THE wind, the clouds, and the cold, cold rain. Scotland’s weather used to put visitors off. Now, instead, thanks to global heating, it is luring them in.

Summer after summer, people across much of mainland Europe and even southern England are now routinely suffering unbearable, stifling and even life-threatening heat. So they are heading north for the ultimate cool break.

Fully one in ten European tourists say they come to Scotland because of the climate. Even for fellow Britons that figure is one in 20, according to surveys carried out national agency VisitScotland.

Weather, the same market research shows, is far from the biggest driver of Scotland’s tourism boom: 71% of European respondents said they were drawn by scenic beauty while half cited history and culture.

However, analysts expect more and more people to escape the heat of the continent on low-cost flights to countries like Spain, France, Portugal and Italy initially designed to ferry Scots to the sun.

Earlier this month Scotland emerged as one of the favourite holiday destinations for the people of the Canary Islands.

READ MORE: Health fears as Europe sees second heatwave in two months

This week’s powerful heat wave on the continent sparked news stories offering advice on where best to chill.

Le Figaro in Paris - which was hit by record temperatures of 42 degrees on Thursday - talked up Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Patagonia and even the freezing Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen north of Norway...” and other destinations spared from both hot weather and over-tourism.”

But it was Scotland the newspaper focused on most. It cited a Parisienne called Camille who liked her holidays cold. “In summer, the beach and the sun are not priorities for me,” the 30-year-old said. “So I avoid the Med and prefer northern European countries like Scotland where the temperatures hovers around 15C and the alternation of rain and sunny spells makes the days lovely.”

Christophe Linsale, a French tour boat skipper working in the Hebrides, added: “More than the cool, our clients are looking for a change of scene, a certain tranquility.”

READ MORE: Climate crisis ‘raises risk’ of more intense heatwaves

Laurie Goodlad echoes that sentiment. The tour guide trades as Shetland with Laurie and she stresses her customers want to experience her islands weather and light as part of something bigger.

Ms Goodlad has just guided a group of Europeans off the MSC Preziosa, a 4000-passenger cruise ship which anchored off Lerwick this week. “They were German and French and we went on a walk and one commented they were so glad they were not at home because it was 41 degrees," she told The Herald.  "They said they had planned it so that they were away during the hot months.”

HeraldScotland:
Laurie Goodlad

It has been a bright 20C in Shetland over the last few days so Ms Goodlad thanked her visitors for taking the summer with them. Their response? “One of them asked: ‘It’s quite windy today. Is this a storm?’’ Ms Goodlad I had to say it was just a bit breezy.”

The tour guide continued: “Last week I had a lady from Florida. She comes to Scotland every year for the month of August and has done so for a number of years, because August has become unbearably hot at home.”

There are other trends too. Once a visit to the Northern or Western Isles was something only to be braved during the short summer months. Now the tourist season is extending as visitors yearn to try something different, including pitch black and long winter nights.

“I had an American couple who came here in January for Up Helly AA. They wanted to experience the darkness and the winter," said Ms Goodlad, 32.

“They wanted to go on a hike and I told them you will have to bring warm clothing. They had looked at the temperatures, which were maybe five degrees but they had not factored in the the wind chill. They were actually quite shocked at how cold it was.

“The light is a big big thing and for years people have come to us for the midsummer light but I think now people are starting to come for the dark too.”

Scotland, meanwhile, is not immune to the climate emergency with a new record temperature set in Edinburgh this week: 31C. Is Shetland benefitting? “If you look at it in black and white terms, I suppose we are,” Ms Goodlad said. “But if you look at it in a wider sense, then we’re not. Because our climate is being affected too."

The Brexit-related crash in the pound has made destinations like Shetland that little bit more affordable. New figures from the UK Office of National Statistics show the number of bed nights in Scotland spent by foreign visitors rose from around 2.75m in 2016 to 3.5m in 2018. First quarter bed nights, however, were down in 2019.

A VisitScotland spokesman said: “We’ve always considered Scotland a cool destination but for some it does goes further than our incredible landscapes and vibrant history, heritage and culture.

“European visitors are more likely to say they come to Scotland because of the weather, and our research finds this could be a growing trend, with ‘weather wanderers’ looking to immerse themselves in both a different culture and cooler climate.

“But whether it’s a blustery walk along Luskentyre Beach, relaxing in the sun in Kelvingrove Park or making a splash mountain biking through the Scottish Borders in the rain, Scotland is a must-see destination for our international visitors, whatever the weather.”

HeraldScotland: The beautiful Luskentyre Beach, one of many gorgeous stretches of sand on the Scottish coast

Luskentyre Beach