It's late autumn in Scotland, and anything goes in terms of weather. You might get crisp, cool air and sunshine, mild rain and wind, moody cloud formations, or some mixture of all the above. One thing is for certain: Days are getting shorter, with about 7.5 hours of daylight by the end of the month (hello, early sunsets). Travelers who come in the first half of the month are likely to catch the last bits of dazzling fall foliage, while the second half of the month could bring frost or snow, especially in the northern Highlands.
There are regional differences in weather depending on where you travel: Western Scotland (including Glasgow) will likely see slightly milder temperatures from the Gulf Stream, plus more rain and wind coming from the North Atlantic, while eastern Scotland (including Edinburgh) will likely receive less rain and slightly cooler temperatures, hence the potential frost and snow. To put it in numbers, Oban on the west coast sees average highs of 50°F (10°C) and lows of 43°F (6°C) this month, while St Andrews on the east coast sees average highs of 48°F (9°C) and lows of 36°F (2°C).
Given the cooler temperatures and changeable weather that can often shift at a moment's notice, it's best to come prepared with warm layers, a waterproof jacket, a hat and gloves, an umbrella, and sturdy walking shoes that keep your feet warm and dry on various terrains.
Crowds & Costs
November is a fantastic time to visit Scotland for those who like uncrowded environs and atmospheric autumn weather. In fact, this is one of the cheapest months of the year to travel and a great opportunity to find deals on flights, accommodations, car rentals, and activities before the Christmas season. You'll find plenty of elbow room while exploring Glasgow and Edinburgh's top museums and attractions, as well as light traffic on the scenic roads allowing you to pull over on a whim to explore Scotland's photogenic landscapes at your own pace.
Keep in mind that some popular tourist attractions, including castles, distilleries, boat tours, and even some hotels and restaurants depending on where you go, may shutter for the low season so it's wise to check the hours of operation in advance.
Where to Go
Scotland has a surprising number of trip options with several coastlines, hundreds of lochs and offshore islands, and a mountainous interior despite its diminutive size. A good place to start is picturing the country divided into the Highlands and the Lowlands. The major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh are located in the Lowlands, less than an hour apart by train. They are often at the forefront of travel itineraries since this is where most visitors arrive.
Once you have explored one or both cities, consider your next move. Scotland's compact geography is ideal for taking day trips, which is a good option this time of year since the daylight hours are limited. From either city, you can take a train south to the Scottish Borders to see the Gothic 12th-century Melrose Abbey, or a train north to visit the former capital of Scotland at Stirling Castle. You can also spend a day on the east coast at St Andrews for a round of golf and to see the oldest university in Scotland, or head into the northern Highlands for an autumn walk along Loch Ness.
With more time, you can plot a longer trip in the Northern Highlands with hiking and potential wildlife spotting in Cairngorms National Park, followed by tours at famous whisky distilleries in Speyside, and seafood restaurants along the pristine east coast near Aberdeen. You could also spend a quiet week meandering along the northern coast on a route called the North Coast 500. Meanwhile, the more visited west coast has numerous options from the dramatic attractions on the Isle of Skye to famous hiking trails near Fort William, the adventure capital of the UK.
If you would like to relax in the sea air, head to the charming town of Oban—the seafood capital of Scotland—with ferry access to several of the Hebrides for a range of coastal walks and a slower pace of life.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
With more elbow room, you can slow down and wander through the UNESCO-listed capital of Edinburgh before the crowds pick up in December for Christmas festivities and outdoor markets. A good place to start is walking along the Royal Mile with meandering cobbled streets and winding alleys that inspired J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. On one end of the famous mile is the iconic fortress of Edinburgh Castle, while on the other end is the Holyrood Palace, home of Scotland's British monarchy.
Nearby Holyrood Park is where you can climb to the top to see Arthur's Seat for excellent city views, or head down below and explore Edinburgh's 18th century Underground City with eerie chambers and catacombs. Rainy days are ideal for visiting the capital's museums like the Writers' Museum with many exhibits dedicated to Scotland's great literary figures, or the Scottish National Gallery in the heart of Edinburgh.
In up-and-coming Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery And Museum has an enormous collection of European artwork that could keep you busy for the whole day. Or head for the sleek Riverside Museum, designed by Zaha Hadid, with thousands of objects highlighting Scotland's transport history. Another option in Glasgow is the People's Palace And Winter Gardens, which combines paintings, films, and a glasshouse in the oldest park in the city, Glasgow Green.
Outdoorsy types can spend a day or more in one of Scotland's two national parks for a range of hiking trails for all abilities with possible sightings of red deer and eagles. However, you won't have to look hard for a scenic hiking trail, uncrowded beach, or coastal path to get some exercise. For instance, Loch Lomond near Glasgow has a beautiful waterfront route that takes about five hours on a marked trail, or you can hike to various waterfalls on the Isle of Skye, including the crystal-clear Fairy Pools.
Laid-back types can easily spend several days driving around the countryside following historic sights, or one of Scotland's food and drink trails featuring member restaurants and purveyors. However you spend your days, the Scots know how to handle autumn and winter evenings well with their version of the Danish hygge, called Còsagach, often in the form of wood-burning fireplaces, candles, and tartan blankets. Keep an eye on the sky, too, for stargazing and possible glimpses of the Northern Lights.
Events in November
Glasgow Whisky Fest, Glasgow. This fun event lets you learn about Scotch whisky from local experts. Take part in various tastings and classes or sip, eat, and enjoy some live music.
Guy Fawkes Night, Britain-wide. Also known as bonfire night, November 5 marks the anniversary of discovering a plot organized by traitors to destroy the Houses of Parliament in London in the 17th century. You might spot bonfires around Scotland and people lighting off fireworks after dark.
St. Andrew's Day, nationwide. This national public holiday is celebrated every November 30 to celebrate the patron saint of Scotland. Look for traditional dancing and cultural events.
Traveling to Scotland in November? Check out these great itineraries
The North Coast 500: Road Trip Through the Scottish Highlands - 5 Days. Experience one of the world's most scenic driving routes on this 5-day journey along Scotland's north coast, with empty beaches, hidden lochs, and rugged coastlines.
Hike Scotland's Highlands & Islands: Glen Coe, Ben Nevis & the Isle of Skye - 9 Days. This active hiking itinerary travels through some of Scotland's most spectacular landscapes, including the rugged mountains, secluded coves, and idyllic villages of the Inner Hebrides.