10 Things to Do in Edinburgh in March

Although March may seem like a poor month to visit the Scottish capital, nothing could be further from the truth. It shows you everything there is to see and do.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

9 min read

10 Things to Do in Edinburgh in March

Calton Hill | ©Pixabay

If you dream of visiting Edinburgh but due to availability you can't do it in any other month than March, that's absolutely fine. In fact, March is not as bad as it is painted: temperatures begin to soften and at the end of the month the time change takes place that gives you an extra hour of daylight.

I have analyzed all the plans that you can do in the Scottish capital during this month to bring you the most interesting ones. You will see that there is much, much to do. Especially when it comes to festivals strongly linked to Scottish and Celtic culture. An unbeatable opportunity to get to know the culture of the country and complement the essential guide of what to see and do in Edinburgh.

1. Immerse yourself in the Scottish culture with the Celtic festival

Dancers at the Ceilidh Culture Festival| ©bsfestival
Dancers at the Ceilidh Culture Festival| ©bsfestival

Scotland is a country proud of its history and traditions, and more specifically its Celtic heritage. The Ceilidh Culture Festival is an annual event that celebrates the country's culture through different cultural manifestations such as music, dance, theater and storytelling.

Among all these activities, dance stands out, an element that characterizes the "ceilidh" or traditional Scottish gatherings in which dancing was the protagonist. They take place on March 20 and last until the beginning of April.

During these days, the streets and squares of Edinburgh are filled with dancers and many of its pubs and bars hold "ceilidh" or meetings of music and folk dancing. If you are a lover of Celtic culture, you will certainly enjoy.

I recommend you to immerse yourself in the popular culture of the city by taking one of the best tours and excursions, thanks to the local guides you will learn the history and way of life of its people.

2. A plan for the little ones: animation festival

At the Puppet Animation Festival| ©Andy Catlin
At the Puppet Animation Festival| ©Andy Catlin

If you are traveling with children in Edinburgh, there is nothing better than dropping by the Puppet Animation Festival.

An event that takes place at the end of March and lasts until the end of April. It usually starts from March 25, although it may vary each year. I advise you to check the dates to confirm the exact day it will start in the year in which you intend to travel to the Scottish capital.

The activities take place very often in bookstores in the city center. Depending on the edition they may change, so it is best to check before you go. The cost of the tickets is really cheap: you can buy them from 4 €.

Take them on a tour of Harry Potter's world

By the way, if you are traveling with your family, Edinburgh has a lot to offer. For example, tours of ghosts and mysteries. And, of course, tours that show you the iconic places that inspired Harry Potter. Read more about these tours here.

Book a Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh

3. Discover the Celtic links to Ireland: Edinburgh's Festival of Ireland

Edinburgh's Festival of Ireland| ©Festival Fringe Society
Edinburgh's Festival of Ireland| ©Festival Fringe Society

On the occasion of St. Patrick's Day, March 17, Edinburgh's Festival of Ireland is celebrated. An event that, as its name suggests, celebrates the links between two cultures as close as the Irish and Scottish.

The event, although it seeks to coincide with St. Patrick's Day, usually begins a day earlier, on March 16, and lasts until the end of the month.

The stars of this festival are Celtic music and dance. You can join the party in the different bars and pubs in the center. The most frequented are usually the following:

And what better time to celebrate the twinning with Dublin than taking a tour of the whiskey distilleries where you can discover the traditional process of making this Scottish liquor.

Book a tour of the whisky distilleries

4. Travel back in time with a very Viking event in the Shetlands

Guides at the South Mainland Helly Aa Festival| ©Mike Pennington
Guides at the South Mainland Helly Aa Festival| ©Mike Pennington

So far we have celebrated the Celtic roots of the Scots and also their connection to Irish culture, so what more is needed to dive into the depths of the country's culture? Well, yes! We have to take a trip back in time: nothing more and nothing less than the time of the Vikings.

These people occupied a large part of the Shetlands until the 15th century, so the awareness of their past is still very strong among the inhabitants today.

This has ensured that it is still remembered today through the South Mainland Helly Aa festival. It usually takes place in the second week of March and consists of a fire festival where the attendees dress up as Vikings. The festival is very colorful since it has torchlight processions and recreations of Viking ships.

It is held in South Mainland, south of the capital of the island of Mainland, Lerwick. This will give you the opportunity to tour the beautiful Scottish countryside either by train or bus before catching a ferry in Aberdeen. If you want to skip the journey, you can always take the plane to the Shetlands: they are just 1 hour and 30 minutes from Edinburgh.

Book a trip to the Viking Coast

5. Say hello to spring at the Scottish Snowdrop Festival

Scottish Snowdrop Festival| ©Lili T
Scottish Snowdrop Festival| ©Lili T

The Scottish Snowdrop Festival, also known as the "Snowdrop Festival," is a great way to enjoy the prelude to spring by taking in the beautiful Scottish gardens. The name of the festival refers to the flower that blooms in late winter and early spring.

So, between late January and the second week of March, you can get close to the beauties of spring that begins to awaken. This festival takes place in a multitude of gardens and natural spaces scattered throughout Scotland. There are even private gardens that, courtesy of their owners, open their doors for the duration of the festival.

Here you can see the Edinburgh gardens that participate in the Scottish Snowdrop Festival. It is, in fact, the Scottish enclave with the most attractions related to this festival. So, there is no better place in Scotland to welcome spring!

