Last updated on May 8th, 2020
Scotland’s high latitude means we get long daylight hours in summer, with July seeing the sunrise and sunset from around 5am and 10pm respectively. Discover the best places to spend your precious summer holiday in this ultimate guide.
The Out About Scotland ultimate guide to visiting Scotland in summer – how to prepare, how to travel and where to go
Ah, Scotland in summer. Swathes of purple heather on serene grassy hills. Sun glinting off mirror-faced lochs. Golden beaches on secluded islands, and Highland glens bathed in the gentle hues of the evening sun.
It’s enough to make you skip to the nearest travel agents in a wide-eyed frenzy, travel brochures clutched underarm and credit card held proudly aloft.
But hang on there! Before you prod your pin number into that machine you should know there’s another side to visiting Scotland in summer that you don’t hear so much about…
Swarms of blood-sucking midges biting every strip of exposed skin into a blotchy, itchy red mess. Enormous queues of people waiting grumpily in line for attractions that were blissfully empty just a couple of months earlier. Congested cities filled with lost and confused tourists causing chaos on the roads and bringing high streets to a standstill.
You never hear about that in the adverts do you?
I think it’s fair to say there are two sides to Scotland in summer and if you don’t plan ahead what should be one of the best holidays of your life can easily turn into a complete nightmare. So what do you do? How do you know where to go and where to avoid?
Those are the questions I’m going to answer in this article and I think I’ve got a few suggestions that’ll absolutely blow your socks off, but I’m also going to give you plenty of tips on the best ways to travel about, what you can expect from the weather, and how you can avoid those pesky, bitey midges.
I really hope the article gives you some inspiration for planning your next Scottish break. Now let’s make this a summer to remember!
Scotland’s summer weather – what you need to know
Have you ever heard the saying ‘four seasons in one day’? Well, that more or less sums up what you can expect from a Scottish summer thanks to the unpredictable climate that seems to go out of its way to mess with the sightseeing plans of our tourists.
While Mediterranean countries enjoy weeks and weeks of uninterrupted sunshine in summer, us folks living a bit further north have to put up with constantly changing weather where you can bathe in glorious clear blue skies in the morning, and then desperately try to hide from torrential downpours in the afternoon.
And it doesn’t even matter which part of Scotland you visit because you’ll frequently find the weather can be just as miserable in the south as it is in the north.
Take last year (2019) as an example. According to World Weather Online the Scottish Borders town of Kelso had a bleak 27 rainy days in August compared to the far-northern town of Wick which had an even worse 30 days of wet weather.
That’s almost the entire month of Scotland’s supposedly hottest time of year when it tipped it down. That’s good news for ducks, bad news for the rest of us.
As far as the amount of rainfall goes it varies day-by-day, so don’t be surprised to see a mixture of light showers and heavy downpours within a few hours of each other on some days, especially in the Western Highlands which is officially one of the wettest places in Europe.
Due to the mountainous coastline, humid air is pushed north to produce an average 4,577mm of rainfall annually, compared to just 870mm in Eastern Scotland.
But before you go and cancel your Scottish holiday let me jump in and tell you it’s not always like that, and as a rule you can expect fairly decent weather between the start of June and the end of August where average maximum temperatures sit in the 15°C (59°F) to 17°C (63 °F) region, especially the east coast which is protected from the frequent storms brought in by the Atlantic Ocean.
That’s why I always suggest spending as much time in Edinburgh and the southeast as possible if you’re travelling here for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, and it’s why I wrote a Guide to the Best Places to Visit in East Lothian as it’s one of the driest regions in the country.
In fact, as I write this in July 2019 we’ve been enjoying a bit of a heatwave here in Edinburgh where temperatures shot up to 30°C before cooling back down with a few impressive thunderstorms, which goes some way to explaining why I started off by mentioning the ‘four seasons in one day’.
One thing I’ll tell you that most tourism websites don’t tell you is while some of our days are beautifully sunny and some are dismally wet, the majority are just depressingly grey, and unless you’re really lucky there’s a good chance most days of your visit will be completely overcast with a thick blanket of dreary, impenetrable cloud – weather the Scots call ‘dreich’.
I’m afraid that’s the reality of visiting Scotland and it’s something you’ll need to prepare yourself for, even if you come here in summer.
To be honest though, it doesn’t really matter what the weather’s doing if you’re in one of our cities because you can always dash indoors for cover when the inevitable downpours start, which is why I’ve also included a couple of indoor attractions in the following list of places to visit.
Summer daylight hours in Scotland
Scotland’s high latitude means we get extremes of daylight hours in winter and summer, with January not seeing full light until around 9am before it disappears again at 4pm, and July seeing sunrise and sunset at 5am and 10pm – a good 10 hours difference.
