Time to take a shoulder season holiday for a crowd-free break

Unless you’re bound by school holidays and have to go away in high season it’s well worth thinking about taking a break in the quieter months. Shoulder season getaways offer a long list of advantages. Not only do you have the chance to save money on accommodation but you can enjoy fewer crowds, reasonable weather and the most glorious times of the year.

Shoulder season generally describes the spring and autumn, both seasons with lots of advantages to the UK holidaymaker. If you’re thinking of booking a self-catering break between April and June or from September to early November but aren’t quite convinced, read on.

Shoulder season self-catering savings

Holiday let owners often find the spring and autumn booking calendars a challenge to fill, particularly outside bank holiday weekends. They’re therefore keen to offer guests savings on high-season prices. Shop around and compare what’s being offered – look for a discount for late bookings, more nights’ accommodation for a lower price or 4 nights for the price of 3, for example. Expect to pay in the region of 30% less for a shoulder season booking than you would for one in high season.

Shoulder season weather

We all know that good weather in the UK is never a given, but at least in the spring and autumn you can count on it being warmer and sunnier than the winter. Snow lasts on the highest peaks in the Scottish Highlands into late May, but temperatures are usually pleasant. You can also expect less rain (at least statistically!) than the summer. (Did you know August is one of the wettest months in Scotland?) And autumn generally brings sunshine and temperatures warm enough to be out and about without all those winter layers.

Oh, and spring and autumn are non-midge season, a major plus if you’re planning to go out and about in the Scottish countryside while you’re on holiday.

Fewer crowds in shoulder season

Few families can get away during spring and autumn, automatically bringing the crowds down. Expect far fewer queues at attractions – think the Royal Mile in Edinburgh without the hoards or Glencoe without a crowded car park; imagine quieter beaches – you’ll probably have many of the best in Scotland all to yourselves; and easier reservations at the best restaurants – go mid-week and you might even get a table on the hoof!

Longer days

Shoulder season comes with extra hours. The daylight literally lasts all day and almost all night in mid-June in most of Scotland, but even in April and May, there are plenty of daylight hours. The same applies to September and October when, although the nights do start to draw in, you’re still got more than enough daylight to make the most of sightseeing and outdoor activities.

Spring flowers

Not for nothing is spring one of the best seasons of the year in UK. Most of the country is carpeted in wild flowers and bulbs. The oceans of spring flowers in the Trossachs are a national highlight and of course, you’ll be enjoying them almost on your own. The many fine city gardens – the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Glasgow, for example – come into their own in the spring when cherry trees take centre stage alongside the bulbs. The same applies to the ornamental gardens in Scotland’s many stately homes and castles.

Autumn colours

Autumn when the trees show off their autumnal foliage is just as pretty as spring. Late October to mid-November is the best time to see Scottish woods and forest in their annual glory. Those in Perthshire, known as Big Tree Country, are particularly magnificent but you’ll get treated to displays of red, orange and gold wherever you travel in the autumn.

Autumn is also a good time to see the best of Scottish wildlife. Don’t miss the deer rutting, particularly among red deer stags who use their giant antlers to fight for favours among the does. The Forestry Commission runs events so you can see the autumn action as close up as possible.

Shoulder season feasts

Spring and autumn also herald some of the best foodie times of the year. Spring comes with some of the season’s best vegetables and the autumn brings several delights for meat eaters. Scottish game is in its prime as is Scottish lamb in October and many restaurants showcase them in their seasonal menus.

Shoulder season events

While July, August and Christmas are traditionally the biggest months for events, there’s also plenty going on in the spring and autumn. And again, you’ll be without the biggest crowds. Highlights in Scotland include the start of the Highland Games season in May until late September. Check the calendar for a festival of dancing, bagpipes and of course, tossing the caber. 

May is also World Whisky Month when Scotland’s ‘water of life’ takes to the stage. World Whisky Day takes places on the third Saturday in May, but the long list of events happen throughout the month giving you more than enough opportunities to enjoy a wee dram (or several).

One of the best autumn events take place in Faskally Woods in Pitlochry. The Enchanted Forest has grown into one of the area’s most popular events and gets busy at weekends. But because you’re enjoying a shoulder season break you can go mid-week and make the most of the light and sound festival without the crowds!

As you can see, booking a shoulder season break comes with a whole lot of advantages. We hope we’ve convinced you of why you too should take a holiday in the spring and/or autumn. We have? Then all you need to do now is book your accommodation

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Reasons to take a holiday in the shoulder season. June is technically shoulder season and the height of summer so you're sorted. These are dates when kids are still in school, prices are not premium and attractions queues are far shorter if non-existent