Scottish August reminds one of turning up late to a party you weren’t sure you were going to go to. A few nervous jitters to begin with, but then everyone seems happy you’re there. The music is more vibrant, and the shows and sights are more satisfying. The evenings seem to last and last, and you never know who you’ll wind up talking to or what you’ll wind up doing. It’s a month for making memories, seeing things you’d never think to see and relaxing in the company as well as ourselves.
In August, Scotland opens its doors to visitors like no other time of year. So let’s get acquainted with a few of the characters you might meet in this golden month at the end of summer.
In a sentence: August is gorgeous in Scotland.
More precisely, August is warm and inviting. Though there is still the occasional shower, sunny days pave the way to greater adventures than almost any other time of year. Dry weather means that Scotland’s roads open up for road cycling through spectacular scenery.
Munro tops never looked quite so manageable as when seen on a day without clouds. The lochs and inlets around the coast seemingly beg to be paddled in, and it’s perfect weather for kayaking or canoeing. Whether you prefer lower-level walks, striding up the highest hills or just out for a wander, the quintessential summer weather makes it all a little more pleasant. Stopping to take in the view is easier, there’s no haste in one’s pace, and easy conversation flows with whomever you share your day with.
So, take a waterproof, as you never know, but pack high hopes and get ready for a summer trip quite spectacular.
Everyone has spent a flight behind a fussy child or queueing behind a dozen families of a dozen members each. A slight groan and instinctual tension as we anticipate delays, drama, and disappointment.
If you’re familiar with these frustrations and prefer to avoid them while travelling the wilds of Scotland, August is ideal for you. Scottish schools generally reconvene in early to mid-August, leaving the month’s end noticeably quieter. Fewer queues, fewer people for miles around, and more peace and quiet to appreciate the great outdoors. You take a step out of the central belt, particularly Edinburgh, and it feels like you can breathe more freely.
It’s also almost as if attractions such as Stirling Castle and Fort George know that you might like to visit in a quieter moment. Their summer hours are ongoing until at least September. The hills are significantly less busy too – and they were never crowded to begin with. So take it all in. From culture to the countryside, city breaks to coastal visits, all of it is a little more fun when you’ve got a little more space to move.
Calling the Fringe the world’s biggest arts festival doesn’t do it justice.
The Fringe has something for everyone, from childish giggles at inflatable animals to ruckus laughter at dirty jokes. Impressive feats and awe-inspiring acrobatics. Storytelling, dramatics, learning, histories horrible or hilarious. Amateur dramatics and the most serious kinds of theatre. Everything you could wish to see on the stage.
One can best describe a typical Fringe experience through the example of a single show: Garry Starr Performs Everything. In an hour, one man goes through “every” school and discipline of creative pursuit, often badly and often with audience participation, with an aim to save theatre attendance from dwindling. Dressed in an Elizabethan ruff and wielding self-aware wit, Garry can’t help but captivate your attention. The acts range from burlesque to romantic comedy and much more in between.
The show ranges from weird to heartfelt. This is the best way to describe the wonderful smorgasbord of experiences available at the Fringe. It has everything, and even if some of it is a bit odd, it’s still fantastic. You can check out his tour dates on the Garry Starr website.
For the month of August, Edinburgh transforms into an artist’s paradise. The city’s population has increased by about 50%, and finding parking is a nightmare. However, every space you can swing a cat (and many more besides) is occupied for the month. From the Royal College of Physicians to tiny corners in pubs, you’ll see something interesting everywhere you can have someone stand and a few chairs. Everyone is welcome, from school groups to seasoned professionals, from those with no experience indulging in performance pieces to the grittiest critics. The streets become packed, with every inch of thoroughfare carefully managed so that every artist gets a fair shake.
Fliers, food, festivities, fun. The city overflows for a month dedicated to the arts, and it is a sight that, once experienced, is never forgotten. The main challenge is picking what to go to as you’re spoiled for choice.
Mirroring the Fringe is a quieter but no less evocative festival. Instead of the performance piece, it instead focuses on the presentation of art. Edinburgh has some of the best museums in the country, if not the world, and they seem to brighten in the summer rays of August.