If you head to the far north of Scotland to somewhere like the Shetland Island’s you’ll find yourself enjoying a full 4 hours more daylight than someone who’s chosen to spend their holiday in London, which makes a big difference if you’re intent on enjoying the great outdoors.
In fact, once you get that far north there isn’t any actual complete darkness in summer, so be prepared for sleepless nights unless you’ve purchased a sleep mask. The bonus though, is that you’ll be able to enjoy being outside until really late into the evening. Midnight BBQ anyone?
You’ll find these tables of average daylight hours in Central Scotland will help you plan your itineraries while you’re here, but I recommend checking the Time and Date website for more accurate times for your location.
|June 1st||June 15th||June 30th|
17 hrs, 26 min
17 hrs, 8 min
17 hrs, 30 min
|July 1st||July 15th||July 31st|
17 hrs, 25 min
16 hrs, 57 min
16 hrs, 4 min
|August 1st||August 15th||August 31st|
16 hrs, 0 min
15 hrs, 4 min
13 hrs, 54 min
What to pack and what to wear for a Scottish summer
It’s basically impossible to plan for the weather in Scotland which is why we’ve got another phrase you need to remember – ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes’.
No matter where you travel to in Scotland in summer there are a few essentials you need to pack before you leave home, whether you’re heading to the bustling metropolis of Edinburgh or you’ve got a 2-week break arranged in the desolate wilderness of the Orkney Islands.
Obviously, a city break to a cosmopolitan city like Edinburgh or Glasgow doesn’t mean you need to pull your muddy hiking boots on each day (which is great news if you’re a naturally snappy dresser), but if you’re a visiting tourist I recommend taking a few essentials with you no matter your final destination.
For starters, take a small rucksack and pack it with a few essentials (see the list below) that includes additional waterproof and warm clothing. Remember to charge your mobile phone and chuck a portable power pack in your bag for emergencies, and always have a bottle of water with you.
Clothes-wise, start off with shorts or thin trousers and wear a base-layer top, ideally something lightweight that wicks away moisture. Stick a pair of lightweight walking shoes on your feet – yes even in the city (I’ll explain why later) – but make sure they’ve got ankle support if you’re exploring anywhere with rough paths.
I’ll list a few options below for what I think are packing essentials for a summer break in Scotland, all of which I’ve either used myself or know someone who’s recommended them. Click the name of each item to go to the Amazon product page.
Disclaimer – these are affiliate links but the price you pay remains the same.
Packing for the city
- Pacamac. These things are unbelievably useful and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve grabbed mine from my backpack when the heavens suddenly opened. They keep the wind out too, which is useful for when you head to the coast.
- Lightweight walking shoes. I’ve always found that walking in the city is just as tiring as walking in the great outdoors, mainly because you’ll clock up miles and miles as you go around all those attractions spread across the city. Get a pair of shoes that are comfy, lightweight, keep your feet cool but don’t look out of place for the city centre – like the ones I’ve suggested in the link.
- Rucksack. An utterly invaluable piece of tourist kit. If you’re day-tripping you need something sturdy but light and cheap enough to replace after a getting dumped on the ground a thousand times over.
- Sunglasses. Yes, I know I said it’s often cloudy but we do get the occasional day here where it’s sunny too. Your choice of frame is a personal preference but I like the ones in the link as they’re decent quality and cheap (I always lose my sunnies so hate paying too much for them).
- Water bottle. Not much to say – it carries water – but the one I’ve linked is strong and leakproof with an easy to remove screw-top lid.
Packing for the outdoors
If you’re heading into the wilderness for your Scottish summer holiday I recommend getting the items listed above for the city, but also add these must-haves for the great outdoors.
- Insect repellant. Pack this in your bag and you’ll practically want to hug me once you get caught in a swarm of Scotland’s infamous midges. This spray does a great job of keeping the little blighters at bay and saves you having to wear one of those ridiculous-looking net hats (which to be fair do a really good job too).
- Suntan lotion. This is a necessity as even on cloudy days you can still get burnt. I like this one by Ambre Solaire as it isn’t too greasy.
- Powerpack. Another essential when you’re in the wilderness as it’ll enable you to recharge your phone when there’s no power socket nearby, which could be a lifesaver if you need to make an emergency call. I like the one linked as it has a built-in solar-power charger.
- Sleep mask. This is a necessity for when you get further north, especially if you’re sleeping in a tent when sunlight comes streaming through the fabric in the early hours of the morning.
How to deal with Scotland’s infamous midges
The Highland midge is the evil nemesis of Scotland’s hikers, and they’ve caused countless miserable trips into the west coast during the warmer months.
These unpleasant little blighters (or should that be biters?…) are a species of small flying insect mainly found in Scotland’s north-west regions from late spring to late summer.
They’re not very big at just a few mm in length but they pack a punch when it comes to their bite, and you can feel the tell-tale pin-prick of their presence whenever you venture anywhere that’s humid and wet, especially on a cloudy day.
While their bite is mildly painful it’s the resulting bumps that drive most people to distraction as they’re impossibly itchy, and if you get just a few of them on your body they’ll make you feel instantly miserable.
These bites will last for a couple of days for most people and they can break open quite easily if they’re scratched too hard (with a very real risk of infection), so unless you’ve got a tube of after-bite ointment you’re going to have to put up with that itch for quite some time.
It’s actually only the female midges that bite and you’ll frequently see them forming in huge clouds that are pretty much impossible to escape from, though there are a couple of tips I can give you that will help reduce the impact these little sh*#s can have on your holiday.
First off, try to avoid going anywhere where there’s still water at dawn and dusk as that’s the time and environment where midges are most prevalent (early morning loch-side strolls are asking for trouble).
They can bite at any time of the day but you’re less likely to see them from late morning till early afternoon so you might consider exploring the wilds during those hours.
Of course, you’re not going to be able to escape them if you’re camping as they’ll quite happily invade your tent, but if you’ve decided to book into a hotel you should be pretty much midge-free as they don’t like going indoors or anywhere where there’s air conditioning.
Because they form in mass clouds they can get really quite unbearable if your head is exposed and they seem to especially like getting embedded in your hair and ears, which is why some people like to wear those hats with the nets that I mentioned earlier.
That’s certainly one option, but I prefer to cover up my body with convertible lightweight hiking trousers for my legs and a thin base layer shirt for my top half and then use plenty of anti-midge spray around my head.
The trousers have zip-off bottoms that turn into shorts when it gets warmer later in the day and the base layer sleeves can be rolled up so it’s almost like wearing a T-shirt. You can then revert back to anti-midge level Defcon 1 once the sun starts to go back down. Works for me anyway.
Tips for travelling around Scotland in summer
One massive bonus with travelling around Scotland in summer is that failing an impromptu earthquake or a meteorite dropping out of the sky, mother nature hasn’t really got much of a chance to put a stop to your progress.
While winter journies can be plagued by flash floods, snowstorms, and hazardous sheets of ice on the roads, conditions in summer are usually pretty good whether you’re intending to travel by train, car, bus or on foot.
I’ll list a few useful bits of information that might help you decide on your preferred form of transport below.
Travelling by bus in Scotland
Using the bus is spectacularly easy in our cities as despite what you might have heard elsewhere our public transport systems are pretty damn good.
These services are low-cost and frequent – especially so for Lothian Buses as their vehicles are all in fantastic condition and you can get a day ticket that’ll give you unlimited hop-on/hop-off transport for just £4 (as of 2019).
Glasgow’s First Buses aren’t quite as nice and can be …interesting… at night, but if you stick to travelling during the day you’ll find the service is ultra-efficient and day tickets can be had for just £4.50.
One little travel hack I have for you is to consider using a tour bus for the entire day if you’re already thinking about booking one for a wee sightseeing trip. Instead of doing your tour, getting off, and then spending the rest of the day using local buses, keep your ticket and hop on and off whenever you see a tour bus at the main attractions.
They usually just drive between the main attractions all day long and the driver will let you off if you ask, saving you the cost of getting an additional local bus company ticket in the process.
Follow this link to book your tour bus tickets in advance: Edinburgh Bus Tour from £15
If you want to get between cities on the cheap then travelling by coach is by far the cheapest option and you can frequently get special offers for inter-city travel for just a few pounds, so regularly check the Megabus website to see if they’ve got any deals going.
An alternative to Megabus is Citylink Gold who have a fleet of luxury coaches that are just a few pounds more expensive than Megabus, but they include on-board WiFi, complimentary snacks and drinks, and much comfier seats.
The service has daily express links between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness.
Travelling by car in Scotland
If you’re staying in the city don’t even bother with a car as you simply won’t need it, but travelling into the Highlands or anywhere else in Scotland’s countryside is a different matter entirely.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say a car is a necessity if you’re planning on going off the beaten path and this country is practically begging you to get a hire car and go driving.
We’ve got loads of beautiful scenic routes to enjoy like the famous North Coast 500, but you’ll need to remember a few key points if you’re going to drive yourself around.
- Britain’s fuel prices are some of the highest in Europe at approximately £1.30 for a litre of petrol and £1.35 for a litre of diesel (average as of summer 2019). A bog-standard car like a Ford Fiesta will cost £60-£70 to fill up and give you 400 to 500 mikes of driving – worth keeping in mind if you’re planning a 2-week road trip.
- British hire car companies love to hard-sell additional insurance add-ons like collision waiver damage. Do your research before talking to the salesman and don’t be afraid to walk away.
- If you’re driving in the remote parts of the Highlands you’ll find garages can be few and far between. Make sure you top up regularly. I always try to find a petrol station before my levels get to 1/4 of a tank.
- It’s illegal to hold a phone while driving so get yourself one of these air-vent mounted phone holders.
- We’ve also got a near-as-damn-it zero level of alcohol consumption to drive legally. Don’t even risk it. If you’ve had a drink, get someone else to take the wheel – unless they’ve had a drink too of course.
Travelling by train in Scotland
I have to admit, even with all the delays and rip-off ticket prices I really love travelling in Scotland by train. There’s something incredibly romantic about watching mountains, lochs and forests woosh past while you’re sat looking out the window of a carriage.
They’re convenient too, with stations right in the middle of most towns and cities and regular services that run several times per day between the main tourist hotspots.
While the ticket costs can be on the pricey side (a 2 1/2 hour train ride from Edinburgh to Aberdeen costs £90 first class) you’ll frequently find cheaper prices by booking in advance on sites like The Trainline which feature booking prices up to 43% cheaper than buying the same ticket at the station.
You can also get rail travel passes that’ll last for a week or more if you’re intending to use the train as your main form of transport and they offer a reasonably priced way of exploring Scotland.
My recommendations are the Central Scotland Rover travel pass which gives you 3 days unlimited travel between Glasgow, Edinburgh and the surrounding area for just £49, and the Spirit of Scotland travel pass which gives you 4 days unlimited rail travel throughout Scotland to be used over 8 days.
So that’s travel across Scotland covered, but one other rail system that’s hardly ever mentioned is Glasgow’s SPT subway system which is the only underground rail network in Scotland.
If you’re visiting Glasgow then taking the subway makes perfect sense as it’ll circle the main districts in a route that takes a mere 24 minutes to complete with all-day tickets costing from just £3.00 – which is a bit of a bargain in my book.
Map of the best places to visit in Scotland in summer
The best places to visit in Edinburgh in Summer
I can’t really create a list of the best places to visit in Scotland in summer without mentioning the country’s capital city of Edinburgh.
This amazing city has got so much going for it I don’t really know where to begin, so if you’re planning to spend any time in this country you really should make a visit here your top priority.
Edinburgh is one of the most-visited cities in Europe and is only narrowly beaten by London as the favourite destination for most international visitors, but you might be wondering why it’s so highly regarded.
Well, apart from the fact it’s impossibly pretty (think Harry Potter style castles, palaces and secluded backstreets and you’ve got it), it has more than enough attractions to keep visitors entertained for days, if not weeks.
Monumental castle? Check. Jaw-droppingly ornate palace? Check. Beautifully atmospheric medieval city centre? Yup, check again, with a thousand other tourist attractions thrown in for good measure. Check, and indeed, mate.
Let’s take a look at a few of the city’s highlights below…
Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG
My complete guide: A Guide to Edinburgh Castle
Literally no introduction is needed for this attraction because it’s the one place in Scotland that practically every visitor has already heard of.
Edinburgh Castle has been the focal point of the city for the best part of a thousand years and it continues to draw people to it to this day, with over 70% of Scotland’s tourists claiming a visit to the castle is their top priority.
Bit of a mind-blowing fact for you – Edinburgh Castle is officially the most-visited attraction in Scotland, with annual visitor numbers exceeding 2 million people. 2 million! No wonder the queues are so horrendously long in summer.
Even so, if you can brave the crowds you’ll find a lot to look at when you visit and it’s big enough that you could spend the majority of your day there if you explore every nook and cranny, which goes some way to justifying the crazily expensive entry tickets I guess.
Highlights of this historic attraction are the Argyll Battery (the main courtyard near the entrance) where the famous One O’Clock Gun is fired daily – at 1pm no less – and the Palace Yard where you’ll find the enormous cannon known as Mons Meg.
The oldest building in Edinburgh can be found next to Mons Meg which is a private chapel built by King David I, and a bit further round lies the Half-Moon Battery where the iconic lone piper plays his sombre tune during the spectacular Edinburgh Military Tatoo each year in August.
The castle is managed by Historic Environment Scotland who’ve done a fantastic job of including displays and exhibitions throughout the castle and they’ve got loads of staff to answer any questions you might have, but if I was you I’d ask them directions to the Royal Palace before you do anything else.
