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13 BEST Things to do in Scotland in Autumn

From hiking in the Cairngorms National Park to driving the North Coast 500, these are the best things to do in Scotland in autumn.

scotland in autumn

Whether you’re looking for stunning natural landscapes, vibrant and historic cities, or islands that are out of this world, Scotland in autumn can certainly deliver.

I love exploring Scotland during this time of year because the cooler weather means that outdoor adventures like hiking, cycling and climbing are all a lot more comfortable – especially as the midges aren’t around! Also, all the kids are back in school after the summer holidays, so the main destinations are a lot quieter.

From days spent kayaking on Loch Lomond to exploring oyster season on the beautiful Outer Hebrides to enjoying multi-day hiking experiences along the North Coast 500 route, there’s a little something for everyone. 

best things to do in scotland in autumn
I can’t tell you how much I love spending autumn in Scotland

Autumn activities in Scotland aren’t just all outdoor exploration and adventure. Some of my favourite places to visit during this season are the cities. With the university students returning to the major cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling, and the nights drawing in, there’s a definite cosiness and energy to this time of year.

So, are you ready to discover all the best things to do in Scotland in autumn? Let’s dive in and find out more!

Scotland autumn weather 

scotland autumn
It’s fair to say you’ll need to pack for all seasons during autumn

Look, I know Scotland has an unreliable reputation when it comes to the weather. Even in the heights of summer it might be freezing and raining. However, on the whole, temperatures in the autumn months tend to average out between 8°C (46°F) and 14°C (57°F). 

This obviously varies based on where you are in the country. The general rule of thumb is that the further north you are, the colder it’s going to get. Also if you’re heading towards the coastal regions, it might feel colder due to the wind chill rolling off the Irish and North Seas respectively.

My advice, pack lots of layers and take a really good jacket.

Best things to do in Scotland in autumn

Hike, drive, or cycle the NC500

north coast 500 scotland
The North Coast 500 is one of the world’s best driving routes

It’s no secret that the NC500 – the 516-mile route that makes up the north coast of Scotland – is a bucket list-worthy adventure. Whether you want to go slow and hike sections of it, road trip from place to place, or speed around on two wheels, there are tons of options open to you.

Completing the NC500 during autumn is a good idea because a lot of the guesthouses and campsites along the route are completely rammed and booked up during the summer, and the conditions get perilous in the winter. So, this shoulder season is the perfect opportunity to explore. 

Check out Ben Nevis

ben nevis
Climbing Ben Nevis should be on everyone’s bucket list

If you love climbing big mountains or enjoying intense day hikes, then you have to check out Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. It’s a popular day hike but definitely presents some challenges, especially in the unpredictable Scottish weather conditions. 

I’d definitely recommend climbing Ben Nevis earlier on in autumn as the weather starts to get dangerous and more advanced at the end of October and into November. Where you can get a local guide to assist you!

Kayak on Loch Lomond

activities to do in scotland in autumn
This is such a fun activity to do!

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is definitely one of my favourite places in the whole of Scotland. It’s an easy day trip from Glasgow and is full of exciting adventures.

One of the best ways to see the autumn colours and natural beauty of the area is to hire a kayak and take to the water. Experience the calmness of the loch and keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife!

See the Northern Lights in the Scottish Highlands

can you see the northern lights in scotland in autumn
Yes, you really can see the Northern Lights in Scotland in autumn

As the nights draw in, the opportunities to see the amazing Northern Lights get better and better. Obviously, the further north you go the better your chances, so I’d recommend heading straight for the Dark Sky regions in the Scottish Highlands.

If you’re wanting to chase the elusive Aurora Borealis, you should probably travel towards the end of autumn to give yourself the best possible chance. Remember, you need clear skies, so no clouds and no light pollution!

Enjoy the autumn colours in Perthshire

scotland autumn colours
Just look at the beautiful autumn colours in Scotland

Known locally as Big Tree Country, Perthshire is the perfect place to enjoy the changing autumnal colours. With reds, yellows, and oranges as far as the eye can see, Perthshire is a spectacular spot that’s popular with photographers. 

There are plenty of spots within the county that are great for chasing the autumn colours, including Killiecrankie and The Hermitage, so you can spend your entire trip going from place to place and seeing this natural spectacle.

Explore the most beautiful glen in Scotland: Glen Affric

scotland fall colors
Glen Affric is such an amazing place to explore

So, this isn’t my opinion, it’s a local nickname that’s been given to the stunning Glen Affric. Located up in the Scottish Highlands, you can wander around the loch, explore ancient woodlands, follow the rivers, and just relax and recharge.

In the autumn months, Glen Affric transforms with the autumn colours and gets a lot more peaceful than it is in the summer holidays!

Hike in the Cairngorms National Park

scotland in the fall
This is always a popular thing to do in Scotland

Another favourite Scottish destination of locals and tourists alike, the Cairngorms National Park is the perfect place to hike in Scotland in the autumn. The cooler temperatures for hiking and chances of spotting wildlife make it the ideal time to visit. 

I’d recommend basing yourself in the quaint town of Aviemore in the heart of the national park. A lot of great hikes start here and there are enough amenities to make your stay memorable.

Spot wildlife during October TayFest

deer scotland
Seeing deer is always a highlight when travelling here

Looking for a family-friendly festival in the heart of Scotland during October? Head to October Tayfest in Aberfeldy and get your fill of nature, adventure, and outdoor fun. 

With canoeing, wild deer spotting, hikes, cinema nights, and more during this week-long festival, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy and be inspired by!

Take a spooky ghost tour in Edinburgh

There are lots of ghost tours in Edinburgh

With autumn being one of the spookier seasons, why not scare yourself silly with a ghost tour around historic Edinburgh? Wander the cobbled streets and alleyways with a knowledgeable and dramatic guide as you learn all about the city’s sordid past. 

One of the best ghost tours you can go on are the ones that revolve around the infamous Burke and Hare, so try and book yourself onto one of those! Bonus points if you decide to go on a ghost tour on Halloween – you’re braver than I am!

Taste the ocean during oyster season in the Outer Hebrides

Scottish oysters are the BEST

Scotland in autumn is a time when some of the freshest and most amazing produce is available right on your doorstep. I love seafood, so autumn is the perfect time to head to the Outer Hebrides and check out restaurants during oyster season.

Although it’s an acquired taste, you won’t find fresher oysters than this anywhere else in the world – it’s spectacular. The west coast is definitely the place to be for foodies in the autumn months. 

Watch the deer rut on the Isle of Arran

deer fighting
Autumn is deer season

It might sound odd, but watching the deer rut is one of the best activities in Scotland in autumn. This is where the deer literally butt antlers and fight each other for male supremacy. It’s like something you’d see in a David Attenborough documentary.

The Isle of Arran on the West Coast is a great spot to see the natural phenomenon, and you’ll also be able to enjoy windswept beaches and island vibes while you’re there. 

See the leaping salmon at Pitlochry

salmon leaping
You can see salmon leaping in autumn too

If you’d rather be watching live fish than eating them with a wedge of lemon, journey up to Pitlochry for a natural phenomenon that draws crowds and photographers from all around the world. 

The leaping salmon during the autumn months is something that definitely needs to be seen to be believed. Hordes of salmon fly through the air in tandem, in a seasonal wonder that only happens at this time of year. 

Go pumpkin picking at Arnprior Farm, near Stirling

things to do in scotland for the kids
This is a great activity for the kids!

Now, this might be more of an American tradition, but with all the amazing local produce in Scotland, the Scottish have embraced the idea of pumpkin picking. 

There are plenty of places to do this autumnal activity all around Scotland, but Arnprior Farm just outside the city of Stirling has long been touted as one of the best places to go. They even have glamping accommodation onsite if you want to make a weekend of it!

So, there you have it, some of the best activities to enjoy in Scotland in autumn. What are your favourite things to do in Scotland during this beautiful season? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll add them to my next itinerary!

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13 BEST Things to do in Scotland in Autumn

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