotland is firmly in the low season, you can get a ton of deals on accommodation and flights, especially in the cities (except around Christmas and New Year’s). January and February are a lot cheaper than any other time of the year.
  • Fewer crowds: If you want a vacation that is quieter and free from crowds, winter is a great time to visit. As long as you don’t mind the cold, you can have many of the popular sights, like Glasgow’s galleries or the castles around Edinburgh, all to yourself.
  • Christmas markets: Who doesn’t love a Christmas Market? You can find warm cups of mulled wine, sizzling hot dogs and sweet treats with a distinctly festive vibe in cities across Scotland. Some of the best ones can be found in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Top 3 Destinations in Scotland during Winter

Want to know some of the best places to visit in Scotland during winter? Whatever activities or vibes you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.

1. Edinburgh

See the Edinburgh Castle covered in snow while visiting Scotland.
Due to fewer tourists in winter, it is a pleasure to visit Edinburgh Castle.

The wonderful and historic capital of Scotland, an Edinburgh tour is a must during the winter if you’re looking for one of the warmer places in the country. Throughout the winter months, temperatures range from 1°C to 7°C, just fine for wandering around the snowy cobbled streets in Edinburgh. Due to the lack of crowds, winter is also the ideal time to visit popular landmarks.

Major attractions: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat and The Meadows.


  • The wet conditions mean fewer crowds around the main sights.
  • In January and February, accommodation rates are at their most affordable.
  • The iconic Hogmanay celebrations take place on New Year's Eve, and the whole of Edinburgh buzzes with excitement, music, dancing, and fireworks.


  • The rain might make visiting outdoor locations like Arthur’s Seat or the Leith beaches less viable or enjoyable.
  • Crowds and prices around Hogmanay shoot through the roof.

2. Aviemore

A ski lift in the Scottish Highlands during winter.
Head to Aviemore for a ski adventure in winter.

Located in the heart of the Cairngorms, Aviemore is an outdoor lover’s paradise. The snow falls in the winter and some of Scotland's best ski resorts open for the season. Whether you’re a beginner looking to learn a new skill or you want to carve up some powder, Aviemore is a hit for snowsports. Outside of the resorts, you can find mountaineering, wildlife, and more, to enjoy.

Major attractions: Cairngorm Mountain, Aviemore Ice Rink and Aviemore Zip Park.


  • You’ll have access to world-class ski resorts in peak conditions.
  • Be surrounded by a festive natural snowscape with the Aviemore Sled Dog Rally and Cairngorm Mountain Snow Festival in January.


  • If you’re not into snowsports, other activities in the area, like hiking or cycling, might be out of season.

3. Shetland Islands

View of Shetland Islands with its lighthouse at sunset.
Explore the amazing natural landscape and wildlife at the Shetland Islands during winter.

As one of Scotland’s most northerly islands, Shetland is full of natural beauty that can be widely appreciated in winter. It’s one of the best places in Scotland to take advantage of the shorter daylight hours and see the Northern Lights; winter is ideal for catching a glimpse of this natural phenomenon. Despite Shetland being so far north, temperatures in winter rarely go below freezing, averaging between 2°C (35°F) and 6°C (43°F).

Major attractions: Hermaness National Nature Reserve, Shetland Museum and Archives and Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.


  • As it’s outside of peak season, crowds are at a minimum, giving you plenty of space to explore.
  • Rates may be cheaper as it’s low season.


  • It can be difficult to get to in winter as you either need to travel by small plane or by overnight boat.

Whether you’re looking for a bustling city holiday, zip down the slopes or witness the Northern Lights, there’s something for everyone.


Some of the best things to do in Scotland in winter revolve around spending time in the great outdoors, spotting wonderful wildlife, and checking out interesting and exciting cultural festivals.

  • Skiing: It’s pretty difficult to ski in most of the UK, but central Scotland is the exception to the rule. Some of the best spots include Glenshee Ski Center and Glencoe Mountain Resort. Or check out resorts in the west of Scotland — Braemar or Fort William — for world-class ski resorts with views out over the Scottish coastlines. Here, you’ll find plenty of places to hire gear and get lessons if you’re a beginner or need a bit of a refresher before hitting the slopes.
  • Celebrate Burns Night: If you find yourself in Scotland on the 25th of January, you’re in for a treat. This date marks Burn’s Night, which is a celebration of the Scottish icon, poet Robert Burns and traditional Scottish culture. Some of the best celebrations are celebrated all around the country in Edinburgh and Dundee. You can eat haggis, neeps, and tatties, sip on Scotch whisky, and dance the night away at a ceilidh.
  • Spot the wildlife: As one of the icons of the Scottish wildlife scene, red stags are often hard to spot in the wild. However, in winter, the blanket of snow covering their popular roaming grounds in Dumfries and Galloway makes these regal creatures much easier to spot. Go out on a tour with a guide or plan a winter hike with your binoculars to witness these majestic animals out in the wild. Wildlife such as red deer can be spotted in Inverness in winter, sometimes even coming closer to streets and houses.

Whether you prefer outdoor adventures or cultural experiences, Scotland offers a variety of exciting activities for travelers.


A deer at Scottish Highlands during winter.
Spot the wildlife at the national parks in Scotland.
  • Layers are your friend! Scotland can get bitter in winter and snow is likely, so dress accordingly.
  • Check the mountain reports before hiking, ice climbing, or skiing. The local guides and experts will be able to let you know the conditions before you leave your hotel and tell you if any roads, routes, or access points are closed.
  • If you’re going on a wintry walk or wandering around one of Scotland’s beautiful cities, make sure to warm up with a Scottish whisky or two — they’re some of the best in the world and keep the chill at bay.

If you don’t mind a bit of cold and wet, winter in Scotland is amazing, especially if you enjoy snowsports and cultural festivals. If you’re looking to explore Scotland’s cities on a budget, winter is the perfect time to snag a deal and avoid the crowds.

Having trouble planning your winter holiday to Scotland? Let our professional travel experts help you plan a customized trip to Scotland that suits your dream requirements.

Published by Tim Green, updated on September 22, 2023

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