There are many reasons to visit Scotland at this time of year – May serves up warmer temperatures, longer days and beautiful scenery. To see Scotland in May is to see her at her best. From vibrant forests and animals to a people filled once more with life and the excitement of the warm months ahead. This coupling of spring rebirth and summery brightness opens the country in a welcome like no other. Like a nation throwing open the curtains to let the sunlight in, Scotland has woken up by May and is ready to make fresh memories as it tells old tales anew. Let us see what stories the last month in spring holds.
All the spring months have something different to offer in Scotland. Find out more about coming in March or April on our spring page.
May is a sunny and mild time in Scotland, and you can expect daytime highs of 15°C/59°F. It’s also one of our driest months, along with April. You’d be surprised that, on average, both these spring months are drier than the more popular summer months of June, July and August.
May’s mild weather makes it an excellent month for activities, where you can enjoy the sun and a cool breeze on your face simultaneously. You’re more likely to stay dry and don’t risk overheating when you’re exerting yourself whilst out and about.
*Weather data taken from the metoffice, with averages for the whole country.
In May, the longer days become considerably more noticeable. The start of the month offers about 15 hours of daylight and by the end of the month around 17.
Longer daylight hours mean more time to explore and be outside. You can start embarking on longer hill days or start your cycle rides in the late afternoon without fear of getting caught in the dark.
Having lots of daylight is also nicer for canoe and sea kayak expeditions. Setting up and taking down your camp, plus cooking dinner and breakfast outside, is much easier and enjoyable with natural light.
Spring is magical the world over, but there’s something magical about highland glens coming to life. When highlighting the benefits of Visiting Scotland in April, we waxed lyrical about the wildflowers that start to erupt across the country in the springtime. Scotland’s flora gets only gets more beautiful in May – with the weather being consistently warmer, plant life starts to thrive. The whole country slowly turns even greener and more colourful.
There is a freshness to the air which is undeniable. It’s as though this green all around resets and refreshes something deep down within us.
If you want to see the city of Edinburgh turn pink, visit in May when the cherry blossoms are at their finest. May is also the best month to see rogue rhododendrons bloom across the Highlands, creating pockets of purple and pink in vast swathes of green.
Peak tourist season does not start till the end of the month when many of the schools break for summer, so to enjoy Scotland without the crowds whilst still having longer days and warmer weather, visit in early May.
The benefit of the fast-approaching busier days is that all the restaurants, visitor centres, transport providers and accommodations are sporting their summer timetables in anticipation of the crowds, so you won’t encounter limited opening times and reduced capacity.
May is a busy month with various exciting events taking place. Scotland’s famous Highland Games break their winter hiatus in May, with the first games starting from the first weekend and running through till the end of September.
Traditionally outdoors, Highland Games celebrate Scotland’s heritage and culture and feature events like the caber toss, tug of war, piping competitions, Highland dancing and much much more.
For the most part, we don’t need an excuse to enjoy Scotland’s most iconic drink. Known as ‘Uisge Beatha’, meaning the ‘water of life’, whisky is an essential part of Scotland’s economy as one of our largest exports and main tourist attractions. Thus, we dedicate a whole month to celebrating whisky, and that month is May.
There are dedicated whisky-themed events, but you could also mark the occasion with a distillery tour or treat yourself to a delicious dram whilst out in Scotland.
May may be one of our most tasty months, with it being good for fresh seafood, leafy vegetables and lamb. Do keep an eye out for seasonal specials on restaurant menus to enjoy the best of Scotland’s natural larder.
It’s also an excellent time for people who love foraging with common sorrel, wild garlic, chickweed, dandelions and hawthorn at perfect picking stage.
*Please forage responsibly.
Sunsets are beautiful all year round, but they hit a bit differently in May. In the winter, the sun swiftly sets early in the day before you really get a chance to observe it. And then, at the height of summer, sunsets can be a bit too slow. Holding on for the sun to dip means a late one waiting around for that beautiful dusk light.
In May, the sun sets at around 9:30pm, meaning you’re basking in golden rays when you’re more likely to enjoy them and they last for a bit longer. May sunsets are perfect for an after-dinner stroll to admire the warm hues dancing over the landscape before they, like you, turn in for the night.
Though few mammals hibernate in Scottish winters, spring is still a time of awakening. Red squirrels and pine martens venture out further from their dens. Deer are having calves, and lambs are springing happily in pasture. There is a certain youthful abandon to everything as you make your way through glens suddenly teeming with noise and life.
Out to sea, the skies become crowded. Seabirds flock back to cliffside homes. Sea eagles are fletching from their nests for the first time. Butterflies bob and wheel across fresh fields of flowers recently risen, adding to the colour and vibrance here.
Even as you gaze out across the waves, they seem busier. Minke whales and orcas have joined the sizeable seal populations and dolphins off rugged coasts. It’s no wonder that May in Scotland is a wildlife lover’s dream.
May is not a cold month in Scotland, although you can get colder days. On average, the temperature sits around 13°C/55.4°F, but you can get much warmer days. Scotland often gets warm sunny stretches in May interspersed with colder and greyer days.
May and April are the driest months on average in Scotland. Expect an average of 90mm of rainfall in the month, across less than half of the month. Still, waterproofs are essential as bouts of rain can appear out of nowhere.
Although it’s highly unlikely, snow has been known to fall in May in the north of Scotland at the start of May.
Though May is warm and bright, the cooler months have just departed Scotland’s shores. That means that midges have yet to wake up for the year, so you can enjoy picnics and evening walks without these pesky party crashers. It makes star gazing and other late night activities best enjoyed in May, though September and October come a close second.
There are plenty of ways to deal with midges, and we go into detail in this blog: The Real Story of this Fearsome Beastie – Your Guide to Midges in Scotland.