Scotland in May: Our Complete Guide

Scotland in May

When deciding when to travel to Scotland, May is often considered one of the best months to explore the country. As the final month of spring, May offers excellent weather, fewer crowds at major attractions, and blossoming flora and fauna throughout the countryside. While visiting Scotland at any point during the year provides its unique benefits, May has the best mix of elements that travellers love.

We’ve outlined a complete guide to visiting Scotland in May, from the weather you can expect, things to do, events, and so much more. Let’s dive right into it!

Weather in Scotland in May

Weather in May

While summer attracts the most tourists on the Scottish calendar, spring will surprise first-time visitors with how gorgeous and sunny the weather can be. Average temperatures in May hover between 6 – 14℃ (43 – 57℉), with mild weather without much rain. May is typically a dry month, coming in second place to April.

Its long daylight hours complement the sunny, mild temperatures in Scotland in May. You can expect about 17 hours of daylight each day, which grows longer as the month progresses.

Visiting in May also means you miss most midges from June to September. Midges are annoying mosquito-like insects that leave itchy, red bites that can spoil your day. If you want to avoid them, then make sure to visit during the beginning of May.

How to Pack for Scotland in May

While May is not a cold month and rarely experiences bad weather, there are some essentials that you should always include:

A Warm Jacket

While May has excellent weather for exploring the quieter side of Scotland, it’s still worth taking along a warm jacket and a windbreaker. Certain parts of Scotland, like the West Coast and Scottish Highlands, still occasionally have a chill in the air that short pants and sleeves won’t protect you from.

A Light Scarf and Gloves

May is one of Scotland’s driest months and has relatively mild weather, but you can still expect a slight chill in the evenings and early mornings. A small scarf and pair of gloves aren’t only a fashionable choice perfect for taking pictures, but they’re the ideal thing to wear for a Scottish outing.


Sunscreen, sometimes called sun tan lotion in Scotland, is essential if you’re planning to take advantage of the sunny May days. While many visitors pop by Scotland’s white sand beaches in summer, wearing sunscreen for any outdoor activity will avoid an unexpected sunburn.

Things to Do in Scotland in May

May is such a hidden gem for visitors. While the Scottish summer months experience the peak of tourists, May is even better for experiencing much of Scotland’s attractions and things to do. Schools break in June, meaning you can stop by the highlights in May with far fewer crowds.

Here are a few top attractions and things you can look forward to on your visit to Scotland in May.

Visit Scotland’s Whisky Month

Whisky Month

Did you know that May contains World Whisky Day? It’s usually on the third Saturday of the month and features several fantastic whisky festivals to commemorate the occasion. In fact, May is considered Scotland’s whisky month—so there’s no excuse not to visit at least a few distilleries.

Whisky distilleries in May usually offer several packages, offers, and limited edition whiskies for visitors, making each distillery a unique trip that you can’t replicate at any other time of the year. Make sure you take a tour of the distillery (with a private guide or at your own pace) before you complete a tasting, as you’ll find that each sip will be elevated once you know a little bit of its history.

Major whisky distilleries to visit in May include Glen Moray Distillery, Springbank Distillery, and Torabhaig Distillery on the Isle of Skye.

Indulge in May’s Seasonal Selection

Seasonal Selection

As spring ends and summer begins, May is a great month for foodies who want to enjoy various fruits, vegetables, and proteins! Asparagus is the month’s highlight, with a short season that lasts until mid-June.

If you’re not a fan of vegetables, then you may prefer May’s decadent strawberry season! Whether you like them on their own or part of some traditional cranachan, they’re fresh when picked in May. The closer you visit to the summer months, the more variety of berries you can try, including raspberries, tayberries, and gooseberries.

As for meats, May is a great season for Scotland’s flatfish—megrim and turbot! These fish are excellent when braised and are often more sustainable than cod. Famers will usually also sell tender lamb meat from the spring flock throughout the country, which pairs well with a plate of greens and a wee dram during May’s whisky month.

Explore Scotland’s Wildlife

Scotland's Wildlife

During May, Scotland’s wildlife is out in full force! There are plenty of opportunities to see critters throughout the natural beauty of Scotland, from sea eagles, seals, deer, and squirrels.

Avid birdwatchers will be delighted to hear that Scotland is home to several unique species of seabirds, including kittiwakes, puffins, and terns—usually perched on precarious cliffs and outcroppings. Taking one of many boat trips around the Scottish coastline is recommended.

Otherwise, venturing into Scotland’s national parks and wildlife centres gives ample opportunity to see wildlife up close and personal. The Handa Wildlife Park and Cairngorm Reindeer Centre are fan favourites.

Stop by Scotland’s Major Attractions

Scotland's Major Attractions

By May, many of Scotland’s biggest attractions are open for business and eager to show off the fascinating Scottish history they were involved in. Ancient castles, towering standing stones, and museums packed full of artefacts and paintings are but a few of the places you should consider adding to your to-do list.

Spending at least a few hours at hotspots like Edinburgh Castle, Linlithgow Palace, and Scotland’s National Galleries is easy. Take it at your own pace, and you’ll be surprised how quickly the time flies by.

Take a Spring Trip around Scotland

Spring Trip

City breaks are a common place to spend your Scottish holiday, but May’s great weather and long daylight hours give the perfect chance to take a road trip around Scotland. Whether it’s the North Coast 500 or just seeing where the road takes you, there are plenty of authentic experiences to find in small fishing villages and nooks throughout the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands.

