Weather in Scotland in January

Is January a good time to visit Scotland?

January in Scotland is extremely cold, with temperatures often below freezing, heavy frosts and snow (especially on high ground). The main cities, like Edinburgh and Glasgow, tend to be slightly warmer, but you will still need your gloves and ear muffs. Even when the sun shines, daylight hours are short and there is little warmth generated. Nevertheless, Scotland in  mid-winter has a warm heart and hearth to offer visitors who come to enjoy the traditional Hogmanay (New Year) celebrations, and stay on to make the most of the January sales and “Christmas card” scenery.


Climate in Scotland in January

Scotland has a reputation for cloudy weather, and this is certainly true in January, especially in the western Highlands, The east coast is slightly warmer. Average temperatures in January in Scotland range between 5°C and 7°C, although – in recent years especially – it often plummets to well below freezing. Severe weather warnings are common especially in the far north, and precipitation is unrelenting – in the form of rain, hail, sleet and snow.  Rain and snow averages vary considerably depending on the area, due to Scotland’s varied topography, but wherever you are in Scotland in January expect to be damp and cold. There is, however, an exception to the rule in true Scottish style –  a rare phenomenon called the Föhn Effect can take place in January in the lee of of the Grampian Mountains, particularly in Moray, which can bring warm temperatures of up to 18°C to places like Aboyne in Aberdeenshire.


What’s on in January in Scotland

The hardy Scots are undaunted by the cold winter weather – in fact the theory is that the more chilled you are outside, the more you will appreciate the warmth when you go indoors. This means that right from New Year’s Day Scotland encourages outdoor events, with its exciting New Year celebrations across the land, particularly in Edinburgh, with fireworks and bonfires to warm the wee hours. Indoors mid-January is warmed up with the Celtic Connections music festival  in Glasgow, with more than 200 events in various venues. Glasgow, too, is the venue for the Speciality Fine Food Fair in late January, and the month is rounded off with the heart-warming fire and torchlight Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick on the Shetland Islands on the last Tuesday of January.


What to pack for a holiday in Scotland in January

Search your wardrobe for the warmest woollies you can find – and invest in thermal underwear. A warm, waterproof overcoat, boots, hat, gloves and thick socks are a must, but make sure you can dress in layers and remove the outerwear indoors, where blazing fires and central heating , good Scotch whisky and filling fare will warm the cockles. Lip balm is useful for those intending to spend time outdoors.