The Scottish Weather
The Scottish Weather
by David Wheater of Tours of Edinburgh
Many people coming to Scotland for the first time are anxious about the Scottish weather. Please be assured that it really isn't as bad as people imagine, at least in southern parts of the country.
Sharing the same latitude with Labrador in Canada, many people expect Scotland to be a lot colder than it actually is. At the time of writing, it's December mid-winter and 14 degrees centigrade! This, however, is a good 10 degrees higher than normal and a great example of what really defines Scotland's weather - its changeability. We really do often experience 'four seasons in a day' - whatever the season! Scotland enjoys a temperate climate: the main difference in the weather being found west and east, rather than north and south.
In comparison to the rest of the UK, Scotland has slightly lower average temperatures and is generally windier and wetter, particularly on the west coast. Despite Scotland being a small country, the weather is very changeable. It can be cloudy with pouring rain in Glasgow all day long, but sunny and bright just 40 miles away in Edinburgh. The phrase 'four seasons in a day' most certainly applies to the Scottish weather.
Glasgow and the west is generally milder and wetter, thanks to a current of warm air from the North Atlantic called the Gulf Stream, while Edinburgh and the east is drier, but colder. Many gardens along the west coast are in fact warm enough all year round to grow lots of exotic Mediterranean and tropical plants!
Many people worry about Edinburgh being very wet, but the city actually gets about the same annual rainfall as London. Itʼs true that Scotland is generally cloudier than England, but we do have less pollution, fresher air and better visibility.
One element of the weather that is peculiar to Edinburgh is called the 'haar'. This is a dense coastal fog that sweeps in across the city from the Firth of Forth when the wind is in the east. It doesn't happen very often, but is more common in the spring and summer, usually lasting only a few hours.
An advantage of living in Scotland, over England, is the longer summer days. In the far north in mid summer thereʼs only ever a few hours of total darkness. It's often reputed that you can play a round of golf in Orkney at midnight in high summer! In Edinburgh during the summer, it can stay light even until 11 p.m., giving you lots of time to enjoy your evenings (handy for all the festivals). The downside of these long summer days, however, are the much shorter winter days, when it can get dark as early as 4 p.m. in December and January.
Many people are anxious about Scotlandʼs weather. If you come from somewhere very sunny and warm, it may take you a little while to get used to the Scottish weather, as it can be very changeable, cold and windy in the winter. It is true that our winters are cold and wet, but rarely extreme. Scotland is in fact warmer than other places on similar latitudes thanks to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream sweeping over from the Atlantic.
People often imagine we have lots of snow, but the average number of days of snow on the ground, in the Central Belt, is only about ten in any given year. Itʼs only in the higher, remoter areas of the country that snow can become more problematic.
Summer in Scotland is generally warmer and much sunnier and any rain we do get makes Scotland a green and luscious place! July is usually the warmest Edinburgh month (averaging 15 degrees), but May to September are also usually pleasant and mild. To the surprise of many, a good summer in Edinburgh, although changeable, can be quite warm and glorious! The coldest month in Edinburgh is January and the wettest is normally October.
How youʼll find the Scottish weather depends on you as an individual and what youʼre used to. For many coming from countries that experience extremes of hot and cold, Scotlandʼs temperate climate can be a very welcome change and even a blessed relief! It's not uncommon for people visiting from hot parts of Australia, the US and Asia to find Edinburgh's mild climate very refreshing and almost liberating!
Overall, the weather in Edinburgh is unlikely to be as big an issue as you might think. Simply pack a small, lightweight rain jacket for the summer and a warm, wind- and rainproof jacket in the winter (November to March). Also pack good, grippy walking shoes, as Edinburgh city centre is full of steep steps and uneven cobbled streets.
There are two sayings in Scotland that really help to sum up the weather here; 'thereʼs no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes' and, 'if you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes!'. If you're a keen photographer, the ever changing light is paradise!
If you're visiting Edinburgh for the weekend, why not join me on a special Tour of Edinburgh, or learn more about your camera on my Edinburgh Photography Tour. Please Email me to book or call me directly on 07400 705 357.