The palace gets incredibly busy from mid-morning on but you’ll miss most of the crowds if you get there early, and by doing so you’ll be able to view the Honours of Scotland (the nation’s crown jewels) and the former Royal Apartments at your leisure.
Head across the courtyard and you’ll find the National War Memorial where memorials to Britain’s armed forces are held, with the Great Hall directly opposite and the Queen Anne building joined to its side.
The Great Hall contains a collection of weaponry (including an example of the huge Scottish Claymore) while the Queen Anne building is the venue of a really good, if expensive, cafe and restaurant.
Address: Canongate, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX
My complete guide: A Guide to Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace lies at the bottom of the Royal Mile, the medieval high street that connects the castle at the top to the palace at the bottom.
If you’re in Edinburgh then you’ll inevitably end up on the Royal Mile at some point as it’s the main tourist attraction for the Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that remains one of the best examples of 15th-century architecture in Europe.
Holyrood Palace is the official residence of the British monarchy in Scotland and just like Buckingham Palace, its London equivalent, you can explore many of its rooms on a self-guided tour.
To my mind, a visit to the palace is a must-do if you’re sightseeing in Edinburgh and it’s one of those attractions that manages to leave a lasting impression, just like the castle at the opposite end of the Royal Mile.
Highlights include the King’s Bedchamber in the east wing and the Great Gallery, with the former featuring fascinating collections of artworks and the latter showcasing a highly impressive gallery of paintings.
But a visit to this historic attraction doesn’t have to centre around the buildings because the Royal Gardens are worth a visit in their own right, and they offer a great opportunity to soak up the summer sun.
The gardens are spectacular (there’s no other word for them) and are a lovely place to wander around, especially with the dramatic peaks of Holyrood Park forming a backdrop. I totally recommend you spend time exploring the park which is why I’ve included it next in this list, but not before you’ve explored the rest of Holyrood Palace.
The north-west tower is a favourite with many tourists as it’s the part of the building where Mary Queen of Scots took residence, and the old rooms are chock-full of tapestries, paintings, and objects from the time of the doomed queen. Fascinating stuff.
If you want to see even more artworks I recommend heading to the Queens Gallery near the palace entrance where for a small additional fee you’ll get to see masterpieces not found anywhere else in Britain, with a bonus being that the exhibitions are rotated regulalrly so there’s always something new to see on a later visit.
While initially seeming a bit pricey the entry tickets are actually decent value because they’ll allow you free re-admittance for one year – which is great if you return to the city and find yourself looking for something to do.
My top-tip with the tickets is to purchase a ‘Royal Visit’ pass which includes admission to the Palace, the Queen’s Gallery and a garden tour – more than enough to keep you occupied for an entire day.
Address: Queen’s Drive, Edinburgh, EH8 8HG
Website: A Guide to Holyrood Park
It’s summer, you’re in the sweltering (ok, maybe not that hot… how about mildly warm?) Scottish capital, and you’re feeling stuck for places to visit that don’t include trotting about inside stuffy old buildings. Where should you go?
The answer to that has to be Holyrood Park, the 650-acre green space situated right in the heart of the city.
I’ve got another fact for you (I’m full of useless facts) – did you know that the highest point of the park, the 800-foot peak known as Arthur’s Seat, is actually the remnant of a long-extinct volcano?
Yep, there’s a volcano right in the middle of Edinburgh!
The story of Arthur’s Seat begins 340 million years ago with a series of volcanic eruptions that formed the crags and peaks that we can see today throughout the park.
Those volcanic flows inspired the 18th-century academic James Hutton to form his theories on how the earth was formed, which was the basis for the science of modern geology.
But there’s more to this park than scientific history.
Holyrood Park is basically a mini version of the Scottish Highlands and it’s a brilliant place to get away from the noise of the city centre on a warm summers day.
You can wander around its spiders-web of paths and see lochs, trees, and an abundance of Highland-style landscapes if you like, but the highlight has to be climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat for the panoramic views of the city.
It’s a bit of a scramble in places but it’s well worth the effort so if you feel like a bit of exercise I recommend taking the most direct route which is to head east from Dunsapie Loch and follow the well-worn path to the top.
Once you get there you’ll find a trig point on top of a rocky plateau with gorgeous views in every direction. It’s a must-do if you’re in Edinburgh in the summer.
The best places to visit in Glasgow in summer
For me, Glasgow sums up everything that’s great about Scotland.
Friendly people, beautiful green spaces, stunning buildings and more tourist attractions than you could ever hope to fit into a single holiday. Plus all the best ones are completely free.
But there’s more to this city – which is the largest in Scotland – than tourist attarctions.
