What clothing is best for the Scottish Highlands, including the Isle of Skye?

What clothing is best for the Scottish Highlands, including the Isle of Skye?

By Kay Pearson on 24th March 2023

As most of our guests are visiting Scotland from abroad, we appreciate that it can be tricky to pack for our varying weather conditions. The right clothes are so important in the Scottish Highlands, and can often make the difference between a great day and a damp, uncomfortable day.

This blog is essential reading if you are coming to Skye with us, so that you can consider your clothing choices carefully.  This is particularly relevant if you are coming on our Skye Explorer Hiking Tour, as a lot of the time is spent outdoors, and exposed to the elements, on this tour.

Before we discuss clothing, let’s discuss the weather. It is our favourite topic of conversation in Scotland (wait until you get here, you’ll see what I mean!) and is notoriously hard to predict, but there are certain things it’s worth knowing.

What’s the weather like in the Scottish Highlands?

During the period from May to September daytime temperatures in Inverness average 14 – 18°C (57 – 64°F), dropping overnight to around 9 – 13°C (48 – 55°F).  July and August are the warmest months, but temperatures in the Scottish Highlands rarely go above around 25°C (77°F), and that would be considered a scorching day here!  

Despite the daytime temperatures seeming quite mild, it can feel much cooler, due to the wind chill factor.  This is particularly the case in coastal areas such as on the Isle of Skye, which is often windy.

The amount of rain varies throughout Scotland, with average rainfall days varying between around 170 on the west coast (including Skye) to less than 125 rainy days in other areas.  We’d definitely recommend bringing clothes for rainy days as, if you are in Scotland for a week or two, you’ll definitely experience precipitation on some of those days!  

The other thing to note is that the weather conditions can be very localised; even if it’s sunny and dry when we depart Inverness, it may well be a very different picture on Skye.  

They say you’ll experience four seasons in a day in Scotland, and that really sums it up (though it’s worth mentioning that snow is unlikely in peak summer!) In order to ensure that you are comfortable, safe and dry when exploring the great outdoors we’d recommend wearing/bringing the following;

Hiking boots (or sturdy trainers/sneakers)

We would suggest wearing hiking boots with ankle support.  If you do not have hiking boots then a sturdy walking trainer should be sufficient.  

I have Merrell Siren Sport trail shoes, which are a great all-rounder and have Gore-tex waterproofing.  You can see a selection of similar products here.

We would not recommend wearing pumps, sandals or any shoes with heels.

Waterproof jacket

We would suggest bringing a lightweight and breathable waterproof jacket that can be rolled up and carried in a day-backpack if not required. Ideally, it should have a hood.  

I have a Montane Atomic jacket which is great, (but quite pricey if you are only using it occasionally).   Take a look at similar waterproof jackets here.

Waterproof trousers/pants

Whilst these are not essential, if there is a forecast for heavy rain then we’d really recommend having a pair, particularly on the Skye Explorer Tour, as there are multiple opportunities to get very wet!  

I’d really recommend Berghaus Deluge overtrousers – they are very hardwearing and have zips and buttons up the legs so can easily be pulled on over your trousers and shoes.  I usually bring them in a rucksack so that I can quickly pull them on if the rain starts.  You can see them, and similar products, here.

Lightweight trousers/pants

If you don’t plan to bring waterproof trousers then we’d recommend wearing lightweight hiking trousers which will dry easily.

I like my Maier Lana trousers, which are comfortable and water-repellant. You can see a selection here.

Please don’t wear jeans – the material is totally unsuitable for our weather and, once they are wet, they will be heavy and uncomfortable.

Base layer, fleece and jacket

Your waterproof jacket has only one purpose, and that is to keep you dry.  Under this we’d recommend wearing a couple of layers, including a fleece (as they are warm and also fairly quick drying). 

If you are prone to feeling the cold then you may also wish to wear a jacket on top of your fleece, under your waterproof jacket.  I like my Rab microlight down vest and/or jacket for this purpose, as they provide warm layers without being too bulky.

Rucksack

We’d recommend bringing a small rucksack containing your waterproof jacket and trousers, perhaps a hat (woollen or sun, depending on the weather forecast!), water, sun cream and snacks for when you are out and about.

You may have heard of Scottish midges – small winged creatures that give you harmless (but very itchy!) bites. They are most prolific on the west coast of Scotland but are not generally a big problem on our Skye tours as, if there is a breeze, they will not be around. If it is a still, damp day they can be annoying at the Fairy Pools. Consequently, if you are concerned about getting bitten, we’d recommend purchasing Smidge midge repellant, and bringing it in your rucksack.

Where can I purchase outdoor clothing ?

Craigdon Mountain Sports is an independent sports shop in Inverness city centre.  They have a a great selection of outdoor products in stock – great if you arrive and feel under-prepared!  We haven’t linked to their products above, but instead have linked to pages containing a selection of similar products, as stock can change.   You’d be best just heading into the store when you are in the city, and seeing what best suits you.

Craigdon is an independent, locally-owned business. We recommend them to you as we like to encourage our guests to shop locally, in a shop where you can definitely expect excellent service! If you show your WOW booking confirmation when paying in the store, they will give you a discount.

And finally…

Keep our fingers crossed for good weather but, as we optimists here like to say, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes!”.

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