What intrigues you on a backpacking Scotland trip? Do you enjoy wandering around in old castles and historic cities? Are you a fan of stunning scenery which is untouched by humans? Would you enjoy getting in touch with locals in fantastic stereotypical pubs? If your answer to all of that is yes, then let me introduce you to your next travel destination, Scotland.
Scotland’s Landscape – From the Highlands to the Coastline
The dominating images of Scotland are the Highlands. They became a symbol for the whole country and its people. Combined with the famous Scottish weather it still gives off the impression of a harsh and vigorous environment. That shouldn’t stop you from exploring this iconic landscape, though, but we highly recommend you to take the right equipment with you. You can climb the peak of a mountain and admire the view on towering mountains, green valleys, and glimmering glens.
The beauty of Scotland isn’t just the Highlands. The Lowlands offer vast green meadows and thick woodland which invite many travelers to a relaxed hike. If you’re up for a challenge, you could go for a swim in one of the many massive and small lochs.
The Coastline of Scotland provides you with impressive cliff sites, golden beaches and waves pounding against the shores of the small islands which are surrounding the mainland. In the end, there is nothing compared to camping on a beach and listening to the sounds of the ocean.
Scotland’s culture – historic cities, rich history, and welcoming locals
The towns in Scotland didn’t just preserve their historic sites; they transported them into our modern times by adding the most recent buildings into the mood of the existing environment. Take the time to walk around the city you are in, as they are small enough to reach everything by foot. Visit the national museums, as they are admission free and extremely well set up.
Spend an evening in a typical pub will get you in contact with real Scotsman. They might be known as rough people, but behind that facade, you will find extremely welcoming and outgoing people. After all, their official national animal is a unicorn so how bad can they be?
Gather up your courage and try out some Haggis, I can testify that the taste is not too bad after you managed not to think about the ingredients for too long.
Accommodation – British style with a Scottish heart
Scotland is one of the most popular countries for backpackers in Europe. That led to a massive hospitality network and high standards for backpacking accommodation all over the country.
The hostels offer the choice of single, double or dorm rooms with usually up to 8 beds. The typical Scottish hostel has excellent facilities and is the perfect environment to get in touch with like-minded travelers. Most hostels also provide tea and coffee as well as a small breakfast. You can get a bed in a dorm room for 20 GBP.
If you feel like treating yourself, you should have a look out for a Bed & Breakfast. Especially in the more rural places, you can find a country house which is run by a warm-hearted family with the mission to give you an unforgettable experience. On top, you get a world-famous English breakfast. To all of you, who don’t usually eat a savory breakfast, let me tell you to take it slow on the fried food. As delicious as it might be, I spend some time on a mountain hike cursing myself for putting my body through all this digesting right before a day on my feet. As the facilities vary, so do the prices. You can find a luxurious 5 star B&B, but that could cost you up to 100 GBP. I was able to find an excellent B&B for 40 GBP with comfortable rooms, delicious breakfast, and lovely owners. For that, you should keep away from the city center and try to find a small and privately run Bed & Breakfast.
Last but not least Scotland is excellent for camping. Camping won’t be any problem as long as it is not explicitly forbidden or someone’s private property.
Transportation in Scotland
Scotland is a rather small country, which is a significant advantage for traveling around. Even if the train was the most convenient option, it could get quite expensive. I would, therefore, recommend the bus service if you travel on a budget. For a small price, you get to every city and town as well as to the most visited places in the countryside.
For me, the best way to experience Scotland is with a rental car. A 2 weeks road trip gives you the chance to explore the rural places and enjoy the scenic routes along the coastline and through the Highlands. So I would advise organizing the rental car a few weeks in advance to get a good price.
Best places in Scotland
As this country simply has too many beautiful spots to state them all, I still want to give you my favorites and personal must-do-list.
Climbing the Ben Nevis; The Ben Nevis is also known as the highest mountain in Scotland. However, don’t be afraid, it is still a manageable ascend for people with an average fitness level. If you are up for the challenge to carry your equipment up to the top, you can spend the night in a little shed or a tent on the last stretch of grass. The climb might be more exhausting, but the view in the morning was my highlight of Scotland.
Edinburgh is the capital and a gorgeous city. You can admire the beauty of the Edinburgh Castle, that towers above the city, from the Princess Street Garden in the center of the city.
The Fringe Festival takes place in Edinburgh for nearly the whole month of August. During this time there are numerous musicians, artists, and comedians performing for free. The festivities reach their climax in the final weekend with fireworks and parties all over town. Make also sure to book your accommodation in advance as the city is brimming. It is not a pleasant experience when a police officer wakes you up because you had to sleep on a bench in the park, trust me.
Loch Ness always has and keeps on inspiring people all over the world. Wander through the Urquhart Castle and catch yourself glimpsing onto the loch, wishing to see Nessi.
Loch Tarff is situated just a 20 minutes’ drive from Loch Ness and was simply the most beautiful place I camped. Climb the little hill, set up your tent and admire the sunset reflecting on the small lake.
Stirling is the old capital of Scotland, and people are proud of that. Explore the history of Scotland while visiting the Wallace Monument and the famous battleground of the Stirling battle.
Inverness is the most northern city in the Highlands and a great home base for trips into the surrounding wilderness. Countless hiking tracks are close by and easy to reach.
St Andrews lies on the east coast and is known as the home of the golf sport. More importantly, St Andrews offers a historical city core where you’ll find the impressive ruins of a cathedral and a stunning coastline.
Taste Scotch Whisky in a local distillery and for Christ sake never spell it as ‘Whiskey,’ as Scottish people are not easy to forgive that. If you are not a fan of Whisky just try a Scottish Coffee, there is nothing better to warm you up after a day out in the rain.
So start packing and explore Scotland for yourself. Let us know about your travels in Scotland. And also don’t forget to share this article with your friends so they might join you.