Scotland in May – things to know when visiting in Late Spring

Late Spring is a hugely popular time of year to visit Scotland and May sees the country explode and welcome in lots of visitors. The change in temperature and hope that spring gives tempts so many people to make Scotland their vacation destination of choice!

Scotland in May can still see a mix of weather patterns. It is definitely getting warmer and the days are getting longer which makes it an ideal time to come and visit. Don’t be fooled though, it can still be on the cool side!

Events start to pop up in May as well and the first Highland Games starts as well – surely a sign of summer coming!

Read on if you’re planning a late Spring trip to Scotland and it includes the month of May because this post is just for you! We’ll take a look at the weather, what to do, and any festivals happening in the late spring.

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.

Booking in advance – is it recommended in May?

Yes – absolutely! While not the very busy months of July and August, May is probably the next busiest time. There are two public holidays in the month, one at either end, and Schools also have a week off around the latter one.

That and the weather starting to warm up and nights being longer means May is a popular time to visit Scotland and so if you can definitely book in advance.

Accommodation is always worth booking in advance in May whether you’re going for a city or a countryside break. Check (best for hotels and also has some apartments/cottages) and also VRBO (similar to Airbnb).

If you have any activities or tours you wish to do then it’s also advisable to get these booked. Many will sell out in the busy weekends around May and especially at the end of the month.

If you’re worried about the weather, providers such as Viator and Get your Guide offer good cancellation policies (although do check the fine print).

Castle on Arran

Is Scotland worth visiting in May?

I may be biased, but I feel Scotland is worth it at any time of the year and, there’s lots to do through all the seasons, but is May specifically any good?

With the many public holidays in May there’s a marked increase in visitors to Scotland. It’s not as busy as the summer months but it’s definitely beginning to get a little more crowded.

Almost all the attractions should be open now and some, like the Harry Potter train, will begin to up their schedule to be able to accommodate the new level of visitors.

May sees those days lengthening nicely so evenings stay lighter for longer – this makes exploring the outdoors a lot easier as you have so many more hours in the day!

The weather in Scotland can always be a little tricky to figure out and May is no different. Expect it to still be cool in Spring but it’s not unheard of to have some really nice days too. The temperatures will vary depending on where you are in Scotland but as a guide expect highs of around 12-15°C (53-60°F).

Scotland weather in May

As I just mentioned, Scotland in the month of May can still bring fairly cool temperatures. As always, you will want to be prepared for rain as well – it can happen at any time of year!

You might be lucky with the weather and get some stunning, sunny days. May increases the chances that this happen, and I’m wishing it for you! All kinds of weather are possible in Scotland though, no matter what time of year you visit!

Where you are based in Scotland will dictate the weather you’ll experience. Often if you move from one side of the country to the other you can see different weather happening. If you’re flexible in your itineraries you could explore where the weather is best!

Sunset and sunrise times

The days in May are starting to stretch out and really get longer which is so much better for exploring in Scotland. You can enjoy light in the evenings until well after your evening meal time – it will get even later next month but May is really able to enjoy these light nights!

As you move towards the summer equinox, the further north you go in Scotland the longer the days get.

May 1st5.29 am/8.51 pm5.27 am/9.01 pm
May 15th5.00 am/9.18 pm4.56 am/9.31 pm
May 31st4.36 am/9.45 pm4.29 am/10.00 pm

What to pack for Scotland in May

With the weather still having potential for rain and being on the cooler side you’ll want to be prepared for a trip to Scotland in May.

  • A down jacket is still a great idea to keep warm, even in late spring. I’d probably go for a lightweight packable one to keep weight down and not be too warm.
  • A waterproof layer is always essential for the wet days and should hopefully keep you warm enough when exploring cities as well.
  • Layers can help to combat the different weather eventualities and are good if you feel the cold too.
  • a thermal coffee cup to have with you when sightseeing can help keep you warm inside, especially in the morning when it might still be cool
  • binoculars are an essential if you’re exploring the countryside or islands so you can spot wildlife
  • Skin so soft – midges start to be an issue in May once it warms up a little so it’s worth having some of this ‘midge repellent’ on hand. Sounds weird but locals swear by it! (check this post if you want to avoid midges on your Scotland trip)

Festivals and events in May

Public holidays in May

May brings two bank holidays (public holidays) in a normal year. In 2023 there are going to be three!