If you want a new perspective on Scottish culture, avoid Glasgow and Edinburgh and take to the road on the spring trip.

Hike Up a Scottish Munro

Scottish Munros

While still colder than July and August, May is warm enough to allow hiking and climbing up a few of Scotland’s Munros. Hiking up these behemoths (at least 3,000 feet) isn’t for the faint of heart but is well worth undertaking if you’re fit enough. Fort William and Cairngorms walking and hiking trails are often the most popular choice, but several Munros are in Scotland to tackle.

If you want an extra guide, consider hiring one of the local travel experts or a private guide to assist in planning or leading on guided walks to the summit. The view from many of the Munros could be considered one of the world’s natural wonders, so don’t forfeit the opportunity to attempt this challenge.

Tee off On Scottish Golf Courses

Scottish Golf Courses

A few things come to mind when speaking about Scotland—whisky, kilts, bagpipes, and golf. The sport initially started in Scotland, specifically in St Andrews, as early as 1552 and has since been a staple internationally. During the warm days of early May, you can take advantage of the shoulder season’s lower prices to tackle some of the best golf courses in the world, including a few that resemble their ancient counterparts from the 1500s.

Tee off surrounded by dunes and cherry blossoms at golf courses all over Scotland!

Events in May in Scotland

Scotland Events

Pair your sightseeing agenda with a few of May’s spectacular events, and you’ll have an excellent time. From whisky festivals during whisky month to Highland games, don’t plan a trip to Scotland in May without attending one of these events.

Spirit of Speyside (1 – 6 May, Speyside Region)

Early May includes the Spirit of Speyside Festival, a necessary event for whisky lovers coming to Scotland. Speyside has historically been the largest whisky-producing region in Scotland, and the Spirit of Speyside is an annual festival made to celebrate the premier whisky made here.

You can delight in several events over the week, from whisky tastings to distillery tours, music, food and drink, and so much more. There are 51 working distilleries in Speyside, and the Spirit of Speyside offers the chance to find your favourite. Don’t miss it!

Newton Stewart WalkFest (10 – 16 May, Newton Stewart)

Dumfries and Galloway is a picturesque region of Scotland, often called its best-kept secret for how few tourists take the time to visit. One highlight of the May calendar is the Newton Stewart WalkFest, which shows off the often-forgotten unspoilt landscapes of Dumfries and Galloway with a WalkFest!

This event has 30 routes to choose from spanning its 7-day duration, so take your pick and come and see one of the most beautiful landscapes in the whole country.

Arran Mountain Festival (17 – 20 May, Isle of Arran)

Another stellar event in May is the Arran Mountain Festival. This outdoor festival is Scotland’s premier hillwalking and mountaineering festival and offers the chance to meet, speak, and walk with other like-minded lovers of nature on the Isle of Arran.

Tackle a few of the Isle’s mountains, including Ceum a Cailich and Caisteal Abhail, with Scottish and international climbers, and you may just make some lifetime friends.

Orkney Folk Festival (23 – 26 May, Orkney)

We’ve covered a few events on the Scottish Mainland, but for the Orkney Folk Festival, you’ll need to travel to the northernmost parts of Scotland! Why would you want to travel so far for an event? Well, the Orkney Isles are one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, mixing Scottish and Norse history into a beautiful cultural blend.

The Orkney Folk Festival celebrates this unique culture over 4 days, featuring music, dancing, great food and drink, and so much more.

Edinburgh International Children’s Festival (28 May – 2 June, Edinburgh)

If you’re bringing a wee one with you on your Scottish trip in May, then take advantage of the opportunity to stop by the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival near the end of the month. This 9-day festival is jam-packed with amazing activities, including theatre shows regaining Scottish folklore, painting opportunities, and several pop-up performances by local entertainers and teachers.

The Atholl Gathering (26 May, Blair Atholl)

We can’t mention events in Scotland without talking about the Highland Games. The Atholl Gathering is one of the most famous traditional games festivals and takes place at the stunning Blair Castle in Blair Atholl. Witness Scottish men and women face off against one another to find out which of them is the strongest in games like tossing the caber, tug o war, and hammer throwing.

Pipers and dancers set the atmosphere ablaze with Highland music, and you can enjoy the festivities with refreshments and food in hand—what more could you ask for?

Frequently Asked Questions

Planning a trip to Scotland in May can be overwhelming, so we’ve outlined a few questions that are frequently asked and answered for you to read below.

Will There Be Snow in May in Scotland?

While there’s a chance to experience significant snowfalls right up until the beginning of May, it’s unlikely that you’ll be knee-deep in snow while travelling to Scotland’s cities. Snow often falls at higher elevations, so by late spring, you’ll often only see snow on the tops of mountains or very far north parts of the country.

If you’re concerned about snowfall during your visit, be sure to check the weather conditions ahead of time.

What is the Nicest Time of Year to Visit Scotland?

May is undoubtedly a contender for the nicest time of year to visit Scotland. The weather is mild and beginning to warm to summer temperatures, while attractions have fewer crowds than in June, July, and August. Schools aren’t on summer holiday yet, adding to the tranquil May atmosphere.

Between May and September are the nicest times to visit Scotland. You can expect great weather, moderate temperatures, and open attractions.

Is May a Good Time to Visit Scotland?

Absolutely! May is an excellent time of year to visit Scotland. Not only can you see many of summer’s attractions before anyone else, but they’re often cheaper than during June, July, and August. People often say May is a hidden gem of a month for visits to Scotland, so why not see if that’s true when planning your next visit?

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