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Travel: Is winter the perfect time to explore Scotland's rural areas?

Read our guide to find out why winter is the perfect time to head out and explore rural areas in Scotland

Whether you’re visiting from abroad or enjoying a staycation, Scotland is an incredible country with a huge variety of things to see and do. Most people explore Scotland in the summer months, but heading out in winter can be a truly unique experience.

If you’re planning a hike through the glens or an adventure by road (check out luxury motorhome hire Edinburgh if so) winter can be the perfect time to get out there and explore Scotland’s rural areas. Let’s find out why. . .

Loch Muick, Balleter, on a winter's day Credit Martin Bennie x Unsplash
Loch Muick, Balleter, on a winter's day Credit Martin Bennie x Unsplash

Unrivalled Beauty
What do you picture when you think of Scotland? You probably imagine remote lochs, moorland expanses and towering mountains. The country is famed for its incredible landscape, with lush green fields and forests.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with exploring Scotland in the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy the sunshine, a rarity in Scotland, and the long nights are perfect for a full day of adventure. However, if you’re looking for something a little more unique, we think that choosing to explore in winter can be a fantastic alternative.

Rather than rolling green landscapes, you will instead be met with icy tundra, which are simultaneously desolate and beautiful. The famous Scottish mountains take on new characteristics in winter; they are blanketed in snow and make for an absolutely stunning view.

How Cold are Scottish Winters?
Scotland is famous, or perhaps infamous, for its unpredictable weather. Rain, wind, sun and snow can all be experienced within a 24-hour period.

When it comes to exploring Scotland in the winter, it’s important that you know what to expect. While the weather can be unpredictable, it is rarely too extreme. For example, you are unlikely to be met with a snow scene like you might see in somewhere like Canada.

However, winters in Scotland can still be risky, and if you are unprepared, you could put yourself in danger. The coldest months in Scotland are usually December, January and February. Temperatures usually hover at around 5 degrees Celsius, although they do drop below freezing quite regularly.

When it comes to snowfall, Scotland generally sees around 38 days of snowfall per year. Much of this snow is concentrated in northern mountain regions, although lowland areas do see snow as well.

Winter Activities in Scotland
If you’ve decided to get out there and explore Scotland in the winter, what kind of things can you do? If you’re heading into rural areas, you will be able to find small, unique Christmas markets and events, perfect for getting into the festive spirit.

Scotland is also a fantastic destination for snow sports. The country has numerous ski resorts where you can enjoy skiing or snowboarding on stunning mountain trails.

If snow sports aren’t your thing, there’s nothing stopping you from simply exploring Scotland’s rural areas and soaking in the incredible scenery. After a day out in the cold, head back to a local pub for a warming meal to cap off a perfect day.

Safety Tips for Scottish Winters
While exploring Scotland in the winter can be a fantastic experience, it does mean you have to take extra care. This is particularly important if you are exploring rural areas by road, such as in a car or motorhome.

Make sure you plan your journey ahead of time. Keep a close eye on weather forecasts and watch out for traffic updates and road closures. This means you won’t run into trouble and can prevent you from becoming stranded on the roads should the weather take a turn for the worse.

When you are out on the roads, drive slowly and carefully at all times. Icy surfaces will increase stopping distances, meaning you could be more at risk of crashes and collisions. Make sure your vehicle is completely clear of snow and ice, particularly on your windows and lights.

If you want to get out there and explore the Scottish winter countryside on foot, it’s essential you are properly prepared. Make sure you know your route and where you are going, and dress for the weather with sturdy boots, warm underlayers and waterproof outer layers.

It gets dark early during the Scottish winter, often before 4 PM. Keep this in mind and make sure you leave yourself plenty of time for the return journey.

Most people assume that summer is the best time to explore Scotland’s rural areas. While the weather is certainly the most pleasant, winter can offer something unique and is an increasingly popular time for visitors and staycationers. Explore Scotland in winter if you’re looking for something a little bit different, but ensure you prepare and plan ahead of time to stay safe.

Image: by Martin Bennie on Unsplash

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