Scotland packing list: 10 essentials for a perfect trip

Visiting Scotland is a bucket list adventure for so many people.  This Scotland packing list was designed specifically for people taking the trip and looking for tips on what to pack for their vacation.

Depending on how long you’re planning on coming to Scotland, you might be here for a weekend break in Edinburgh or spending 2- 3 weeks on the road exploring – that requires some thought to bring the right things with you.

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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Woman with luggage walking through Edinburgh old town in Scotland
Lots of hills, steps and cobbled streets await you in Edinburgh

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Every time that we head to Scotland we realise there’s something else that we should never forget. This list comes from experience over years of trips we’ve made, and of course my local knowledge from growing up there!

First before we get into my recommendations, let’s have a think about some practical tips for Scotland.

Practical packing tips for Scotland

Again, depending on how you’re traveling around Scotland, your needs for your luggage may change. If you’re going from destination to destination and changing your accommodation every couple of nights it’s much more essential to be organized.

Suitcase or Rucksack?

I do love a suitcase, especially as I’ve gotten older but it’s worth remembering that in Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh there’s a lot of cobbled streets. This won’t be an issue if you’re getting a taxi to your hotel, but could be if you’re walking.

It’s also always worth having some form of waterproof cover for your luggage too, whether it’s a suitcase or bag, so that if you run into a downpour you don’t get wet belongings before you start!

Organizing your luggage

My absolute top recommendation – Packing cubes.

Packing cubes are a lifesaver when living out of your luggage – I like to have one with with your night clothes for when I’m done for the day, one for worn underwear and one for clean stuff too.  We use ours all the time when traveling, doesn’t matter if abroad or just a weekend away. We got different colours for each person so no getting mixed up too.

Flying from Overseas

If you’re flying in to Scotland then I also recommend some digital scales that can weigh your luggage.  I always worry I’m bringing too much back so this can really calm my nerves before checking my bags!! Airlines are much more strict nowadays so it’s good to be safe.

Inside pages of Lonely Planet Scotland Guidebook
I always bring a guide book if I can fit it in, even for Scotland where I grew up!

What to pack for Scotland – my top 10 essentials

Right, let’s take a look at some of my essentials that you’ll want to have on your Scotland trip:

1. Guide book

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Before thinking about clothes to pack, I think it’s always worth getting a good guide book for the trip.  It’s my number one essential for the road – I always get one no matter where I’m headed. Scotland is no different, even though we’ve been there so many times!

I know we all have internet, blogs like this one and Google Maps but having a good, old fashioned guidebook you can check and browse through on an evening can be so helpful.

It’s especially helpful to get some overviews on islands to visit, day trips from the cities and some bucket list items you didn’t even know were on your list! The city guides are also really helpful, I’m always checking guide book maps and walking trails.

I have a soft spot for Lonely Planet books, and I highly recommend this one. Rough Guide are good too and if you’re heading direct to the Highlands and Islands you can find specific books about that too.

Walking guides, many focused on specific areas, might also be worth considering if you’re planning a lot of hiking.

2. Packing cubes

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I spoke about packing cubes earlier and they really are an essential for any trip but especially if you’ll be in and out of different stops each night.

We bought ours a quite a while ago now and use them all the time (almost 10 years and still going strong!) – we got eBags ones like these but there are a number of designs on the market. eBags definitely have lasted well though and they use really sturdy fabric. Highly recommended! You can check eBags direct here – they have some good offers!

A set of different sized packing cubes are good for different kinds of clothes. If you’re traveling with others consider different colours for different people.

3. Waterproof Jacket

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A waterproof jacket is essential no matter which season you’re traveling to Scotland in – yes, even Summer! Downpours and showers happen all year round so it’s really good to be prepared.

A fairly light jacket like this one could be good for most trips, just make sure you get one big enough to add some layers underneath if you’re concerned about the cold. If you’re travelling in winter you’ll perhaps want something a little warmer but it could still work with a fleece underneath.

Columbia is a good brand with quality items, my husband loves the trousers they do and has just bought another pair!

4. Binoculars

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Binoculars are something that if you don’t bring to Scotland, you’ll wish you had! They are great for getting glimpses of deer, birds and sea life as you explore Scotland’s countryside. Even if you’re stuck in the car waiting for bad weather to pass you can still use them to keep an eye out for the amazing wildlife around.

