From seasonal food to beautiful scenery, autumn is full of undiscovered and unspoiled delights from coast to coast. In both the cities and the countryside, new experiences open up as people and nature turn their attention towards the colder time of year. This fills Scots with good cheer and celebration while all sorts of creatures are hard at work making ready for the winter. It is the ideal month to come and visit if you wish to get away from the crowds. The perfect time to discover what makes Scotland special. Check out our October Trips if you want to join in on the autumn fun.
With winter coming on so fast, let’s take a moment to appreciate the best of autumn. Plenty of once in a lifetime spectacles and delights await you in October if you scratch beneath the surface. Though it is a little brisker and the days less long, the sunsets are bright and the fire warm. Come discover a land full of change that reaches back millennia in tradition this autumn.
October is traditionally quieter in Scotland. Scots are settling in for the winter, and there are fewer visitors around. School is back in session. Most countryside castles have closed for the season or gone to winter hours for the larger ones. Ferries start operating their winter timetables across the highlands and islands. The cooler weather keeps the less hardy away from the hills. It’s like the land and cities take in a deep breath to relax.
It’s a time for those with a little bit of inside knowledge to take full advantage of all that Alba has to offer. It’s a particularly good time to get to popular spots like Skye’s Faerie Pools, Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms, or do an ascent of Ben Nevis without quite so many fellow visitors around. Famous attractions such as the National Gallery or Glasgow Cathedral also seem to hold a friendly hush which waits with secrets for you to discover…
Although the days are getting shorter and winter is coming swiftly, Scotland in October enjoys a strange place in the nation’s weather calendar. The lasting golden evenings give us spectacular sunsets which are breathtaking to behold. We also habitually get a dry and bright spell before the greyer days of winter. A last reminder of the summer season which has passed.
We always suggest taking waterproofs, because Scotland’s weather is always a touch capricious with dalliances of rain and wind coming frequently. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still adventures to be enjoyed at this time of year. Some would say that these spots of sunlight are all the more beautiful for dark clouds on the horizon.
When the payoff is handsome sights such as these, all the effort in seeking them out becomes well worth it.
Scotland is very much a coastal nation, and it reflects in the seafood available to us. In October, shellfish come to the fore before harvesting for them becomes more difficult in the winter. Cullen Skink, a firm favourite in any coastal restaurant, will include haddock, while langoustines and mussels only get better when their journey from harbour to table is measured in yards rather than miles.
Harvest vegetables come in to compliment fresh game on many highland estates and restaurants. Pheasant and woodcock are in season alongside venison featuring on many tables. All are accompanied by rich platters of parsnips, shallots and courgettes so that you can enjoy a range of flavours while still getting your five a day. Additionally, mushrooms of all varieties come into season to add that delicious earthiness to stews and broths. Seasonal classics like Balmoral chicken and stovies also make the rounds for something scrumptious to look forward to. All of these meals are often filling, warming, and delightful. They leave one feeling well prepared for a good night’s sleep before the next day of adventure.
If you’ve got space, then pudding is ruled by spiced fruit and fresh accompaniments. Raspberries, apples and pears are all just drawn in, and they’re delicious on their own, perfect in crumble or pie. That is if you’ve got space left, of course. If you have a touch less room, then there is always Scotland’s most famous export: whisky. Perfect for indulging by a warm fire, enjoyed as a quiet companion for reading, or simply as a nightcap.
Halloween takes its origins from Celtic tradition. Originally called Samhain or Samhuinn, it marked the Celtic New Year and the time when the veil between the world of the dead and the living was thinnest. This meant that taking heed and precautions against evil spirits was wise, which has led to many of our modern observances. Although it’s said that was invented in Ireland, Scotland can definitely claim to have popularised the spooky season. Learn more about Samhain from our Wilderness Ireland Blog.
When Queen Victoria visited Balmoral in the 1800s, she found the locals practising all sorts of ancient rites for Hallowe’en. Traditions ranged from wearing disguises to ward off evil spirits and a torchlit procession to mark the changing of seasons. She was so taken with the notion that she started to visit Scotland in October each year on holiday and encouraged the practices wholeheartedly. It was considered a most unchristian thing for a queen to do at the time! This fascination naturally spread to her subjects, in a time quite fascinated by the occult, and Halloween soon spread everywhere that the British had influence.
