Weather in Scotland: an International Student’s Experience

Worried about the notoriously unpredictable Scottish weather? Let’s hear what Shelby King, a US student at the University of Edinburgh, has to say about her experience of adjusting to her new environment during the past year.

weather 1

Princes Street Gardens in early November

Growing up in the Midwest state of Illinois in the United States, I was used to extreme weather: very cold, bitter, snowy winters, and hot, humid summers.  For this reason, I was looking forward to getting away from the snow and heat and to enjoy a milder climate.  Though the climate in Edinburgh is certainly not as extreme, it still managed to defy my expectations!

I arrived in Edinburgh the first week of September in 2015, at the beginning of autumn. The temperature ranged from 5 to 15 degrees.  This makes for nice, jacket weather.  I enjoyed walking around Edinburgh as the city hosts a lovely autumn with the trees changing colour! Although the weather during the autumn season was a bit rainy and overcast, it was all together pleasant; though I was certainly in for a surprise when it came to winter!

Winter usually begins in November/December and the average temperature can vary from 0 to 7 degrees.  While I was used to colder temperatures in the United States, I was not expecting such short, drizzly and overcast days.

On Dec 21, the shortest day of the year, the sun will rise at around 8:40, and set at about 15:40. With the gloomy weather, little sunlight and end of semester due dates, December makes for a trying month.  Yet, the holiday festivities help to cheer up the dark streets with colourful lights, carnival rides, ice skating, yummy foods, warm drinks and music!

weather 2

Edinburgh Christmas market

You will know spring has begun when bright, yellow, orange, and white daffodils begin popping up all over the city and country sides.  Spring usually lasts from March to May, with temperatures ranging from 5 to 15 degrees.  To everyone’s relief, the sun will begin to pop out from behind the clouds, and in late spring you can look forward to wee blue bells covering the forest floor!

weather 3

View of Edinburgh Castle, early April

The summer season began in June and temperatures ranged from 15 to 25 degrees.  While the winters are dark, the summer months provide long days, and although it still rains quite a bit, you will enjoy a handful of sunny days!  My friends and I, still recovering from the winter months, would revel in the sun by picnicking in The Meadows or in Princes Street Gardens for study breaks.

weather 4

Old Town, early June

Overall, the weather in Scotland is frequently abrupt in its changes.  It is often said you can experience four seasons in one day.  I find this quite accurate – I can recall a day when it began raining, which then turned to hail, and then to snow, and after a short while the sun was shining!  With the quick changes in weather, I try to always carry a rainproof jacket with me, even if the skies look clear, rain seems never to be far off.

My family back home jokingly make fun of me for not being able to handle the heat when I say it is hot and its 16 degrees out.  To my family, who are used to 30 degree weather, 16 degrees would be a welcomed relief from the heat!  It is simply what you become accustomed to, and I have truly become acclimated to the weather in Scotland, rather than Illinois.  It may take a few months to get used to the Scottish weather, but your body will naturally adapt to its surroundings.


Here are a few helpful tips to ease the transition to Scottish weather. 

  • Pack clothes that suit the seasons. Wearing multiple layers will help keep you warm during the colder seasons, and you will find a pair of hard soled, water-proof shoes and a coat to be your best friends during the rainy season!
  • An umbrella might not always well suit you in Edinburgh, for the prevailing Atlantic winds make umbrellas hard to manage. For more advice on packing, see our ‘What to Pack’ post.
  • Simply spending time outside helps the body become ‘outdoor acclimatised’ and will be less affected by the hot or cold weather.
  • Walking to your classes and around the city will help you become better adjusted to the Scottish weather.
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Categories: New Students, Practical Guides

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