While Edinburgh is fantastically well-optimized for separating money from people’s wallets, Glasgow is all about offering great experiences, and you’ll find some of the best shopping in the country within it’s long, meandering streets as well as many of the finest bars, clubs and restaurants in the British Isles.
It’s a city that has a vibrant, edgy feel and it’s practically begging to be explored by new visitors, and I reckon the following suggestions for places to visit will give you a good taste of what this amazing city has to offer.
Address: Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8AG
My complete guide: A Guide to Kelvingrove Park
I only visited Kelvingrove Park a few months after I’d first visited Kelvingrove Museum, when looking at Google Maps I realised there’s this enormous green space right behind one of Scotland’s most-visited free attractions.
It’s not even that hard to miss.
Kelvingrove Park covers an impressive 85-acres in the heart of Glasgow and it’s one of the city’s favourite parks after Glasgow Green, and if I’m being honest I’d say it’s the nicest park in the city.
Most people will, of course, come here to explore Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which sits on the southern side of the park, but if you’ve already looked at Google Maps you’ll know that Glasgow University lies a short distance away to the west so it’s easy to combine the park, museum and university in one attraction-filled day.
Aside from the fact that each attraction is free, you’ll get to experience some of the highlights of Glasgow without having to walk very far – something that’s worth considering if you’re already wilting under the heat of the summer sun.
Kelvingrove Park has a network of paths running through it that really make you forget you’re in the middle of Scotland’s biggest city, with the Kelvin Walkway being a particular favourite of mine.
This riverside walk follows the River Kelvin from the museum along 10 miles of meandering paths to the picturesque Milngavie countryside on the outskirts of the city, and along the way you’ll see geese, kingfishers, foxes and otters.
It’s a beautiful walk but if you’d rather stay within the confines of the city centre you can stay in the park and go on a wee expedition to see all the monuments dotted about the place.
There have been a lot of monuments installed in Kelvingrove Park over the years but if you’re short of time I suggest you at least take a look at the Stewart memorial fountain near the Kelvingrove skatepark and west play area.
The fountain was built in 1872 to commemorate a new freshwater supply from Loch Katrine over 40 miles away and it’s a popular spot for locals to sit and relax when the sun’s beating down, but go there mid-week when everyone’s busy working and you might find you’ve got the entire place to yourself.
Address: Cathedral Precinct, Castle Street, Glasgow, G4 0QZ
My complete guide: A Guide to the Glasgow Necropolis
Yeah, I know, bit of a weird one this, but if you’re visiting Glasgow in the middle of summer I have to recommend the city cemetery as a top tourist attraction.
The Glasgow Necropolis is a 37-acre burial site next to the city’s beautiful cathedral, and the fact that it’s so close to both the cathedral and the St. Mungo Museum make it a great place to go for a stroll on a warm, sunny afternoon.
I recommend packing all three attractions into one visit as they’ll keep you occupied for the best part of a day, but it’s The Necropolis that you’ll more than likely find the most memorable.
This cemetery was originally a Victorian arboretum that was designed to be used by the city’s ever-expanding middle class, but by the 1830s it was decided to convert it into a burial site instead. I guess you could say that one way or another Glasgow’s wealthy residents got to spend time at the site whether they wanted to or not.
If you’ve ever had the chance to explore the vast Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris you’ll immediately recognise the Necropolis because it was designed to imitate it, and I reckon they’ve done a pretty good job.
A web of paths run right through the site where a labyrinth of tombs and gravestones mark the final resting places of some of the greatest Scots that have ever lived, including Charles Rennie Mackintosh (architect), Charles Tennant (industrialist), and John Knox (theologian – who’s actually buried in Edinburgh).
The Knox monument sits at the highest point in the Necropolis where you’ll get a fantastic panoramic view of the cathedral and the myriad adjoining streets, and if you want to find out about both Knox’s monument and all the other gravestones dotted about I recommend booking a 2-hour guided walking tour where you’ll learn lots of interesting facts about them.
I’ll give you a quick fact now so you’ve got something to impress the guide with. William Millar, the poet that penned the nursery rhyme Wee Willie Winkie is buried in the cemetery. See, I told you I’m full of useless facts.
The Riverside Museum of Transport
Address: Pointhouse Place, Glasgow, G3 8RS
My complete guide: A Guide to the Riverside Museum of Transport
I was debating about adding the Riverside Museum to this list as it’s an indoor attraction and this is an article about places to go in the summer, but I’m including it because it’s really, really good. And it’s completely free!
I guess I’m also including it because the museum is located right next to the River Clyde and it’s always nice to be near water when it’s hot, but this site has another much-appreciated bonus.