  • 1st May 2023 – Early May Bank holiday
  • 8th May 2023 – Bank Holiday for the King’s Coronation
  • 29th May 2023 – Spring Bank Holiday – often accompanied by the following week off at Schools

King’s Coronation

6th May 2023

2023 brings a completely different event for the whole of the UK – the King’s Coronation which takes place on the 6th May 2023.

The ceremony happens in London but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find activities happening throughout Scotland too around that time. You might even be lucky and happen upon a street party!

Orkney Folk Festival

25th – 28th May 2023

A celtic music festival that takes place in the northern Orkney Islands is a great reason to head north. In 2023 the main attraction is the band Capercaillie which celebrates 40 years of the festival happening.

Music events take place mostly in Stromness but some other events take place around the islands.

For more information see their site here.

Blair Atholl Highland Games

28th May 2023

The Atholl Gathering is the first of the Highland games that happen in Summer throughout the country taking place.

You can watch some amazing spectacles from some of Scotland’s strong men – throwing the caber and the hammer toss maybe? You’ll also enjoy pipe bands showing off their skills and highland dancers too!

Blair Atholl is in Perthshire so fairly central and not too difficult to get to, especially if you’ve rented a car. Check their site here for more details.

Edinburgh Marathon Festival

28th May 2023

A huge running festival takes place in Edinburgh at the end of May. Plenty of distances to choose from if you’re a runner looking for a different backdrop and want to tick off running in Scotland!

See their site here for more details.

Islay Festival of Music and Malt

26th May – 3rd June 2023

A festival that revolves around whisky AND music? Yes please! This special festival takes place on the Scottish Island of Islay which is well known for its variety of whisky that is made there.

Each day allows different distilleries to show off what they have to offer with tours and tastings and then at night there are folk music events as well.

See their website here for more details.

Things to do in Scotland in May

Here are just a few ideas of things to do if you’re visiting Scotland in the month of May.

Hiking in Scotland in May
Looking over Loch Lomond on a hike

Go Hiking

The weather is really starting to improve in May and that combined with the lengthening days mean that hikes around Scotland’s walking trails are a great idea.

You can stay close to Edinburgh and walk up Arthurs Seat or you could head into the highlands and wander around trails at Glencoe or even near Ben Nevis. Some people more fit than me might even have a go at climbing all the hills!

Even the Scottish Borders have a lot to offer hikers and walkers, although the scenery is much more serene – Melrose has some wonderful walks around the Eildon Hills that I recommend!

climbing up to Edinburgh Castle

Visit some Royal attractions

With the Coronation happening in May 2023 it’s a great time to enjoy some of the many Royal attractions in Scotland that are around.

Of course, Edinburgh has the triple whammy of Royal things to do – Edinburgh Castle is the classic one which was the base of the Royals for hundreds of years. Holyrood Palace, at the other end of the Royal Mile is actually still a Royal residence – the official one when the King is in Scotland. You might also love checking out the Royal Yacht as well – it was Elizabeth II’s and was used as a way of transporting her around her dwindling Empire.

Outside of the capital why not head to Balmoral in the north – still a good place to explore since the King doesn’t go there until August.

Fans of Mary, Queen of Scots might also like to explore Loch Leven Castle, a castle near Edinburgh where she was imprisoned or maybe even Jedburgh where she had a lot of history too!

Search for Nessie

May is a great time to get out and about in the Highlands so why not explore one of the most well known Lochs in Scotland – Loch Ness!

There’s a lot to do around Loch Ness, from exploring the walking trails, finding waterfalls and the quintessential boat trip.

Boat trips will allow you to really look for Nessie, Scotland’s lovely monster, and you can gaze into the deep black waters and see if you can see signs of life!

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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

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.

If you need a SIM for use in Scotland I recommend GiffGaff which you can get and set up before traveling.

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.

Photo of author

Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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