If you imagine Scotland you probably think of rolling hills, beautiful lochs and trees all around. You’ll not be far wrong either (or far from that scenery) which makes visiting Scotland in Autumn all the more better – it just lights up with the colours!
The whole season is just enchanting and whether you fancy exploring spooky alleyways in the old Edinburgh or you get out into the countryside to spot wildlife.
Autumn, or Fall, is my absolute favourite time of year and spending it in Scotland is even better. I love getting cosy after being outdoors with a good cup of Scottish tea and some biscuits – shortbread obviously! Is it the best time of year to visit Scotland though? Read on for some ideas on what to do to make your mind up.
A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
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Scotland works really well in the months of September, October and November because they tend to be quiet after the busy summer months. It means that when looking for accommodation your options are much wider and costs go down too. Perfect for budget conscious travelers.
Things to do in Scotland in Autumn
If you’re thinking of spending this season in Scotland then here’s some of the wonderous things that are in store for you!
Discover some of Scotland’s Wildlife
Scotland is a wonderful for wildlife fans at any time of year but Autumn is extra special with some spectacles on show. As always, keep your distance from any wild animals and show respect to their environment.
The deer in Scotland can be seen year round but in the Autumn months the deer head in to their rut phase, or their breeding season. This is when the males can be heard calling and fighting with other males in order to establish dominance. You’ll find red, fallow and sika deer throughout the country and all have their rutting season in autumn.
You can see deer all over Scotland, from the highlands all the way down in to the border regions and on some islands too, like Rum and Arran, where there’s a huge population. It’s important to keep your distance from any animals as they can be unpredictable at this time of year.
The deer rut starts around the end of September to mid November.
Scottish salmon migrate from their birth place upriver towards the open ocean and then come back again to lay eggs. The cycle has been happening continuously for ever!
What’s pretty cool about the salmon is that while trying to get back upstream they have to do some huge leaps to get up waterfalls, weirs and basically uphill. It’s always a wonder watching them – they have such persistence and stamina!
I used to go and see the salmon leaping every year as a child at Pitlochry (where there’s a man made fish ladder to help them!) and we managed to take our kids to see some at the Falls of Shin recently too. There are lots of places to see them all over Scotland.
October and November are the best months to see the salmon doing their leaps.
Look out for seals
Seals are another of Scotland’s famous wildlife that brings tourists from all over to see and you can see harbour seals (common seals) and grey seals. In Autumn you might find seals on shore fattening themselves up before the cold of winter. Grey seals give birth in the autumn so you may even see some pups!
You can get boat trips all over Scotland that will take you wildlife spotting and often this includes seal colonies too. The islands of Mull and Iona are good bets if spotting seals are on your list!
Finally we have the little red squirrels that I remember seeing lots of as a child – not so much now as the grey squirrel has overtaken them. they continue to be elusive, even in Scotland where there’s a huge amount of work being done to protect the species.
Keep an eye out for them if you’re taking a walk in a pine forest, there’s plenty about!
See the Autumn Colours and go leaf peeping
With so many forests, rolling hills covered in trees and such a variety of tree types in Scotland you can be sure that when the colours of the leaves change it will be beautiful.
October and early November is probably the best time to enjoy the autumn colours in Scotland. I recommend a walk in the woods or in a park after a few dry days when the leaves are all crunchy and just asking to be walked over and kicked around!
Guy Fawkes Night
Taking place every year on the 5th of November this is a British tradition that goes back to the 1600s when the man of the day, Guy, was part of a group plotting to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. He was caught, supposedly just before lighting up the gunpowder and the day was saved!
Ever since, or at least in recent times, we celebrate this near miss by imagining what it would have been like had they been successful. That means fireworks and a great big bonfire! In the UK you can often go to arranged displays where you can see lots of large scale fireworks. If you can’t find anything organised it’s often worth just taking a walk in the evening of the 5th of November and you’ll likely hear and see plenty being set off from locals.
Go on a spooky tour
With Halloween around and dark evenings setting in a spooky tour of graveyards and old alleyways could be a great way to spend some time!
Edinburgh has a lot of these on offer, some taking your round Greyfriars Churchyard, some exploring the old town and places where people suffered with the plague. All gruesome stuff!
Glasgow has some great ones too that will take you to ghostly areas and spooky spots – dare you go on Halloween?
Find a pumpkin patch
Pumpkin patches are definitely not just an American tradition any more with more and more places around Scotland jumping on the bandwagon to grow the fab autumnal vegetable.
You’ll find pumpkin patches all around but the most popular ones will be in reach of the main cities and in the central belt. Try Arnprior Farm near Stirling which was one of the first ones to bring this trend to these parts. Stirling, with the hills of the Ochils nearby is stunning too – always worth a trip!
Discover film locations
There are so many great films with locations in Scotland that can make a great day trip out. Once you get into the autumn months these locations start to become a little quieter too which is perfect.
Fans of Harry Potter will love the sites around the city of Edinburgh, especially in these spooky times but if you can, head out into the Highlands to either take the Harry Potter train over the Glenfinnan Viaduct or watch it from the viewpoint.
Outlander fans, whether it’s the books or the TV series, will love exploring Clava Cairns and Culloden Battlefield near Inverness. There’s also Culross and Falkland which are just over in Fife and not too far away from Edinburgh – gorgeous wee villages that were used in the TV show.
What about some 80s favourites? Local Hero is a quirky old film and the beach is one of my favourites on the west coast – Camusdarach. And who can forget Highlander? The castle that’s in it? Eilean Donan – one of the most iconic castles you can visit in Scotland!
Go to the Distilled Festival in Speyside
If you’re a fan of whisky but don’t have the time to go to ALL of the distilleries around Scotland then this festival of Scottish food and drink could be perfect for you.
All under one roof in the town of Elgin (don’t forget to check out the Cathedral there too) you can learn all about whisky, gin and much more while also being able to pick up some interesting gifts too.
Check out their website here.
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🏴 Scotland Travel FAQ 🏴
Do I need insurance for traveling to Scotland?
YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!
Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.
Do I need a car for visiting Scotland?
YES – If you’re wanting to explore Scotland fully then a car is worthwhile. It will get you to all the best sights and on your own timetable
I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Scotland
How to book accommodation in Scotland?
For hotels I recommend Booking.com
For apartments and cottages check out VRBO
Will my phone work in Scotland?
Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.
What to pack for Scotland
Keep yourself dry be prepared for any weather is my motto for Scotland! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.
See my post about what to pack for Scotland
Do I need midge spray for Scotland?
YES – if you’re traveling in the summer months to any of the west coast, highlands, islands or lochs it’s recommended.
Locals swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft!
If you’re sticking to the cities or traveling in winter, early spring or late fall then you likely won’t need it.
What’s the best guidebook for Scotland?
I really like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks
Where to get flights for Scotland
Skyscanner is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Scotland.
Do I need a visa for Scotland?
Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.