Scotland is the perfect place to celebrate Halloween, from traditional handmade costumes to classic games. There are, however, other events which may take your fancy this October.
The Samhuinn Fire Festival, the sister festival of Beltane in May, celebrates the changing of the seasons and bringing in of the harvest. This festival has been observed for millennia in Celtic tradition and continues to be a bright spot in any artistic calendar. Watch the transition from the Summer King’s reign, clad in oak leaves and sunshine, to that of the Winter King, wearing holly branches and snow.
The parade is spectacular and well worth checking in on before finding an evening tipple beside the fire. Discover more about Beltane and Samhuinn.
For a slightly less raucous, but no less impactful, event you may wish to swing by the International Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh. Storytellers from all around the world come to tell tales and spin yarns. Join them and you can embrace this cornerstone of community going back to antiquity. With a host of live displays in a multitude of mediums, you’ll enjoy some of the best traditional performances from the world over. These range from ballads to plays and anecdotes to epics. It is particularly interesting because, like so many of Edinburgh’s other art events, the event spreads out across the whole city to use cozy spaces and stages in nature all across the city. Find out more about the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.
Spring weather is mild, but the days are lengthening and consistently drier. The landscape is buzzing with life and colour, with flowers blooming and bustling wildlife.Find out more
Summer promises long days, pleasant temperatures, and festivals galore. The countryside transitions from vibrant green to breath-taking purple as the heather blooms.Find out more
Autumn is a time of colourful landscapes and glowing skies. Witness some of Scotland’s most exciting wildlife spectacles and taste flavours unique to our autumn months.Find out more
If the conditions are right, Scottish winters are the epitome of ‘winter wonderland’. Crunchy snow underneath your boots, sparkly fields, and the most beautiful night skies.Find out more
In October, you can expect to encounter little to no midges at this time of year. The chillier nights at the end of September lay waste to the midge population and drive them out for the autumn and winter months. You can rest assured that you’ll be safe to enjoy walks and evenings outside in peace. Read our blog Your Guide to Midges in Scotland for more information.
There’s something about wrapping up in your favourite cozy clothes so the chill can’t touch you before venturing out into the night. The hush of breath on the cold breeze. Everything seeming brighter because of the dim light. Some of the greatest shows on earth are only found outside after dark in Scotland during October. Indulge in your pursuit of mystery and excitement as you see what natural spectacles await.
Wrap up warm and enjoy stunning sunsets or star gazing in some pristine dark skies areas such as Galloway, the Cairngorms and Scotland’s North West. With slightly longer evenings coming in, take advantage of the many evening and night activities ranging from ghost tours through to a rare chance to catch the Aurora Borealis in the more northerly parts of Scotland. Our blog about the Northern Lights in Scotland shares top tips on how and when you can best enjoy the Mirrie Dancers.
“Pungent petals, gold and white,
Bronze and winey-red,
Blow in cottage gardens bright
Tho’ the rose is fled.”
There is no better fall of firey leaves than in Scotland. Like the forest celebrating a year well done before the winter’s cold, the trees are lined with festival flags that soon fall into a luscious rich carpet. Like the festive fare of autumn vegetables, the woods of Scotland present a heat and vibrance in contrast with the cooler weather all around. They also offer a lovely contrast between the deep greens of the pine trees. Almost like the green is bunting or decoration over the festivities.
The Hermitage in Perthshire seems to have a stately ceremony to it; a calm yet solemn sense of continuation as the leaves mark the passage of another year. Mugdock Wood has a bustling hush to it, similar to a library full of students preparing for winter exams; each of the many denizens hard at work preparing for the cold months soon to come. Tay Wood seems to have a sleepiness to it, a growing lethargy which seems to drift off of cool waters like mist to wile away the days until rest for another year. Each brings a unique character of autumnal beauty to the landscape and is distinct in how it celebrates the season.
All of them are marked by firework leaves floating delicately from trees. They layer on the ground like a child’s joyous instinctual fingerpainting. Of all the many displays and events which mark the equinox of autumn and the richness of the harvest, it’s fitting that perhaps the most handsome of all is entirely free – if you are willing to go seek it in the quiet natural spaces where it abounds.