I visited Scotland in early March with EF Tours. Our tour director mentioned almost as soon as we boarded our bus that, in Scotland, you can expect to experience all four seasons in the same day. As if to prove him right the weather on the 30-minute drive from the Glasgow airport to our dropoff point in Edinburgh went from the mid-50s and cloudy to pouring rain, to sleet. Then, as the bus pulled to the curb to drop us off in Edinburgh, the sleet abruptly ended and the sun came out, warming the temperature significantly.
With this in mind, and with the fact that I like to pack light to leave room for souvenirs, I’ve created this easy guide for what to pack for Scotland in early March.
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European street style is decidedly more dressy and formal, shall I say snappy, than the typical American casual style. For this reason, I choose classic, tailored outfits that don’t scream American tourist. When traveling in Europe it’s a good idea to avoid wearing items such as:
- Athletic sneakers
- Disney themed items
- USA-themed patriotic items
- Political statement shirts and jackets
- Themed t-shirts with offensive/vulgar language
- Ball caps
Packing for Scotland: Coats and Jackets
When traveling during cooler months, remember you will be wearing a coat the majority of the day. Bringing more than one coat helps provide variety in your photographs and allows for one warm and one lighter version to accommodate changing weather. Temperatures in early March in Scotland range from 45 to 55F, so it’s good to have a couple options. I generally plan my outfits around the coat I’ll be wearing.
On my trip to Scotland, I brought two coats. Both can be paired with a variety of layers underneath but still have a dressy, European flair. I look for pockets, a good closure, zipper for example, and rain/sleet resistance.
What to Pack for Scotland: Shoes and Boots
Just as with my coats, I bring more than one, typically three, pairs of shoes and boots. European travel requires a great deal of walking, often on uneven terrain and cobblestone, and it can be wet, dirty or a combination of both. Our tour groups have been known to walk between 10 and 12 miles each day, so comfort is a must.
Packing two to three pairs allows me to rotate them, keeping them dry between wearings and rubbing to a minimum. I’ve personally worn these boots and shoes and can recommend them as providing comfort, yet still allowing for the style I want. I have two pairs of the tall boots, both black and camel.
What to Wear in Scotland: Scarves
Since I am wearing the same two coats and just two or three pairs of footwear, I like to change up my look each day by wearing a variety of scarves. Here’s where you can add a pop of color and style without adding a lot of bulk in your suitcase or your budget. I recommend infinity scarves rather than bulky blanket scarves as they won’t interfere with your day bag strap. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself constantly adjusting your scarf and untangling yourself when you’d rather be taking photographs and enjoying the scenery!
Scotland’s weather leaned more toward winter in early March, so I went with winter fabrics, plaids, and darker colors. My favorite color is red so you’ll usually see at least one red scarf in my photos. Go with your favorite color combinations here, and maybe match your bag or travel manicure to it!
Packing for Scotland: Travel Bags
When traveling to Europe I bring one suitcase to check, one carry-on and one cross-body day bag. When making your flight, pack a few of your toiletries, a scarf, and perhaps one outfit in your carry-on, just in case your checked suitcase doesn’t arrive when you do.
Here I am boarding the train in Edinburgh with all my bags. I traveled solo on this trip and had no trouble managing these myself.
For my day bag, I prefer to use a cross-body version with lots of zippered compartments in a color that goes with all my outfits. There’s a danger in Europe of falling victim to pickpocketing, especially on public transportation and crowded areas, so having a bag with zippered compartments allows you to protect valuables such as your money and passport. Keep what you need in the same place in your bag throughout the trip and you’ll never be digging for it.
Here’s an example of one I’d recommend. These come in darker colors such as black and deep red, which I would personally prefer as they’d show less dirt and wear. Whatever bag you choose will be across your body every day, all day, for the entire trip. Choose one that’s comfortable and durable.
What to Pack for Scotland: Makeup and Accessories
Even when in Scotland, known for dreary, rainy weather, keep in mind that you’ll most likely be outside touring the majority of the day. For this reason, no matter where I travel, I choose a foundation with built-in sunscreen. Bring a good lip protectant like chapstick or vaseline to avoid chapping, and a couple of your favorite lipsticks that highlight your scarves and outfits. Keep the fuss to a minimum and avoid anything you need to reapply often. Leave valuable jewelry at home and, if you want, opt for costume jewelry. But like everything else, keep it simple.
Bring a great pair of sunglasses for those sunny days, a small umbrella in case of rain, and keep a pair of gloves handy in case it gets cold, especially in the evenings. A simple pair of black leather gloves will go with everything and stay good-looking even if they do get wet or slightly dirty.
What to Wear in Scotland in Spring: Outfits
Did I mention you’d be wearing your coat every day during most springtime trips? For this reason for my day-to-day outfits I pack a variety of neutral layers such as dressy leggings, light and fitted turtleneck sweaters, loose blouses, and comfortable pants, all with a slim profile so as to not be bulky under my coat. You’ll still look great when you take off your coat for lunches or indoor tours, but you won’t feel weighed down. Chose items you can wear multiple times mixed and matched.
For your overnight flight to and from, I recommend leggings and a loose, long shirt or a jumpsuit like the one here with a cute scarf ready in your carry-on for when you arrive. This allows for maximum comfort during that long flight and an easy transition through TSA security.
That’s it! Pack lightly but smartly and you’ll be ready for anything, plus you’ll have room for those cashmere scarves and your new kilt!