Moored up outside the museum is the Tall Ship, a fully restored 19th-century sailing ship that’s one of the last examples of a Clyde-built ship of that era that’s still afloat today.
The Tall Ship is a big vessel that’s full of fascinating maritime memorabilia and it’s worth making the journey to this part of Glasgow just to see it, especially as the floating attraction is also free. Honestly, it’s amazing how many of the best attractions in Glasgow cost nothing to visit.
Anyway, back to the Riverside Museum of Transport. This museum is dedicated to the world of transport (well yeah, obviously…) and it’s crammed to the rafters with every type of vehicle you can possibly think of.
From rollerskates to mopeds, sports cars to trains and everything in-between, the Riverside Museum transports you back in time to explore their origin and show you examples of each one.
During your visit you’ll see oddities like the Sinclair C5 and ultra-cool retro gear like the Raleigh Chopper, so your inner nerd will be well and truly treated with the exhibits on display.
If you’re a car fanatic (i.e. 90% of all men) you’ll love a visit to this museum mainly because they’ve got an entire wall-mounted display with some of the most iconic cars from the last hundred years or so on show.
The 1980s Porsche 911 had me practically drooling on the floor.
But the highlight is the recreation of an entire olde-worlde Glasgow street complete with shops, subway, and good-old-fashioned boozer. If they actually served beer in there I don’t think I’d have ever left.
The best places to visit in the Highlands in Summer
If you’re coming to Scotland in summer you probably don’t need me to tell you to visit the Scottish Highlands as you’ll no doubt already have made your mind up.
It’s not really surprising. Virtually every photo of Scotland on the internet shows an image of a windswept mountain top or a beautiful glen covered in thick green foliage, probably with a dramatic castle perched beside a peaceful loch.
Now while you might be thinking that those photos are all photoshopped I’ve got a little secret to tell you.
*Whispers* the Scottish Highlands actually look like that in real life.
The north-west of Scotland really is a spectacularly pretty place with more mountains, glens, lochs and castles than your camera is going to be able to cope with, especially once you get to areas like Glencoe and the Cairngorms.
While I’d love to list every attraction I’m going to give you a random mix of some of the best ones instead, each of which is guaranteed to give you a taste of what the Highlands has to offer.
Bidean Nam Bian
Thinking about visiting Scotland but not sure where to go? Then let me throw one suggestion at you that I think you’ll like.
If you want to experience the best sights in Scotland you have, have, to visit Glencoe, and while you’re there you won’t get a better experience than hiking up Bidean Nam Bian.
This munro rises up 1150 metres at its highest point and offers what I believe is one of the finest views in Scotland with a mountain landscape that’s nothing short of breathtaking in every single direction.
The amazing sights start at the car park nestled on the shore of Loch Achtriochtan, a small freshwater lochan that’s fed by the River Coe and flows into Loch Leven at Invercoe.
The loch is exceptionally pretty thanks to the mountains that surround it with the Three Sisters – the mountain range that includes Bidean Nam Bian – located to the south.
There’s a path running from the car park right up to the summit but it has to be said it’s a bit of a scramble in places so getting to the very top isn’t a task for the faint-hearted, but if you’re after a nice alpine-style hike you can easily get three-quarters of the way up and still enjoy the beautiful view.
One word of warning though. As pretty as the 2 1/2 mile walk up the munro is, it gets very busy in summer, especially at the weekend.
There are frequent coachloads of tourists stopping at the car park to take photos and it can be a bit of a pain trying to park up, let alone make your way through the crowds meandering around the Three Sisters.
My advice is to leave early mid-week and enjoy the landscape in peace and quiet before heading back down to explore other nearby attractions like the Glencoe visitor centre in the afternoon.
Address: Loch Morlich, near Glenmore village, PH22 1QU
My complete guide: A Guide to Loch Morlich
Another part of the Highland’s that’s worth exploring is the Cairngorm range near Aviemore. While I could have just included the Cairngorm centre in this list I thought I’d add a place that seems to be virtually unheard of amongst Scotland’s tourists yet it’s one of the nicest places I’ve ever visited.
Loch Morlich is located deep in the heart of Strathspey just a few miles from Aviemore where it’s hidden on all sides by the expansive Glenmore Forest.
The first time I visited I was completely blown away by the place because not only is it gob-smackingly beautiful, but it’s got one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever set foot on.
And that’s not what you’d expect to find in the middle of Scotland’s premier snowsports destination.
This is a real adrenaline junkie’s dream location, with the slopes of Cairngorm so close you feel like you can reach out and touch them and the forest absolutely buzzing with high-energy mountain bike trails.
