Scotland's winter chill begins to tame ever so slightly with the arrival of spring in the latter half of the month. This is when temperatures creep upward in the Lowlands, while mountainous areas of the Highlands can remain snow-covered. There are variations depending on where you go. Thanks to the Gulf Stream and westerly winds that carry temperate air and rain clouds from the North Atlantic, the west coast tends to be warmer, rainier, and greener than the east coast this time of year. Still, average temperatures in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, and Aberdeen are similar this month and typically reach daily highs of 48°F (9°C) while lows are above freezing at 36°F (2°C).
Due to this infamous unpredictable climate, you should expect a mix of sunshine, clouds, and precipitation each day. Pack warm, waterproof layers, thick socks, and sturdy footwear that can keep your feet dry during outdoor activities.
Crowds & Costs
March is the end of the low season before the spring shoulder season arrives. This is a great time to travel like a local where you can experience the country's natural beauty with fewer crowds at the popular attractions and more peaceful drives through the islands and countryside. Look for weekday flights, which tend to offer better prices than weekend travel. Keep in mind that rates for accommodations will likely increase in late March with the arrival of spring breakers.
Where to Go
Scotland is a compact country with rugged coastlines, offshore islands, and stunning lochs and interiors. Many visitors start their journey in the Lowlands, where the country's two biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, are located less than an hour apart by train. If it's your first time, take a few days to explore one or both as they offer several landmarks and attractions (though Edinburgh, the capital, is arguably more charming). You can base yourself in one city for a shorter trip and plan a range of day trips to places like St Andrews, Scotland's oldest university, Cairngorms National Park, and Loch Ness.
Travelers who have more time can plan a self-guided road trip and take advantage of fewer crowds this time of year. March is a great time to venture along the west coast, where the landscapes are fresh and green from the frequent 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. The best part about this northern route is that it takes you through Glencoe Valley for some of the best scenery and hikes in the Highlands; this is also where the highest peak in the United Kingdom, called Ben Nevis, is located.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
First-timers in Edinburgh should check off key sights along the Royal Mile leading to Edinburgh Castle, where you can take a private tour and learn about the historic fortress dating back to the 2nd century. Another must is to take a brisk walk up to Arthur's Seat, the city's highest point, where you'll find a stunning view of the city's iconic churches and medieval buildings.
Glasgow, for its part, is the biggest city in Scotland and offers beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and museums, like Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which houses one of Europe's great art collections. Check out the medieval Glasgow Cathedral, the oldest cathedral on mainland Scotland, as well as gentrifying neighborhoods in this fun-loving city.
If you choose a road trip through the Hebridean Islands, you'll have a plethora of gorgeous coastal roads, medieval castles, and outdoor activities like hiking and sea kayaking. You can also plot an extensive seafood route by picking up a Seafood Trail map that focuses on Scotland's west coast featuring member restaurants. You can also visit distilleries. If you are in Oban, plan a visit to the 18th-century Oban Distillery for a guided tour. In the Isle of Islay, you'll find numerous distilleries, like Lagavulin, that produce the island's peaty single malts.
Take part in Scotland's version of the Danish hygge after dark wherever you go. This Scottish sense of coziness often incorporates tartan blankets and glasses of whisky in front of a roaring fireplace. Keep an eye upward as Scotland's expansive dark sky is ideal for stargazing; if lucky, you may even see a glimmer of the Northern Lights.
Events in March
Fort William Mountain Festival, Braemar. Snow-based activities, skills training, and music and ceilidh dancing in early March.
Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Glasgow. Featuring top comedians.
Bunkered Live Golf Show, Glasgow. Golfing expo includes lessons from professional golfers.
Easter weekend, nationwide. Depending on the year, Easter may fall in late March or April; festivities start with 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 and a traditional Sunday lunch that might include roast lamb and a special fruitcake with layers of almond paste and marzipan called Simnel cake.
Traveling to Scotland in March? Check out these great itineraries
Scottish Highlands Self-Drive Tour - 8 Days. Discover the enchanting history and dramatic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. Drive north from Edinburgh into the rugged highlands to explore ancient castles, visit important battle sites, visit Loch Ness, and ride the world's most scenic railway.
Scenic Scotland: Edinburgh, Inverness & Skye - 7 Days. This itinerary is the perfect introduction to Scotland's most scenic locales. Beginning and ending in Edinburgh, you'll set off into the rugged Highlands and delve into the history of the Culloden Battlefield, cruise the legendary waters of Loch Ness, and tour whisky distilleries on the Isle of Skye.
More Helpful Information
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Best Time of Year to Visit Scotland
How Many Days to Spend in Scotland