I'm a Professional Packer — Here's Everything I Brought on a Trip to Scotland

A trip to Scotland's most luxurious and adventurous hotels in the winter calls for an expertly packed suitcase and plenty of warm layers.

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

Exterior facade of Gleneagles
Photo: James Merrell/Courtesy of Gleneagles

As any traveler who has explored Scotland will tell you, preparation is of the utmost importance if you want to thoroughly enjoy your trip, especially if you choose to go in the wintertime. While the scenery is nothing short of magical — glittering lochs, snow-capped peaks, breathtaking glens — there is always a possibility of below-freezing temperatures, gale-force winds, and the occasional snowstorm. When it came time to plan my own solo trip through the country, I had to get two things completely squared away before I left: where I was staying and what I was packing. Conveniently, the former informed the latter.

Royal Lochnagar Suite at Gleneagles
Courtesy of Gleneagles
Interior of Victoriana Suite at Fife Arms
Courtesy of Fife Arms

If you're looking to experience the best Scottish hotels alongside the country's spectacular views, like I was, there are two bucket-list properties that make just about every "top 10" and "must-see" list: Gleneagles, a five-star hotel, spa, and golf course, and The Fife Arms, a luxury boutique hotel renowned for its extensive art collection and flamboyant-meets-traditional decor. The properties have completely different aesthetics and dress codes, but the items I packed in my Away Bigger Carry-on Suitcase and The O.G 2 travel bag from Lo & Sons had to work for each.

Lo & Sons The O.G. 2
Courtesy of Lo & Sons

To buy: loandsons.com, $378

Gleneagles is widely known for its extensive list of activities and pursuits — horse riding, falconry, clay shooting, and off-road driving, to name a few — so my suitcase needed to include several staple countryside pieces. While the hotel has been around for nearly 100 years (it first opened its doors in 1924), it's maintained that inimitable atmosphere that embraces stylish yet practical dressing. A Barbour jacket, according to Colin Farndon, the director of leisure at Gleneagles, is the most popular item guests bring with them. It's casual, layer-able, and will go with just about everything else in your suitcase.

Barbour Womens Classic Bedale Wax Jacket
Courtesy of Tnuck

To buy: tuckernuck.com, $395

My pair of tall leather boots from Frye are easy to pull on, so they were exactly what I needed for a walk around the 850-acre property. Plus, they were well-suited for the more casual restaurants inside the hotel, including The Dormy and The Garden Cafe.

Frye Melissa Button 2
Courtesy of The Frye Company

To buy: thefryecompany.com, $298

That said, the toughest part about packing for a destination like Gleneagles is achieving the delicate balance of not overpacking, yet having the right pieces to take you from chilly country pursuits to a Michelin-starred dinner (Restaurant Andrew Fairlie claims the title of the "only restaurant in Scotland to hold two Michelin Stars"), where smart attire is encouraged. But there's a simple solution: layers. A reversible vest, a roomy sweater, and J.Crew's tissue turtlenecks are easily dressed up or down.

Tuckernuck Camel Leather and Shearling Reversible Beckham Vest
Courtesy of Tnuck

To buy: tuckernuck.com, $298

Jenni Kayne Alpaca Cocoon Crewneck
Courtesy of Jenni Kayne

To buy: jennikayne.com, $295

Remove a layer (and add some dinner-appropriate shoes like M.Gemi's Mia slingbacks) to take you from the Gleneagles Shooting School to The Century Bar, where the cocktails are inspired by different aspects around the property — from "the great outdoors" to "the glamorous ballroom."

M. Gemi The Mia
Courtesy of M. Gemi

To buy: mgemi.com; $328

A couple more items I brought with me to Gleneagles included a black one-piece swimsuit to take advantage of the hotel's pools and my trusty pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses — the sunlight in Scotland in the winter may be minimal (expect sunset around 3:30 p.m.), but the outdoor beauty of Gleneagles needs to be enjoyed as much as possible.

Good American Barely There One Piece
Courtesy of Shopbob

To buy: shopbop.com; $75

Rayban Original Wayfarer Classic
Courtesy of Rayban

To buy: ray-ban.com; $163

While you might be able to get by at Gleneagles without heavier outerwear, it's a non-negotiable at The Fife Arms. In the middle of the Cairngorms National Park and 10 minutes down the road from Balmoral, the Royal Family's holiday home, The Fife Arms is in the perfect taking-off (and returning) point for those seeking out that fresh Scottish air and rustic activities. But be warned: If you're headed up into the mountains, the temperatures and wind chill can reach near-Arctic levels.

Before you adventure out in one of the property's Land Rovers or, like I did, with local photographer and tour guide Steven Rennie, you'll need a thick, warm jacket. Triple Fat Goose's Olevia Belted Down Parka is well worth its higher price point. The fur hood lining, nylon hand coverings, and waterproof shell will keep you protected from the Scottish elements and warm enough until you get back to The Fife Arms for a whisky (or two) in Bertie's Bar or a pint at The Flying Stag.

Triple Fat Goose Olevia Women's Belted Down Parka
Courtesy of Triple Fat Goose

To buy: triplefatgoose.com, $700

Exploring the woods and the nearby River Dee calls for sturdy shoes. Choose all-terrain shoes, like the Mountain Pass boot from Danner, that are waterproof, comfortable, and provide plenty of traction. If you didn't have room in your suitcase for another pair of boots, The Fife Arms outfits guests with Hunter boots (and windbreakers) in all sizes, available in the boot room.

If there ever was a place to pull out any wool, tartan patterns, or tweed pieces, it's The Fife Arms. A pair of wool trousers is ideal for a more dressy dinner in Clunie Dining Room or for sipping a cocktail in the living room, beneath the hotel's original Pablo Picasso or its Lucian Freud.

Additional items needed if you venture to The Fife Arms and brave the winter climate in Braemar include gloves, a blanket scarf or cape, thick, wool socks, and plenty of chapstick.

If you forget anything on your trip to Scotland, or simply need another layer, both The Fife Arms and Gleneagles have shops where you can purchase everything from Scottish cashmere sweaters to a cable-knit hat.

Lydia Mansel is a travel writer and founder of Just Packed, a stylish traveler's resource for packing lists and product recommendations. Most of her frequent flier miles come from trips to the United Kingdom, but she'll fly anywhere in search of a hotel with soft sheets, fluffy robes, and top-tier room service.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles