Spring is officially here. April is an uplifting month when the Scots dust off winter and embrace sunnier, milder weather and blooming flowers (though snow-covered mountains might persist). This is an ideal time for taking an outdoorsy road trip broken up by hikes and coastal walks before the summer crowds arrive. Don't miss the festival dedicated to whiskey near Cairngorms National Park.

Weather

April is a surprisingly beautiful month to visit Scotland with more sun, less rain, and cheerful spring blossoms—plus longer daylight hours to enjoy it all. Of course, there are slight variations depending on where you travel. The west coast has influences from westerly winds that carry temperate air from the North Atlantic, while Scotland's higher altitudes may reveal snow-topped peaks. Temperatures remain consistent, though: Edinburgh typically reaches daily highs of 52°F (11°C) and lows around 39°F (4°C), while the northwest town of Portree on the Isle of Skye reaches average highs of 54°F (12°C) and lows of 41°F (5°C).

The Scottish climate is fickle, and you should come prepared for a mix of sunshine, overcast skies, and precipitation in spring. Pack smart layers, a waterproof jacket, and good walking shoes to keep your feet warm and dry while enjoying the sights and scenery. 

Crowds & Costs

This is the spring shoulder season in Scotland and a great time to beat the crowds and snag off-season deals before the peak tourist season kicks off in June. Not only will you have more elbow room, but you'll have more options and flexibility in bookings. Book early and consider traveling mid-week instead of the weekend to get the best rates. If Easter falls in April, you should definitely book early to secure availability, especially for accommodations and car rentals. One more piece of good news for April? Any attractions that may have closed for winter should be reopened now.

Where to Go

Scotland is a compact country making up the northern half of Great Britain with more than 900 offshore islands. Where you go might depend on how much time you have. Picture Scotland divided into the Highlands and the Lowlands. Most visitors begin and end their journey by arriving in the Lowlands, in one of the country's two biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, by plane, train, or automobile—and you can easily visit both since they are located less than an hour apart by train.

If you only have a few days in Scotland, you can base yourself in one of the cities and take day trips, since many highlights of Scotland can be accessed in a few hours by car, including castles, charming medieval towns, and national parks. For example, you could take a full-day trip from either city to the northern Highlands and hike in Cairngorms National Park, walk along Loch Ness, and see Urquhart Castle before returning in time for dinner. 

Travelers with more time might consider a self-guided road trip with various stops, and this is a great time to take advantage of fewer crowds than in the summer months. Springtime is a beautiful season to venture along the west coast, where the landscapes are fresh and green from winter rains. A good base for exploring some of the many offshore islands is Oban, a charming fishing town that acts as a gateway to the Hebridean Islands with boat trips to the isles of Iona, Mull, and Staffa.

Alternatively, drive north to get to the Isle of Skye, a dramatically scenic island with a colorful harbor town called Portree. To get there, you can drive through Glencoe Valley for some of the best scenery, including Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK.

Scotland's east coast also is ideal for scenic road trips with spring wildflowers, castles, distilleries, coastal walks, and restaurants serving fresh catch. Make your way up to Scotland's third-largest city of Aberdeen in the Highlands, or stay closer to Edinburgh and walk between the harbor towns of Fife with access to golf courses, Falkland Palace, and Scotland's oldest university at St Andrews.

What to Do

Put on a layer and explore the hilly streets and parks of Edinburgh's UNESCO-listed Old and New Towns. Walk along the Royal Mile, home to parliaments, churches, and visitor attractions, to get your bearings. On one end is Edinburgh Castle, where you can climb Castle Hill and learn about one of the oldest fortified places in Europe, while on the other end is the 16th-century Palace of Holyroodhouse, conveniently located near Holyrood Park, the largest green space in Edinburgh with 650 acres. This is where you can hike to Arthur's Seat, the city's highest point offering spectacular views of the city's iconic churches and medieval buildings.

Scotland's biggest city is Glasgow, and you could easily spend a day or two exploring the Victorian architecture, gentrifying neighborhoods, and green spaces sprinkled around the city. Take a walk or bike ride around Kelvingrove Park and then enter the free-of-charge Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery with 22 themed galleries.

This is also an ideal time to rent a car and explore Scotland's countryside and coastline at your own pace, bursting with bluebells, primroses, and fields of yellow rapeseed. You'll be spoiled for choice with walking, hiking, and biking options. Long-distance hikers can traverse the West Highland Way, a 96-mile (154-km) journey between Milngavie to Fort William, or head to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park for a half-day hike before continuing west toward the islands.

If you have time to ferry to the Hebridean Islands, you can create your own route with coastal hikes, bike rides, and sea kayaking tours, along with various opportunities to see historical gems and medieval castles. You can also pick up a Seafood Trail map that focuses on Scotland's west coast featuring member restaurants. Scotland has several more foodie trails featuring items like cheese, chocolate, and even one dedicated to the Arbroath smokie, a locally smoked haddock famous on the east coast.

Whiskey lovers will not have to travel far to find a tour or tasting, like the 18th-century Oban distillery on the mainland or the Lagavulin distillery on the Isle of Islay that produces the island's signature peaty flavor. Several dozens of brands are located in a small region called Speyside in the Highlands near Cairngorms National Park. After a day in the rugged mountains, reward yourself with tastings at world-famous distilleries like The Glenlivet, The Macallan, and Glenfiddich—or see them all at the Speyside whiskey festival at the end of the month (more below).

Events in April

Easter weekend, nationwide. Easter can occur in late March or April, depending on the year, and festivities kick off on Good Friday, a public holiday in Scotland (expect closures). This is a weekend for families to spend time together and enjoy fun traditions like Easter egg decorating and hunts. A traditional Sunday lunch might include roast lamb and a special fruitcake with layers of almond paste and marzipan called Simnel cake.

Edinburgh Science Festival, Edinburgh. Scotland's capital delivers one of Europe's largest science festivals each April. This family-friendly event draws all ages who participate in a range of events, exhibitions, and activities around the Royal Botanical Garden.

Beltane Fire Festival, Edinburgh. On the last evening of April (April 30th), snag tickets for this unique ancient Celtic festival on Calton Hill in Edinburgh to celebrate the onset of warmer, longer days in May. Look for elaborate costumes, special bonfires, drums, and other performances.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, Speyside. Malt whiskey lovers might want to travel to this annual festival in northeast Scotland centered around their favorite drink. The region of Speyside is known for its distilleries and is considered a protected region for Scotch whisky. Festival-goers will find tastings and traditional food, music, and events centered around the heritage and culture of the region.

Traveling to Scotland in April? Check out these great itineraries

Guided Scottish Highlands Adventure - 7 Days. This private, fully-guided tour of the Scottish Highlands takes you hiking around the famous Isle of Skye, sea kayaking among seals in the Sound of Arisaig, and mountain biking in Cairngorms National Park. Relax in boutique hotels, enjoying Scottish culinary delights, and warm Highland hospitality in the evenings.

Discover Scotland - 9 Days. With your home base in Edinburgh, this adventure takes you on a series of day trips through historic cities, quaint towns and villages, beautiful countryside, and some of the best whiskey distilleries in the world.

More Helpful Information

Scotland in March
Scotland in May
Best Time of Year to Visit Scotland
How Many Days to Spend in Scotland