Scotland Travel Blog

How Much Does It Really Rain in Scotland?

There are a thousand reasons to visit Scotland, but when I talk to someone who doesn’t have it on their travel list (a challenge!), the top reason they always cite is the weather, specifically the rain. It certainly does get wet, which is why it stays so green all year long. But the idea that a visitor to Scotland will be constantly pelted by cold hard rain is both inaccurate and unfair. I’m here to get the record straight.

The UK Met Office has compiled weather stats for stations all up and down Britain for the last 30 years, and so we have a pretty good average to make some generalizations about rain across the country. Noe of this guarantees that it will or won’t rain during your particular trip, but the numbers should help clear up the misconception that Scottish weather is always wet.

Rainy Days

This is, to me, the most useful statistic to answer this question. Total rainfall in millimeters/month is a number that’s pretty hard to get your head around in terms of planning a trip, but how many days get some rain (in this case, at least 1 mm/day) is something a lot more relevant to the average traveler:

Jan Apr Jul Oct
Glasgow 17.3 11.6 12 16.8
Edinburgh 12.8 8.5 9.9 12.9
Inverness 11.8 9.3 11.2 12.5
Oban 19.9 13 15.1 19.4
Kirkwall 20.1 13.4 11.6 19.6

So, news flash – if you go to the Orkneys (Kirkwall) in January, you’re likely to get a little wet. But even then, the wettest place and time in this table, only 2/3 of the days get any measurable rain. During the summer in Edinburgh, less than a third of the days get any rain at all.

The other thing to keep in mind here is the sort of rain that most often falls in Scotland. If you’re coming from the United States or Asia, or many other parts of the world, you may think of rain as a pelting wall of water that you can barely see through when it comes. Though there are heavier storms, for the most part rain in Scotland is much lighter than that, more often a mist than a monsoon, and usually coming and going fairly quickly. As they say about all the best places I’ve lived or visited, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”

So on average, it rains about every other day, sometimes as much as two out of three days, and often a small amount. That doesn’t sound so terrible, does it? And without the rain, we’d never have scenes like this:

Creative Commons photo by Michal Ziembicki.

Creative Commons photo by Michal Ziembicki.

The waterfalls, the canals cut into the mountains by both rain and snowmelt, the moss. We can’t deny the importance of rain to the Scottish landscape, but don’t be fooled into believing that’s all there is.

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