Forecasters have warned that gusts of up to 90mph could hit the country with the arrival of Storm Caroline, causing potential danger to life.
The Met Office has raised the level of its weather warning from yellow to amber “be prepared” for northern Scotland on Thursday, warning of very windy weather.
Transport is likely to be disrupted while there may also be power cuts.
The strong wind warning is valid from 6am until 11.55pm on Thursday, with an amber warning for northern Scotland.
A yellow “be aware” warning is in force for the southern half of Scotland and parts of the north of Northern Ireland between 6am and 6pm on December 7.
The Met Office said gusts of 70mph to 80mph are expected widely in northern Scotland, with gusts of up to 90mph possible in exposed areas.
It said: “Flying debris is likely and could lead to injuries or danger to life. Some damage to buildings is possible, such as tiles blowing off roofs.
“Longer journey times and cancellations are likely as road, rail, air and ferry services may be affected. There is a good chance that power cuts may also occur.
“Large waves are expected and beach material may be thrown onto coastal roads, sea fronts and properties.”
The yellow warning for the southern half of Scotland and Northern Ireland says gusts of 60mph to 70mph are expected quite widely, with gusts of up to 80mph possible over high ground and around exposed coasts.
It warns of possible disruption to travel and some short-term loss of power and other services.
Coastal routes, seafronts and coastal communities are likely to be affected by spray or large waves.
Conditions will start to turn wet and blustery on Wednesday, especially across the north and north west of the UK, before the gales hit on Thursday.
Met Office meteorologist Marco Petagna said: “Wednesday will see the last of the mild days, with temperatures in double figures, between 10C and 12C (50F-54F).
“Overnight, the main feature will be the increase in wind as Caroline starts to come in towards the end of the night.”
Meanwhile, dozens of workers are being removed from a North Sea platform due to safety fears over weather conditions caused by Storm Caroline.
CNR International said a total of 69 of the 159 staff on Ninian South, about 240 miles from Aberdeen, would be leaving the structure as a precaution.
Snow and falling temperatures are also forecast for parts of Britain later in the week.
A yellow snow and ice warning is in place for Friday for Scotland, Northern Ireland, western England and Wales.
The storm is expected to affect travel, with ferry passengers warned there is a high possibility of disruption to services.
Drivers are also being advised that there is a strong possibility of bridge closures and restrictions.
Workers on the Forth Bridge and Queensferry Crossing have been preparing for the storm by adding extra sandbags to signs and stacking cones to weigh them down.
A Scottish Government Resilience meeting will take place on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “We are facing some challenging weather conditions in the next few days as a result of Storm Caroline and we will be working closely with our partners to try to mitigate the worst of these and get information out to the public so that they can plan their journeys. Disruption is very likely but we will make every effort to recover the network as quickly as possible when incidents do occur.
“On Thursday, the strength of the wind during the morning peak period is likely to lead to bridge restrictions and closures and we would urge drivers to check ahead. The Traffic Scotland mobile site gives them up-to-date information on any incidents on the network. The wind thresholds on the Traffic Scotland website will let people see when restrictions are likely.
“Moving forward, snow and ice will become more of a feature of the storm and our gritters and patrols will be out across the network. There is plenty of salt available and new vehicles are being trialled to improve our response. Our gritter tracker is back online so that people can see where our gritters have been out in their area.”
Gritters and patrols will be deployed across the trunk road network with up to 8in (20cm) of snow and blizzard conditions forecast for higher routes on Friday and Saturday.
Graeme Macfarlan, commercial director of CalMac, said: “With Storm Caroline expected to see strong winds gusting across the north of Scotland tomorrow, disruption to ferry services is a high possibility.
“We would urge passengers who need to travel to allow extra time for their journey and to keep track of the status of their sailing on the website before setting out on their journey.
“Passengers also have the option of signing up for our text service to get the very latest service updates via their phone.”
The ScotRail Alliance said it can call on a host of measures to deal with severe weather including 10 snowplough trains which will be on stand-by and a £1 million “winter train” that will be used to defrost points and other key parts of the railway affected by snow or ice.
Maintenance depots are being fitted with heated polytunnels, high pressure hot water “jet washes”, and space heaters to reduce the time required to defrost trains and get them back in service quicker.
ScotRail Alliance infrastructure director David Dickson said: “Our staff will be working flat out, night and day, to get customers where they need to be, while ensuring that the safety of our customers and staff remains our number one priority.”