We went to Scotland (in February, no less) to visit family before heading home this summer and it is bloody cold and windy! And that’s coming from a Canadian! The wind pierces everything you wear and clings to your skin. The clouds overhead keep the sun from warming you up and the thought of rain is enough to send a chill down everyone’s spine. While it only rained on our first night, and something was precipitating on our day trip to Glasgow (a strange mix of rain, snow, and hail), there is always a chance it can. So when it comes to what to pack for Scotland in winter, it is imperative that we get this right the first time.
If you’re looking for the others posts in the Ultimate Travel Guide to Edinburgh Series, we’ll link to them as they are available!
Actual text from Edinburgh:
Packing Layers | Basics for Scotland
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Waterproof shoes are no joke. Not rain boots, because those aren’t the greatest for hiking or walking long days. And we don’t want to pack multiple pairs of shoes. Have one solid pair of warm, waterproof shoes or boots that will get you through the whole vacation.
For the kids, I like to also pack a back up if they suddenly grow and this one hurts their feet, they spring a leak (because kids always find a way), or one gets lost – it happens to the best of us. The backup is rarely as great at the original, I mean – I can barely afford one pair of great waterproof winter shoes each season for these guys (75 euro per? Excuse me!), I am not about to buy two pairs – but they will do until we get home and I have the time to shop Amazon properly.
Jeans, Trousers, Bottoms
Lined Splash pants for the kids, absolutely. If we were visiting in December, I would have packed ours as well. I probably should have packed them this time but I didn’t even think of it until our second day when my thighs were getting chilly.
Not only is this another layer of warmth, but it will help reduce the wind-chill and keep you dry during the rain. They are also small enough to pack away nicely into your bag when not needed. If spending a long time in a warm building, don’t forget to take them off – visit the toilet maybe. Getting too warm in them will not help you once you go back outside.
Long Sleeve Shirt
This is your presentation layer. When inside attractions, this is what everyone will see in your photos… or be seen in others’ photos.
Also, if you do get lucky with a little warm weather, you don’t want to be removing your sweater just to be wearing a short-sleeve under your jacket. I don’t know about you, but I hate having bare skin touching the inside layer of my coat – it’s too smooth and just doesn’t feel right. And the cold air always manages to sneak in through the neck or wrists.
Grab something warm, thick, and that fits nicely under your jacket. Ideally, you would want something that can easily be removed when walking into warm buildings but I am always cold so both my sweater and long sleeve ends up needing to look good.
When you have a presentable sweater or second layer, you are also able to pop off your coat for a quick outside photo for a different look.
Waterproof Winter jacket
This may sound redundant but hear me out. Winter jackets are designed to protect you from traditional winter elements. In Canada, that means snow and cold. Snow isn’t exactly water, it’s frozen water and tends to stay frozen after it has landed on your shoulder- it is that cold in Canadian winters.
In Scotland, it feels like -4 with the wind but really it’s still above freezing, which means whatever falls from the sky will melt on your shoulders and seep into your jacket. Get gear that is both winter warm, windproof and waterproof; a heavy rainstorm followed by a freak blizzard should be safe to travel in the same jacket – pack less, own less, save more (opportunity cost).
If you are worried about looking like a tourist in practical clothes, don’t. Plenty of locals walk all day and wear waterproofs. And plenty of tourists “dress to impress”. Your jacket alone will not give you away. Heck, your map and foreign accent won’t even do that, it’s a big city.
Hat and Scarf
Knit hats tend to stretch and become less useful over time so either trial them before leaving for vacation or grab something a little firmer. Don’t be afraid to throw them away and buy new ones if this becomes the case.
An umbrella might not be a great idea. The wind can be strong and will render your umbrella useless, or worse, a flying object. We did see a few out during the one rainy day we experienced but we weren’t sure if these were locals or fellow tourists. We propped up our hoods, tied them down (wind was taking them off) and continued on our way.
A good rain cover for the stroller is great here too. And a Footmuff, keep her warm while she isn’t moving. We haven’t had much luck with blankets – they tend to fall out when she wiggles too much and they aren’t waterproof, for when the wind blows the rain cover or just before we cover the stroller.
Everyone’s hands will get cold and while grabbing a pair of dollar store gloves sounds tempting, they aren’t very practical, warm or environmentally friendly (considering how often a hole appears and you throw them away). Buy a great pair of gloves for everyone, something that allows you to play with your touchscreen devices is best. Warm, waterproof and hopefully not an eyesore.
I like the gloves with the string through my sleeves, like the ones we wore in kindergarten. That way, I will never lose them, especially if I am taking them off so often. There is a reason your mom made you wear them growing up. I have yet to find a pair of good, waterproof and warm gloves, with a string. A hand warmer muff for the stroller is a great alternative for when you’re pushing the baby around.
If you have any room left in your luggage, pack some warm winter socks, maybe some hand warmers if it gets really bad. Don’t forget to leave room for the myriads of souvenirs you will end up buying, and the whisky you will be bringing back home. These are life’s necessities.
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