It's festival time in Edinburgh when the capital bursts to capacity with several top-notch events featuring books, films, and military bands—and, of course, the world's largest arts fest called Fringe. Nature-seekers, for their part, can find plenty of space elsewhere, from the coasts and islands to the rugged Highlands. Wherever you travel, you'll want to plan your trip far in advance during the peak season.


It's the last full month of summer and a prime time to explore Scotland's natural attractions with long daylight hours, upwards of 13 to 15 hours per day. This is one of the warmest months of the year (along with July), and you should expect some rain, though just how much depends on where you travel. Western Scotland will likely see more drizzle and wind from the North Atlantic, while the eastern half boasts more sunshine with an occasional bout of haar (sea fret), cold fog from the North Sea that can interrupt a lovely beach day or a round of golf.

Temperatures are pretty consistent throughout Scotland at sea level and get cooler at higher elevations. Edinburgh typically reaches daily highs of 64°F (18°C) and lows of 52°F (11°C) in August, while the UK's highest peak, Ben Nevis, located at 4,413 feet (1,345 m), sees average highs in the 47°F (8°C) range and lows of 39°F (4°C).

With the fickle weather, pack layers that can help you transition from warm sunshine to sudden overcast, rainy skies. You'll also want to bring a waterproof jacket, an umbrella, and sturdy walking/hiking shoes that can handle moisture. Another summer uncertainty: Beware of midges, small gnat-like insects in the countryside that can bite during the summer months. There are methods to avoid midges since they thrive in humidity and still air and usually swarm in the early mornings and evenings.

Crowds & Costs

August is the peak tourist season in Scotland with the highest prices for flights, accommodations, car rentals, and activities—so book early to secure availability and the best rate. Many European families choose to travel this month before school returns to session, so you'll find plenty of company at the popular lochs (lakes), islands, and hiking trails. This is also a popular time to attend summer events like the Highland games and all the festivals in Edinburgh. Locals also like to get on the road during the first weekend of the month during the bank holiday.

Where to Go

Thanks to a packed schedule of impressive events, most visitors have their sights set on Edinburgh this month. First-timers will want to explore the capital's famous attractions on either side of the Royal Mile with uphill climbs to Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park for epic views. Day trips are easy from Edinburgh, whether you want to visit Stirling Castle, take a coastal trail between villages in Fife, or head to St Andrews. You can see the university, play golf (the sport originated here in the 15th century), or walk along the two-mile West Sands Beach.

With more time, you can take a road trip up the eastern coastline to explore a string of beautiful villages, towns, and ports that offer coastal walks and wonderful seafood, like the town of Arbroath, which is known for a smoked haddock called the Arbroath Smokie. Continue north to get to the third-largest city in Scotland, called Aberdeen, with access to the entire Aberdeenshire region. Between seafood meals, visit castles and whisky distilleries, and enjoy hiking trails in Cairngorms National Park.

If you have more time, continue along a scenic route called the North Coast 500 or hop on a ferry to get to the lesser-visited archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland.

Alternatively, Scotland's west coast offers ferry trips to the peaceful Hebrides. Or, take the historic train that travels from Fort William, the adventure capital of the UK, to the northern Isle of Skye, which stands out for its spectacular scenery with sea cliffs, waterfalls, and the Quiraing mountain pass—one of the most scenic viewpoints in the country. A good base while on the island is the photo-worthy harbor town of Portree, where you can end each day's adventures with lively pubs and restaurants.

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What to Do

Edinburgh shines this month (look below for a list of some of the events). The Fringe Festival spans nearly the entire month, offering more than 50,000 performances in hundreds of venues around town. There's no choice but to participate in the fun atmosphere, and you'll want to come prepared by booking tickets for events, activities, and restaurants in advance. You may also want to hire a private guide to take you around the city who can maneuver the influx of crowds and offer local tips.

Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, shouldn't be left out. This is a great day trip from Edinburgh and takes less than an hour to arrive by train. Summer is a perfect time to walk through the historic squares and parks, stopping at a museum like the Kelvingrove Art Museum and Gallery, People's Palace Museum, or Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).

From either city, you can take a day trip to the mountainous Highlands near Inverness, stopping to visit one of the country's most famous attractions, Loch Ness—home to the mythical monster called Nessie. You can walk along the waterfront, while braver types can take a boat tour with live sonar. Above the shores is Urquhart Castle, with a visitor's center and café serving lunch.

You won't have to go far in Scotland to find a hiking or biking trail. Spend a day on the trail, or embark on a multi-day trek like the West Highland Way through the spectacular Glencoe Valley. If you have a few months, tackle the Scottish National Trail that spans the length of the whole country. With a private guide, you can also ascend Ben Nevis, the UK's highest peak in about four hours.

While the summer weather is still warm, take advantage of opportunities to go sea kayaking, swimming, and sailing on the west coast while keeping an eye out for marine life. This is one of the best months to spot whales around the bays and rocky caves of Isle of Mull and the Inner Hebrides. Keep an eye out for humpback and minke whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

Events in August

Summer Bank Holiday, nationwide. The first Monday in August is a national public holiday. Expect closures and lots of Scots traveling and enjoying the three-day weekend.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh. This gathering of military marching bands is set against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. Come to hear and see musicians, singers, dancers, gymnasts, and other acts.

Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh. Each August, the capital hosts a popular festival for three weeks, putting on the best international music, dance, drama, and opera.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh. This all-ages celebration of the arts is one of the most famous festivals in the world. Come for a vibrant mix of comedy, music, musicals, theater, dance, events, exhibitions, and children's shows.

Edinburgh International Film Festival, Edinburgh. This major film festival showcases some of the best new movies in Britain and around the globe, with opportunities to meet the artists involved in film-making. 

Traveling to Scotland in August? Check out these great itineraries

Scenic Scotland: Edinburgh, Highlands & Islands - 10 Days. This self-drive itinerary has you sampling your way through Scotland's Highlands and islands as it combines stunning scenery with unforgettable culinary excursions.

Ultimate Scotland: Golf, Whisky & Trekking in the Highlands - 14 Days. This epic adventure brings together some of Scotland's most iconic experiences: golfing at St Andrews and sampling whisky on the Isle of Skye. You'll also discover Edinburgh's Old Town, take a three-day trek along the famed West Highland Way, and explore the wild beauty of Cairngorms National Park.

More Helpful Information

Scotland in July
Scotland in September
Best Time of Year to Visit Scotland
How Many Days to Spend in Scotland