I recommend getting yourself a small, pocket sized pair but from a reputable brand like this one. You’ll want to make sure it has a small pouch to protect them as you travel too.

5. Day Pack

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A day bag of some sorts is essential when traveling – with plenty of space for a water bottle and some picnic items!

What kind of day bag you take might depend on whether you’re planning on hiking or just exploring museums and towns. It shouldn’t be too big either as many of the small shops on the road can be narrow with lots of items inside!

I like to always have a small rucksack for days out – one that packs small in your luggage is always worth taking.

6. Umbrella

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I realise that many of these essential items to take to Scotland are centred around the weather, but really if you don’t plan for some rainy days you can be upset at getting wet and it ruining your day. Planning for wet weather is really essential.

If you plan to explore some cities and towns then an umbrella is a good idea. I always find that if the rain has soaked me and my jacket I don’t like to then go inside to museums and shops – an umbrella can help there.

Also a good idea is to take a plastic bag that you can store it while inside or if the weather changes to sunshine later!

When choosing an umbrella to take try and get one that is fairly windproof (although nothing is always perfect in that sense!) and something that will pack away nice and easy.

7. Midge Repellent

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If you’re travelling in the midge season (late spring through to early fall) and planning to head to the west coast, the islands or exploring lochs then you’ll no doubt meet the midge. A small insect that can be incredibly unpleasant causing bites and itching. Ugh!

The suggested repellent for these is something called Skin So Soft from Avon – apparently even the armed forced use it! Some people say it doesn’t work, so any other insect repellent might be worth trying and bringing.

Overseas travelers – while you can get this on Amazon, the price is quite high compared to how much it is in the UK. I’ll leave a link so you can check it out and know what you’re looking for.

If you react badly to insect bites make sure to bring some anti-histamines too.

8. Portable battery

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I always like to take a small extra battery with me when travelling to charge up my phone when out and about. If you love taking photos and videos, whether on your phone or on a separate device you’ll need something to keep it charged. You don’t want to have the nightmare of dead batteries and once in a lifetime views to capture!

It’s also a good idea to have something like this when out and about in the Scottish countryside. Since signal can be poor in some areas you phone battery might run down quicker as it’s searching for it. It’s a good thing to keep yourself safe so you can, hopefully, always be in contact with others.

9. Walking shoes/boots

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Getting out of the cities means that walking paths and trails become ever so enticing. And you should be enticed because they can lead to some wonderful places!

But, this being Scotland, with rain either just passed or likely to pass over again, you might also encounter muddy paths and so having some walking boots specifically for that is a good idea.

Something lightweight, waterproof and comfortable is best. It’s always a good idea to make sure you don’t bring brand new walking boots on a trip either – give them a few test days at home first. I always tend to wear them on travel days too since they take up so much room in my suitcase – if you’re traveling light this might also work for you.

10. Refillable water bottle

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Finally on my list of essentials is a refillable water bottle. It doesn’t matter what you plan to do in Scotland, whether you’re going to be sightseeing around the cities, taking boat trips to islands or hiking up some hills a water bottle is a must!

I’ve fallen in love with these Yeti rambler water bottles recently after seeing a local shop stock them – they are a little bit of an investment but since they should last forever and a day that’s not too bad. I love that you can get different tops for them and they are so rugged too – definitely a keeper!

Clothes and Shoes to take to Scotland

A little note on clothes to take. I’m not going to dive deep here because what everyone want to wear is different from person to person! I’m also not a fashion icon (really? I know – surprising!)

Like much of the advice so far, taking into account the weather is going to dictate to you what you’l bring.

You’ll also want to bear in mind the time of year you plan to travel and what your intended itinerary will be like – are you planning to be outdoors or are you planning to chill in the cities?

So with that in mind here’s some ideas of what clothes to pack for your Scotland trip:

  • Layers – even in summer you can find that it can be chilly
  • Light cover up for evenings – a jumper or cardigan is a good idea
  • A hat – a warm hat can be good all year round, especially if you’re hiking up hills.
  • Thermal layers can be useful out of high season.
  • Waterproof trousers can be a good addition too. (ALL the waterproofs!)
  • Long sleeve tops are good if you’re in midge prone areas.

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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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