It seems daunting to visit Scotland in January when the big festivities are over and it’s the middle of winter. Will there be snow all over? Will Hotels be closed? Is there anything to see?
The good news is that snow during winter is most common in the northern parts especially the Highlands, hotels have great deals on offer and there’s definitely a lot of things to do in Scotland in January.
There are a few things to consider to make the most of your trip but overall, Scotland is a magical place to be during winter.
What is the weather like in Scotland in January
Temperature in Scotland in January
There’s an average temperature between 0°C to +6 °C in January in Scotland.
Rain in Scotland in January
An average of 57 millimeters over 5 days.
Wind in Scotland in January
Between 15 to 20 kph.
Sun in Scotland in January
There’s an average of 6 to 7 hours of daylight and around 3.5 hours of sunshine in Scotland in January.
Things to do in Scotland in January
1. Winter Walk Along Loch Morlich, Cairngorms National Park, Highlands
Days may be shorter in Scotland during winter but there’s definitely no shortage of beautiful sights to visit. With its abundance of natural attractions that remain accessible during the colder season and are mostly even more beautiful, making the most of the short daylight is easy.
Put on your sturdy, waterproof shoes and head onto the Highlands, one of the most stunning places to visit in Scotland. The Cairngorms National Park boasts of trails that are surrounded by unparalleled winter beauty, with the loop around Loch Marlich among the most popular.
The easy walk that starts from the car park lasts for around 1.5 to 2 hours, spans 6 kilometers and takes you through paths with amazing views of the northern Cairngorm mountains, that look magical as they’re dusted with snow. The trails also take you through the scenic Glenmore Forest, where a winter walk is said to be like walking straight into the pages of a storybook.
2. Go Skiing
If you’ve never tried skiing and you’re in Scottish soil (or snow) in January, then that should be in your list of things to do in Scotland. Home to six outdoor ski resorts located in the mountainous areas, you get to enjoy this winter activity while admiring the spectacular scenery.
Take a pick from the three resorts within the Cairngorms National Park in the Highlands, or the one in the picturesque Glencoe valley. These ski resorts may not have slopes as high as the Swiss Alps or the Colorado Rockies but these Scottish areas are the only ski slopes in the whole of UK with real snow.
3. Hike Up Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Scotland’s cities are a sight to behold during wintertime. In the capital city of Edinburgh where most major holiday festivals are held, it is a must to take in the old city’s majestic sights in all its winter glory.
One of the best activities to do in Scotland is to walk up the CaltonHill in Edinburgh in winter, as it rewards you with stunning views over the capital.A leisurely hike that’s only 1.75 kilometers that take around an hour and a half, it wouldn’t take so much of the daylight hours and you’d still have plenty of time left to explore the city.
Start at the Waverley Train Station, then to Princes Street towards the east to Calton Hill. There are a number of historic and iconic structures to admire along the way and on top such as the Dugald Stewart Monument, built-in 1831 Dugald and designed by William Henry Playfair.
4. Visit Cardrona Forest, Tweed Valley Forest Park, Scottish Borders
Another winter walk that takes you through Scotland’s majestic landscapes is at the Cardrona Forest in Tweed Valley Forest Park. Situated by the Scottish borders, this is one unforgettable winter adventure and you get to pick which equally scenic trail to tackle, or you can try them all.
There’s the easy access Burn Trail along the Kirk Burn; the scenic Kirkburn Trail with sweeping views of the Tweed Valley, and there’s the Wallace&s Trail, a path where you get to see the remains of the15th century Cardrona Tower on the way. An added attraction: sure to spot red squirrels on while you explore the area.
5. Go on a Whiskey Tasting Tour
It’s cold and there’s absolutely no excuse against not wanting to warm yourself up, with layers of clothes or a blanket and of course, a glass (or three) of whiskey. It’s among the best things to do in Scotland during winter and to make drinking more interesting, how about a whiskey tour? Visit a distillery, which is practically a staple in any Scotland city or town.
Learn its history, how the whiskey was made, the entire process and what makes Scottish whiskey so special, the different flavors and of course— a sampling to ens the tour.
If you’re in a city like Edinburgh and, you can visit the Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile, which takes you through all of Scotland’s whiskey distilling areas, the whiskey-making process, or see the largest Scotch whiskey collection in the world. A whiskey sampling is included, of course. Another option is to join any of Edinburgh’s whiskey walking tours.
6. Hike Up Ben Lomond, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Who says you cannot enjoy a more adventurous winter walk in January, in Scotland? Starting at Rowardennan car park, with 12 kilometers of trails that can be navigated within 4.5 to 5.5 hours, you get to experience one of the most popular mountains in Scotland.
Put on your hiking shoes and head up Ben Lomond. This is bound to be a unique adventure that’ll take you to one of the best attractions in Scotland. On your way and at the top, you’ll have sprawling views over the stunning loch Lomond and the scenic Trossachs National Park.
While you’re on your way in this famous Munro, be sure to watch out for the elusive yet beautiful ptarmigan with their snow-white feathers.
7. Hunt the Northern Lights
Not everyone knows that it is possible to see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in Scotland, but does happen and even as far south as Edinburgh. The chances of it occurring in most cities are rare though, because of light pollution but-the early winter pitch-black nights are a great opportunity to try and chase these amazing dancing lights.
The northern coast, the Highlands and even the Isle of Skye are great places to hunt for this elusive phenomenon, as there’s less to zero light pollution in those areas. This is definitely among the best things to do in Scotland in January, but if you don’t catch the Aurora, the skies are pretty clear. You can always enjoy some stargazing instead.
Practical Tips for Scotland in January
1. January is mid-winter in Scotland and days are shorter. From December to January, Scotland only gets about seven to eight hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset. This is important to take note of so you can manage the number of activities or destinations for one day. Maybe devote an entire day to a road trip, or visit a city or town in one day and see around two to three attractions.
2. If you’re planning to rent a car and drive around Scotland in January which is mid-winter, be sure to drive only on major roads that have been treated for snow and ice. This is especially noteworthy when driving in the northern parts of Scotland and the Highlands. Be sure to not drive at night because aside from the snow, deer and other animals are common on the roads after dark.
3. Winter weather in Scotland isn’t just snow, and snow is more common in the northern area anyway. Cold rain is more likely to occur so when going out, be sure to bring a waterproof jacket and a sturdy umbrella.
4. It is advisable to always bring waterproof, slip-proof and sturdy yet comfortable shoes if you plan to do a lot of walking or hiking. This ensures that your footwear can withstand the unpredictable winter in Scotland.
5. If you’re from outside of the UK and planning to visit Scotland, a travel adapter is a must for your gadgets. If you have multilingual gadgets, it’s best to also bring a power strip so you can simultaneously recharge your gadgets and save time.