6. Celebrate the New Year for the second time: The Original New Year

Celebration of the Original New Year| ©GETTY IMAGES
Celebration of the Original New Year| ©GETTY IMAGES

Another event that shows the pride of the Scottish people in their traditions. The Original New Year, celebrated on March 25, is nothing more than the New Year on the date corresponding to the Julian calendar. Only with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in Scotland in 1599, the New Year began to be celebrated on January 1.

Edinburgh still celebrates this tradition, although, I will not deceive you, it is nowhere near comparable to what can be enjoyed at New Year (certainly one of the must if we decide to travel to Edinburgh at Christmas).

Nevertheless, any occasion is good to soak up the atmosphere that reigns in Edinburgh during that day, when small celebrations take place in the streets and pubs with the ever-present Scottish music and dancing.

7. Get up close to Scottish craftsmanship with the Edinburgh Yarn Festival

Edinburgh Yarn Festival| ©Elsa Thompson
Edinburgh Yarn Festival| ©Elsa Thompson

The Edinburgh Yarn Festival is another tribute to Scottish traditions, in this case to the craftsmanship linked to wool, one of the country's historic trading activities. This event, which takes place around the third week of March, features several activities:

  • Market with up to 100 stalls selling items made in wool.
  • Workshops
  • Talks with guest designers
  • Parties and concerts

All these events take place at the Corn Exchange, renamed not long ago as O2 Academy. Tickets are really cheap: they are available from 6 €.

8. Scotland leaving the bagpipes behind: enjoy reggae with the Wee Dub Festival

Wee Dub Festival| ©MacDor
Wee Dub Festival| ©MacDor

Traditional Scottish music is all well and good, but if you've heard enough of it and feel like something a bit more contemporary, you can always take the plunge at the Wee Dub Festival. A reggae festival that usually takes place in the first week of March.

The event consists of several sessions, each with a different approach to the guest artists. The fusion of reggae with other styles, such as electronic music, is common. It is not, as you can see, a festival of the most "orthodox" in music, although therein lies part of its interest.

If you like reggae but without a lot of experiments, you can check the program to see which session interests you most. The concerts take place in different venues, concert halls and bars, always in the Old City. Tickets to this event can be purchased from 45 €.

9. Meet the multicultural Edinburgh: the Syn Festival Edinburgh

Syn Festival Edinburgh| ©Dan M
Syn Festival Edinburgh| ©Dan M

If you are interested in learning about cultures, but you have had enough with Scottish, Celtic and Gaelic culture, I advise you to visit the Syn Festival Edinburgh. A celebration focused on Greek culture that takes place in the second week of March and consists of several activities:

  • Visual Arts Festival
  • Photography exhibitions
  • Art installations
  • Theater
  • Live music
  • Dance

Events usually take place at venues such as the Out of Blue Drill Hall, the Adam House and the Teviot Row House. Monuments, by the way, that are part of the city's historical heritage. If you want to know more about the landmark monuments of the city, do not miss the 10 best castles in Edinburgh.

Regarding the cost of tickets, the Syn Festival has a strong charitable orientation as it seeks to raise awareness and financially help Greek refugees and people from the Greek community in Edinburgh in need of assistance. That is why more than an entrance fee, a donation of the money that everyone deems appropriate is requested.

10. A great plan for geeks: the Datafest

At Datafest| ©EFD
At Datafest| ©EFD

If you are passionate about technology, especially that related to data and Artificial Intelligence, you have an unmissable date during the third week of March in Edinburgh. Datafest is an event that takes place at the University of Edinburgh and counts with the participation of personalities from all over the world.

The talks do not have an academic focus; in fact, rather than speakers, Datafest features speakers who will reveal the latest in data and Artificial Intelligence.

If you are passionate about technology and have a reasonably good command of English, this is a highly recommended event. There are also workshops, which you can sign up for. Tickets can be purchased from 20 €.

What are the temperatures and weather like in Edinburgh in March?

Edinburgh at night| ©Gary Campbell-Hall
Edinburgh at night| ©Gary Campbell-Hall

Edinburgh is characterized by cold temperatures in winter, as well as cloudy and often rainy days. However, in March the temperatures are slowly getting milder, so you won't face the harsher weather, which is more prevalent in December and January.

To give you an idea: in March the average maximum is around 9 degrees Celsius, while the average minimum is around -2 degrees Celsius. Enough to keep you warm.

What to pack for your trip to Edinburgh in March?

Luggage| ©Vlada Karpovich
Luggage| ©Vlada Karpovich

The main thing is to bring clothes to weather the cold and possible precipitation. Therefore take with you a good coat, gloves, hat, raincoat and thermal clothing. Do not forget high and closed shoes, if you can.

Regarding visas to enter Scotland, despite the Brexit, European Union citizens can access without them perfectly.

It is also not superfluous to take with you a list of exchange houses in Edinburgh. As you know, the currency of the United Kingdom is the pound. One pound is usually equivalent to just over one euro, although this can always change. I advise you to use this updated pound to euro converter to know at all times what to expect in terms of currency exchange.

Are there a lot of visitors in Edinburgh in March?

Sunset on Calton Hill| ©Akulatraxas
Sunset on Calton Hill| ©Akulatraxas

Due to the tourist attractions of Edinburgh, very centered on the cultural, the city is not subject to a great seasonality. However, it is true that, due to the weather, March is not one of the strongest months from the tourist point of view.

In addition, not many important international events or festivals take place during this month, so there is not usually an extraordinary influx. In short, you will be able to enjoy the city without stress or crowds.