One favourite space is Jupiter Artland. It’s a country estate that’s been around since 1622, albeit remodelled in the mid-1800s. It’s a gorgeous artsy space at the best of times, but for the month of August, it is entirely occupied by art. There are installations everywhere, from the otherworldly landscaping outside to generous galleries. It truly is a visual delight, but with varied displays, all your senses will be alight.
For a reprieve for a quieter sort of seeking, the art festival is well worth attending. Storied and famous works such as Rembrandt’s are shipped into galleries free to the public, where sculptures and paintings jostle for space. It feels more like some great spectacle of nature, a migration of striking visuals into a small space that you have to see to believe. Likeminded people gather here for something beautiful that, once left, is never forgotten.
Last but not least, in our August festival foray fantastic is the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It is simultaneously a quiet space, hosted primarily in Charlotte Square, but it has an intensity to it. As though everyone is trying to get one last tidbit or inspiration from their day before setting off at the close of play. It is very much a “one more page” sort of crowd.
With homegrown and international authors abounding, the Edinburgh Book Festival welcomes over 250,000 book lovers on an average year. This includes around 35,000 young people whom the August festival has particularly targeted for outreach as part of their ongoing development efforts. With 600 events to choose from, hundreds of authors joining the fray, and a colourful destination to boot, this bibliophilic boutique is a perfect stop on your visit to Scotland in August.
For more details check out Edinburgh International Book Festival. Whether you’re looking to be inspired or wish to find a quiet spot in a vibrant cityscape, take a moment in this oasis based on crisp pages and open minds.
“And we’ll all go together,
To pick wild mountain thyme,
In amongst the blooming heather,
Will you go, lassie, go?”
We often talk and read about autumn colours. It’s easy to understand why, as the rich reds and oranges are lovely to look at. The change from vibrant green to more comfortable shades is dramatic no matter how well we know it’s coming.
Autumn isn’t the only stunning colour change in nature, though. The way the hillsides of Scotland take on a royal mantle of most vivid purple each year is incredibly beautiful. From mid-summer to autumn, the mountains seem to take pride in themselves like no other time of year. Swathes of colour an artist could envy grow into life. It somehow seems utterly natural and yet a little jarring when you first see it. As though someone has decked the glen with paint. However, the more you look at these fields of blooming heather, the more it seems to fit utterly into the landscape. It feels timeless and priceless, effortlessly blending into lovely summer evenings.
Speaking of long evenings, the other colour best associated with August is gold. Not the metal, but the colour of sunsets and pleasing dusks you want to enjoy outside. We’re not far from the summer solstice, so the evenings last and last. The last rays of summer make outside warm enough to enjoy but cool enough that wrapping up is extra comfy. These golden evenings will make any photographer dream of visiting Scotland in August. They’re not alone, if you enjoy the outside air, then August is the perfect month for you.
Scotland in August is bursting with activity. From seabirds diving to squirrels rustling in the underbrush, there’s always something to be seen. If you pause in almost any natural space, you’ll have a little company, but there are some stand-out guests.
Minke whales are a sight to behold for any summer visitors to Scotland’s coast. There’s something special about whale sightings – something so impactful yet out of reach. Colossal but somehow untouchable in the depths. With the herring in pre-spawn, the seas around Scotland’s coast are perfect hunting grounds in August. That means that whale spottings increase drastically, especially around the Outer Hebrides.
Puffins spend most of their lives out to sea, but for the summer months, many of them come to Scotland to breed. This means you can see the clownish little rascals knocking their beaks and strutting about as they seek partners. They then build burrows and lay a single egg which hatches and fledges some weeks later.
When the chicks are almost independent, the adults take flight back to sea almost in unison. That means the skies above their breeding sites and the rocks they nest amongst are busy in mid to late August. With their natural trusting nature, they’re easy to get close to, so you can witness these characterful feathered friends first-hand. That is, if you manage to get there before they fly off for the season!
Otters can be seen all year round across Scotland. In this case, it’s not the animal whose behaviour changes but the conditions. The lovely golden evenings of August mean the dusk conditions, which otters love to hunt in, last for longer periods of time. That also means the conditions for spotting otters are perfect! You can typically find them processing a catch on rocks or beaches by the water, ready for another dive.
To experience all of these wonderful facets of August, and many more, check out our August Trips Page.