With plenty of space and striking landscapes, the great Scottish outdoors is proving increasingly popular with Slow Travellers for a variety of reasons; those who want to explore their local region rather than take an environmentally damaging flight abroad, those who want to get back to basics and go off-grid in the wilderness, or those who want to enjoy a safely distanced getaway during the pandemic.
Scotland is the ideal place for the Slow Traveller, with vast open spaces (which aren't fenced off like the rest of the UK), where visitors can wander at will for hiking, climbing, exploring and adventuring. With dark skies where you can stargaze and see the Northern Lights, snow topped mountains, lochs and beaches, winter is the perfect time to visit to avoid the summer tourists. Staying away from the cities means you are immersed in the landscape, surrounded by nature and wildlife rather than crowds of people.
Scottish Independent Hostels specialise in providing comfortable and often remote shared accommodation across the country, for visitors wanting all the comforts of self-catering with a base to come and go as they please. They offer a variety of accommodation from shared dormitories to private rooms, some with ensuites, with shared facilities such as kitchens and sitting rooms which not only keep costs down, they provide the opportunity to meet like minded people on your adventures (although many offer sole use occupancy while there are special pandemic rules in place).
All of the hostels listed below have good availability this winter, and are independently owned, run by their owners, giving you direct local knowledge as well as ensuring each one has a unique environment with no homogenous corporate branding across them all. Unlike other Scottish hostelling organisations, there is no need to take out membership before staying.
Argyll Backpackers, Argyll & The Isles
Argyll Backpackers is a custom-built and accessible hostel that wows with stunning views over Loch Fyne, Arran and the Cowal Hills. The property has seven ensuite bedrooms of various sizes, but is also available to rent in its entirety for those who want to stay amongst themselves in their own group. There is also a spacious lounge, a well-equipped kitchen with access for guests with mobility impairments, several outdoor seating areas, and a BBQ / firepit.
A small beach is within easy reach, the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring. While there is no onsite restaurant or café, the hostel has a mini shop with a limited selection of products, with ‘breakfast bags’ and takeaway delivery available upon request and at an extra charge. In the winter months (until April 1st 2022), Argyll Backpackers is available only for ‘sole use’ for up to 23 guests or as part hostel ‘sole use’ for up to 13 guests. Alternatively, there is the ‘Wee Snug’ private apartment accommodating up to 4 guests.
Saddle Mountain Hostel, Lochaber
The Saddle Mountain Hostel is a comfortable and modern four-star property in the village of Invergarry in the Great Glen, and on the doorstep of many great attractions such as the famous Ben Nevis mountain, the Steall Waterfall, and the Jacobite Steam Train. The hostel was shortlisted for hospitality awards in both 2019 and 2020, a testament to the great location, well-kept facilities and warm welcome that awaits. Saddle Mountain Hostel has four private bedrooms with either ensuite or private bathroom access, as well as one mixed dormitory sleeping up to four people. There is also a spacious and bright kitchen, a dining room, lounge and drying room.
Glenbeg Bunkhouse & Bothy, Cairngorms
Located in the Cairngorms National Park, Glenbeg Bunkhouse & Bothy is situated in a quiet rural estate just a few miles outside Grantown-on-Spey, a convenient stop for those wanting to hit the North Coast 500, North East 250 or Malt Whiskey Trail.
The converted ‘Bunkhouse’ farmhouse can sleep up to 27 people over three rooms, while the cosy ‘Bothy’ fits up to six guests all on the same floor. Both buildings have central heating to keep them dry and warm year-round.
The Bothy is also suitable for guests with disabilities and has an especially equipped wetroom. There are flat screen TVs and DVD players in both buildings for a cosy movie night (although the TV has deliberately not been connected) as well as facilities to plug in gaming consoles.
Fraoch Lodge, Cairngorms
Situated just 30 minutes from Inverness and 40 minutes from Loch Ness, the quaint Fraoch Lodge offers a desirable location on the edge of the Speyside Way walking trail and the Speyside Malt Whisky Trail.
To offer a safe environment, the original layout of the lodge has been divided into two units accommodating individual groups offering two bedrooms and two bathrooms each. The kitchen facilities are shared and can only be used one group at a time, but each has their own breakfast room. There is a large garden with a trampoline and BBQ area.
Forest Way Bunkhouse, North West Highlands
Situated close to the Braemore Junction, the picturesque Forest Way Bunkhouse is ideally located to tour the North West Highlands.
The charming village of Ullapool is only 9 miles up the road, with many mountains and beaches nearby. Guests choosing this hostel are in the perfect spot to enjoy stunning scenery, fresh seafood and delightful walks. Built in 2009, the Bunkhouse offers a pleasant and clean environment with modern facilities such as underfloor heating and reliable hot showers. There are two private rooms and one dormitory, all with ensuite bathrooms. The hostel sleeps up to 10 people in total and is available for exclusive use from £140 per night.
Skye Basecamp, Isle of Skye
Skye Basecamp is located in Broadford on the beautiful Isle of Skye and offers a “home from home” with a selection of private rooms and stunning views across Broadford Bay. Located in the town centre, you have all amenities such as petrol stations, bars and restaurants on your doorstep, while also being close to nature.
Just two minutes away from the hostel is a local beach where otters and other wildlife are frequently spotted. The Beinn na Caillich, a local hill, tempts hikers to test their stamina from the horizon. The perfect base for keen walkers and outdoor enthusiasts, Skye Basecamp is run by Skye Guides, the island’s biggest provider of professional instruction and guiding for walking & climbing.
For further information on these and other independent hostels in Scotland, visit www.hostel-scotland.co.uk
Looking for things to do during your stay? Try the Visit Scotland website for ideas, walks, activities, attractions and more.