With early hints of autumn, September is considered one of the best months of the year to travel to Scotland. This is a great time to explore Edinburgh's top sights and take a scenic road trip with fewer crowds than in August, though you can always find a festive vibe at the Pitlochry Highland Games with members of the British royal family.


September marks the transition from summer to fall when daylight hours are visibly decreasing in Northern Europe—under 12 hours a day by the end of the month. This is also one of the rainiest months of the year, though just how much rain you'll get depends on where you travel. Western Scotland will likely see more moisture and wind from the North Atlantic, while the eastern half boasts less rain and more sunshine—keep an eye out for cold bouts of sudden fog from the North Sea called haar.

Temperatures this month are pretty consistent throughout Scotland at sea level and get cooler at higher elevations. Edinburgh typically reaches daily highs of 61°F (16°C) and lows of 48°F (9°C) in September. Meanwhile, the UK's highest peak, Ben Nevis, located at 4,413 feet (1,345 m), sees average highs in the 44°F (7°C) range and lows of 36°F (2°C).

Given the fickle weather, you should come prepared with layers that can transition from late summer warmth to overcast, rainy skies. You'll also want to bring a waterproof jacket, an umbrella, and sturdy walking/hiking shoes that can handle moisture. If you're traveling in the countryside, beware of midges, small gnat-like insects that can bite during the summer months, though they lessen significantly by late September. There are methods to avoid midges since they thrive in humid, windless air and usually swarm in the early mornings and evenings.

Crowds & Costs

September marks the fall shoulder season—the sweet spot between high and low season when the weather is still nice, but the rates for flights, accommodations, car rentals, and activities start to fall. Families are usually returning to their fall routines this month, so there will be more space at the picturesque lochs (lakes), islands, and hiking trails, as well as the famous sights in Edinburgh following a jam-packed August festival schedule. If you're looking for the lowest rates and fewest crowds throughout Scotland, look toward the second half of the month.

Where to Go

Despite its compact size, it can be difficult to decide where to go in Scotland since there are many distinct coastlines, islands, and inland attractions. A good way to visualize the country is to break it into the Lowlands and the Highlands. Many visitors arrive in the Lowlands, where most of the Scots live, especially Glasgow, the up-and-coming biggest city in Scotland, and Edinburgh, the smaller, more touristy capital. Either place has enough attractions to keep you busy for a few days, and it's easy to visit both since they are located less than an hour apart by train.

It's also easy to see some of the countryside's best highlights within a 2- to 3-hour drive from either city. From Edinburgh, you can day trip to the Highlands to visit Cairngorms National Park, Loch Ness, and Urquhart Castle. Or head east to St. Andrews to take a beach walk, play a round of golf (it's where the sport originated), or visit the oldest university in Scotland. If you have more time, plan a longer trip north along the eastern coast for seafood, whisky distilleries, and famous castles like Balmoral.

Closer to Glasgow is Scotland's intricate west coast with hiking trails in and around Glencoe Valley and several Hebridean isles that can be reached by boat from the charming town of Oban. If you have more time, make your way up to the Isle of Skye, where you can explore the stunning natural wonders while based in Portree. Or, take a peaceful road trip on the North Coast 500, a 512-mile route that explores Scotland's lesser-visited northern coastline with access to the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

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What to Do

Most first-time visitors in Scotland have their sights set on the popular attractions in Edinburgh, and now that the August crowds have dissipated, it's a lovely time to take your time and wander. Check off key sights along the Royal Mile leading to Edinburgh Castle, where you can take a private tour. Another uphill walk is to head to the top of the wild landscapes in Holyrood Park to get to Arthur's Seat, the city's highest point, where you'll be rewarded with a view of iconic churches and medieval buildings.

Glasgow offers dozens of parks and squares to spend time outdoors, perhaps with a bike ride and picnic, as well as beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and museums, like Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (housing 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.

Hiking and coastal walks of all lengths are found all over Scotland. Serious hikers can consider a longer route, like the 96-mile West Highland Way between Lairig Mor and Fort William, the adventure capital of the UK. The area offers several hiking trails and diverse climbing opportunities from mountain crags to rocky sea cliffs, including an option to ascend Ben Nevis in about four hours with a private guide. The longest trail is a 537-mile route that runs the country's entire length, called the Scottish National Trail.

September is a good time to take advantage of any late summer water-based activities like fishing, boating tours, and sea kayaking before autumn kicks in. You can also relax and enjoy the fall colors of the Highlands from the historic Jacobite Express Steam Train, which transports you to the Isle of Skye. It's a photographer's dream with natural wonders like the Fairy Pools and Old Man of Storr, where puffins can be spotted from the dramatic clifftops.

Foodies can follow one of several official trail maps around the country that allow you to sample the best Scottish culinary treasures, including seafood, cheese, and chocolate. As for tasting Scotland's national drink, there are over 100 whisky distilleries, including Lagavulin on the Isle of Islay, which distills a peaty version of the famous Scotch whisky. After a tour and tasting, walk over to the nearby ruins of Dunyvaig Castle along the coast for some photographs and fresh air.

Events in September

The Braemar Gathering (or Pitlochry Highland Games), Pitlochry. This event in early September is considered by many to be the best in the world. Fun fact: It is the only one that guarantees the presence of a member of the royal family.

Best of the West, Argyll. This Scottish west coast festival is an end-of-season event spotlighting Argyll as a travel destination with local food, drink, and music to enjoy.

Traveling to Scotland in September? Check out these great itineraries

Ultimate Scotland: Golf, Whisky & Trekking in the Highlands - 2 Weeks. This epic adventure brings together some of Scotland's most iconic experiences, from golfing at St Andrews to whisky tasting on the Isle of Skye. 

Best of Scotland: Edinburgh & the Highlands - 6 Days. Combining Scotland's most memorable tourist destinations into a six-day adventure of the Scottish highlands, you'll explore Edinburgh's galleries, castles, and pubs before heading to Inverness to explore castles and hiking routes.

More Helpful Information

Scotland in August
Scotland in October
Best Time of Year to Visit Scotland
How Many Days to Spend in Scotland