But you don’t have to be a sports lover to enjoy the area because Loch Morlich is practically begging you to slip your shoes off, lay a towel down and relax on the beach. All with a vast snow-capped mountain range as a backdrop.
The beach – the highest in the UK – features exceptionally clean golden sand that rivals any other in Britain in my opinion, and it’s also the location of the Loch Morlich Watersports Centre where you can take part in several different watersports activities.
The centre runs frequent instructor-led sessions for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding and they also hire equipment out if you feel proficient, with wetsuits, rowboats, kayaks and canoes available for a reasonable price.
Address: Fort Augustus, Highland
My complete guide: A Guide to Loch Ness
I defy anyone to say they’ve never heard of Loch Ness, watery home of the mythical monster that’s been sighted in that part of Scotland for almost a thousand years (check out my Loch Ness monster article for an in-depth guide to it).
This enormous body of freshwater is the biggest in the UK, big enough, in fact, to contain all the water from all the lakes of England and Wales combined!
Even at 23 miles in length it’s not the biggest loch by surface area (that crown goes to Loch Lomond), but it is the largest by volume due to the fact that it’s so deep, reaching an impressive 230 metres at times.
Once you visit it for yourself you’ll understand why the monster legend began here as it’s exceptionally atmospheric, helped no end by the peat-stained water that’s almost completely pitch black. If there ever was a monster in Scotland I can’t think of a more apt place for it to live.
It’s a bit of a shame then that so many people fixate on Nessie and seem to forget about the loch, which to my mind is one of the best places to visit in Scotland.
There are two major settlements at either end of Ness so you’re never really that far from civilisation but walking along its banks can really make you feel like you’ve gone off-grid. Well, at least until the streams of motorbikes on the A82 bring you back to reality.
Those bikes generally ride from Fort Augustus in the south to Inverness in the north, with Fort Augustus also being used by barges as they make their way along the Caledonian canal.
Inverness meanwhile, is a lovely city that has plenty of attractions of its own, and it’s the first place people head to when they want to explore the Moray Firth.
If you get the time while you’re visiting Loch Ness you might want to catch one of the tour boats that sail out of Inverness to go dolphin watching on the Firth. It’s a fantastic experience.
Midway between Fort Augustus and Inverness is the most iconic castle in Scotland – Urquhart Castle. This castle held one of the most strategic locations in the Highlands and was the focus of military activity for hundreds of years, so it’s a shame it was partially destroyed in 1692.
Still, what remains is utterly fascinating to walk around and standing on the remains of the castle to look out over Loch Ness is a remarkable experience, and in my opinion one of the best you’ll find in Scotland.
I sincerely hope these suggestions have inspired you to come and see us in summer, whether you’re planning a holiday for this year or next.
There are so many more places to visit in Scotland that I want to tell you about but it’s simply impossible to fit them all into one article, especially when these few ideas have already taken up so much of your time.
That being said, can I make a suggestion that you bookmark Out About Scotland for future reference?
I’ll be constantly updating the site with new guides to the country’s best attractions over the coming weeks so it’s worth checking back often to see what’s new, and you’ll find articles like this one posted regularly which might help you plan a holiday here at another time of year.
Speaking of which, have you considered visiting Scotland in winter? If you have and you want to know more you should take a look at my articles about the 10 Best Places to Visit in Scotland in January, and 12 Awesome Things to Do in Scotland in Winter.
They’re full of useful information that’ll help you make the most of your time here and I reckon they’re a must-read for new visitors to our country (even if I do say so myself).
So with that, I’ll say thanks for reading and I hope you have a great time getting out about Scotland.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends where you go. The West Highlands has an average 4,577mm of rainfall annually, compared to 870mm in Eastern Scotland. As a rule you can expect fairly decent weather between the start of June and the end of August. In 2019 the wettest Scottish areas were: Argyllshire 2200mm, Dunbartonshire 2000mm, Inverness 1970mm, Ross and Cromarty 1800mm, Buteshire 1720mm and Kirkcudbrightshire 1630mm.
Beginning of June: Sunrise 04:55, Sunset 22:11 (17 hours 26 minutes).
Mid July: Sunrise 05:01, Sunset 21:59 (16 hours, 57 minutes).
End of August: Sunrise 06:27, Sunset 20:21 (13 hours, 54 minutes).
Avoid going anywhere where there’s still water (like lochs) at dawn and dusk as that’s the time and environment where midges are most prevalent. Cover exposed skin with lightweight trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Use anti-midge spray like ‘Smidge’.
It depends on the area. In Edinburgh, the start of June and the end of August have average temperatures between 9°c to 19°c. In Wick (the far north east of Scotland), the start of June and the end of August have average temperatures between 8°c to 16°c.