A place of mystery, history and incredible scenery, the Scottish highlands are an amazing destination for those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of Europe’s big cities. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, and a plentiful array of activities in the area makes Scotland a destination of choice.
Like most of Europe, the area can be thoroughly miserable from October to March. And with tourists flooding the highlands in summer, May and September provide ideal times to explore the wondrous landscapes complete with mountains, lochs and coastal views.
Oban – A good launching point for further adventures along the west coast, the small fishing village of Oban provides numerous accommodation options and an incredible view to the Hebridean Islands. For those with a religious bent, nearby Iona is apparently a must visit, while several hills close to Oban provide a fantastic place to watch the sun set.
Isle of Skye – Perhaps the most popular Scottish isle, Skye is an eclectic mix of highland heritage, natural attractions, and a bustling tourism industry. Having struggled through the 70s and 80s, locals were initially hesitant to accept the flood of foreigners arriving to start hostels, hotels and restaurants. But that animosity is now long gone and Skye is a welcoming and friendly destination. Don’t miss a trip to MacKenzie’s Bakery in Portree, the capital of Skye, home to incredible pastries for less than a pound.
Loch Ness – And finally, a trip to the Scottish highlands wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the home of Nessie. While the area is now a huge tourist trap, the lake is still mightily impressive and with a little foresight it is possible to escape the droves of day trippers.
Morag’s Lodge – Nestled behind Fort Augustus not far from Loch Ness, this funky hostel is clean, cheap and has a cool vibe. They offer a different home-made dinner option every night for only seven pounds, although there is also a kitchen for those preferring to cook for themselves. The hostel bar is also full of fun, with quiz nights, karaoke and much more. Top tip – try a local honey beer.
Food options are plentiful, although not everywhere is helpful to the budget of a student traveller. Haggis is an obvious dish to try, while any coastal town will do excellent fish and chips. Several big supermarket chains operate in the area, and many hostels have kitchens, so those living cheaply can usually fix a meal for five pounds.
Due to the large distances between towns, getting around can be problematic, especially for students. Hiring a car would be the ideal solution, but sadly many companies refuse to accept people under 25. The train and bus network is solid though, and provides a reasonably cost effective (if slow) means of moving from A to B. Finally, numerous tour operators run trips to the area, with options from one to 10 days.
Although the highlands may be cheaper than Edinburgh or England, a trip to the area will still take some serious saving. Dormitory rooms range from 15 to 20 pounds, while transport is not inexpensive. Budget perhaps 50 pounds per night (approximately AUD $75).
There is only one lake in Scotland – Menteith. All the other bodies of water are lochs, not lakes.