Visiting Scotland in May

One of the hardest decisions you have to make when planning your Scotland trip is when to visit. Scotland certainly has different charms different times of the year. Neither the warmest, most popular month nor the coldest and quietest, May is the beginning of the busy time in Scotland. It can be a great time to visit, as the flowers start to bloom but before the biggest crowds arrive.

Freedom. Creative Commons photo by Bex Ross.

Freedom. Creative Commons photo by Bex Ross.

Weather

There’s no time of year in Scotland when you’re guaranteed to stay dry. Scotland is green, and staying that way takes rain. But May is one of the drier months of the year, and was on average the sunniest month of the year in Edinburgh between 1981 and 2010. Here are some stats on what to expect in May:

City Max Temp Min Temp Rainfall Days >
1mm Rain
Sunshine/Day
Edinburgh 14.7 C
(58.5 F)
6.8 C
(44.2 F)
48.9mm
(2 in)
9.6 6 hr. 6 min.
Paisley
(near Glasgow)
15.9 C
(60.6 F)
7.3 C
(45.1 F)
67.5mm
(2.7 in)
11.9 5 hr. 49 min.
Kinloss
(near Inverness)
14.4 C
(57.9 F)
6 C
(42.8 F)
48mm
(1.9 in)
9.8 6 hr. 8 min.
Kirkwall
(Orkneys)
12 C
(53.6 F)
5.6 C
(42 F)
48 mm
(1.9 in)
10.6 6 hr. 8 min.

Source: UK Met Office

So, wherever you go in Scotland in May, about a third of the days are going to see some measurable rain, but Edinburgh and Inverness will give you a better chance at sunshine than Glasgow. However, it will get slightly warmer in Glasgow than the other cities, with Edinburgh getting the coldest. This is the driest month of the year in the Orkneys, with less than half of the total rainfall you’ll see in October-January, and 28% less than August. Overall, it’s warmer to come in June, but it’s wetter then too.

Prices

Another factor in deciding when to visit Scotland is budget. May is still in the spring shoulder season, and flight and hotel prices will be lower than in July and August, but higher than if you brave the chill of the winter or earlier spring months. Along with September, May is probably as close as you’ll find to an “average” month, in terms of cost.

Events

Whether you seek out big crowds or avoid them like the plague, it always helps to know what is going on when you’re planning to visit. May is the beginning of festival season, which reaches its peak in August. Here are some of the events you might encounter in a May trip to Scotland: