Scottish Weather – planning your visit.
Scottish weather has it’s own reputation. Everyone who comes to visit seems to be prepared to be cold and wet. Many are pleasantly surprised when they come to stay with us. Scotland has a great many ambassadors who spread the world all over the world but there’s no getting away from the fact that it is a green and beautiful land and that green comes at a price sometimes. However, it is possible to minimise the effect a poor weather day could have on your vacation.
A quick comparison between a relief map of Scotland and the annual rainfall map shows a very close correlation. The higher you go the higher the annual rainfall. The altitude of the land can change considerably in a single mile and so can the amount of rainfall both on an annual and daily basis depending on the prevailing wind direction.
The point is, the Scottish Highlands are packed with micro climates and by jumping in the car and placing big mountains between you and the prevailing wind direction, you can massively improve the weather you’ll experience for your day. It can be the difference between frequent heavy down pours and sunshine with the odd very light shower. If active frontal systems are sweeping across the country, well you’re probably going to experience some kind of precipitation at some point wherever you are but if they’ve all passed through and it’s just an air-stream scenario then some judicious planning can pay handsome dividends.
An example of managing the weather
I remember turning up at a house in Glenfeshie one April. I was to guide the group of ladies up from the London area. The forecast for the N. Cairngorms was not good: 70 mph NE winds, blizzards above 800m and torrential rain. I arrived to the gutters overflowing but having studied the weather closely I suggested we jump into the cars for an hour and drive around to Pitlochry on the leeward side of the range to do Ben Vrackie. The suggestion wasn’t greeted with any enthusiasm and possibly a certain amount of doubt but the thought of an hour in a dry bus was better than an extra hour walking in the heavy rain.
As soon as we passed over Drumochter Pass the weather started to improve (as is often the case) and by the time we got around to Pitlochry we were in sunshine to the comment of “Andy, haven’t you done well”. We had clear views from the summit, albeit in a strong bitter wind. On passing back over the pass we drove back into the bad weather. ‘Had it been wet and horrible all day’ I asked Rebecca, my partner. “Yes’ was the answer.
4 tips to get the most out of your visit to the Highlands:
Closely follow the weather forecasts
The prevailing weather/wind direction makes a big difference. If there’s bad weather on the way make sure you’re on the sheltered lee side of big mountain ranges. One of the most common comments made by visitors is how changeable the weather is.Don’t judge the days’ weather by what’s happening at breakfast.
So when it comes to planning your tour, if you can remain flexible and not book things too far in advance it can often make a big difference. Avoiding the high season from the middle ofJuly until the end of August can be a big help in this regard. April & May can produce some of the best weather.
Base yourself in the North East
The vast majority of Scotland’s bad weather comes in from the south and west. You will notice the east side of the country is considerably drier than the west. In fact the west coast ofScotlandcan receive up to 3 times the annual rainfall of the east. So by basing yourself, for example, in Strathspey or in the North East side of the Cairngorms National Park you can often greatly increase your chances of experiencing better weather. Also, with easy access to the main road routes to Ullapool in the North West Highlands and Fort William in the West Highlands are only 1hr 40mins and 1hr 30mins away respectively from Aviemore it’s easy to make a foray into these areas.
Book an Adventure Guide
This is you buying into in-depth local knowledge of suitable locations with regards to the weather conditions. Adventure activities also provide you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in the beautiful landscapes and amazing wildlife of the Scottish Highlands.
Adventure Tour Operators in Scotland
Highlands and Islands Adventures (mountain biking specialists)
Walking holiday providers in Scotland