Hiking in Scotland under 21 without a car

Travel Asked by Vinz243 on August 22, 2020

So I wanted to go with a friend to Scotland for 4 to 5 days. We would arrive at Edinburgh by plane. We wanted to rent a car so we could go where we wanted to to hike, but we would have to pay double the price because of the young driver fee. That would make the whole trip really expensive for five days, not even taking into account plane tickets, oil and food.

I was wondering if taking bus / train to get to an itinerary for a good hike that would last those days + hitchhiking would be doable, even for a short span.

6 Answers

Not only is this possible, it would be my preferred way of doing it. Scotland has very good rail and bus connections, and the railways run through some of the best scenery and over some of the most spectacular bridges in the world. What's the point of renting a car and leaving it in a parking lot while you hike? Using public transport also means you can do an end-to-end hike without having to return to your start point to pick up a car.

Here is a link to get you started. It lists the major trails and how to get to them. Many start from towns with railway stations - for example the Great Glen Way runs from Fort William to Inverness, both with excellent connections to Edinburgh. The West Highland Way also starts from Fort William. The John Muir way starts from Edinburgh.

Don't forget to check out discount rail cards for youth, and the Scottish Youth Hostel Association for cheap accommodation.

Correct answer by DJClayworth on August 22, 2020

20 years ago I happily hitchhike from Edinburgh to the west coast (Fort William, Glen Coe, Skye, Ullapool, Glen Affric) and north coast (Orkney). Nowadays I'd probably take a bus to Inverness (15-25 GBP) and try to hitchhike from there.

If you like nature, there are also bothies to stay. Camasunary on the south of Skye was really nice (but currently closed due COVID-19).

Answered by pevik on August 22, 2020

Its pretty much impossible to give suggestions without knowing how experienced you are at walking and camping, but here is my 2 cents.

Setting realistic expectations, if you are starting in Edinburgh, and you want to go hiking in Scotland's more famous places, like Glen Coe, Fort William, or Aviemore or wherever, then it will take you about a day to get there, and a day to get back to Edinburgh, meaning: If you want to go hill walking 'for a few days', it will likely be the only thing you do while your here.

Basically, take the train to Glasgow and get a bus or a train to wherever you want.

Use this mapping website ( ) and walk highlands website ( ) to get a feel for the areas and plan where you want to go. As suggested, Glen Coe, Fort William, or Aviemore are towns surrounded by hills and well established walks. You would be as well to check them out.

Accommodation would be the normal - youth hostels and campsites.

Finally, be sensible and have respect for the hills and the weather (dont take stupid risks), because people die from lack of it. Have fun :)

Answered by user112841 on August 22, 2020

With only 4 days, it will be a problem. As other answers have said, Scotland is a big place.

If you're flying into Edinburgh, I would recommend spending those 4 days doing a thorough job of exploring Edinburgh. There is a lot of history in the city, so it will keep you plenty busy enough.

For hiking, climbing Arthur's Seat is an iconic part of a trip to Edinburgh, and will occupy you for most of a day if you wander round the crags around it and Duddingston. (And allowing for a pub stop before you return!) Walking around Holyrood House and gardens could easily take another day, as could the castle, depending on your interest in history. And the city itself is hilly enough that you will be kept fit just walking around.

If you really want to do some more strenuous hiking, I would recommend the last section of the West Highland Way to get a feel for the Highlands. If you get the train to Tyndrum, that gives you four days of the recommended route. The route follows the old Military Road, now a wide gravel track, so it is almost impossible to get lost and the path is easy to walk, although you do still have substantial height gains to deal with. If you're in good shape then you should be able to add Ben Nevis to the walk for a long day's hike; or you could get the train up to Bridge of Orchy instead and cut some of the distance.

If you're hiking in Scotland, do be aware that the weather can change dramatically and unpredictably. I once hiked up Ben Lomond with my parents, whilst my sister stayed in the campsite around 5km away. We had continuous horizontal rain for around 3 hours, all the way up and down. My sister at the campsite was sunbathing in a gentle breeze and full sunshine, with barely even a cloud. Whatever the weather seems to be like, you need to pack full waterproofs (jacket and trousers) and a warm sweater or fleece. This doesn't relate to travelling, but it's an important note if you're hiking, especially if you're used to hiking somewhere like central France with relatively stable weather. Most people who need rescuing in the hills, it's because they get cold (and usually wet) and hypothermia shuts their body down.

Answered by Graham on August 22, 2020

Travelling around Scotland by public transport or hitchhiking is possible. But as one comment said, Scotland is big. It can take 3 or 4 hours to drive Edinburgh to Inverness, It is about the same by train, and trains in the UK are generally expensive if not booked in advance.

Hitchhiking is of course free, but could take a long time (and sometimes a lot longer) to get one or more rides to your preferred part of Scotland, and that's before you can even start your hike. Spending most of a day getting out of Edinburgh and to where you want to start your hike, and then having to spend most of another day getting back to Edinburgh is really going to eat into your 4-5 day trip.

Renting a car will let you see a lot more, but will be poor value if you only drive for a couple of hours to somewhere close to Edinburgh and then park up for 4 days while you hike & camp.

What it comes down to is what kind of trip you want:

  • See lots of remote areas of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, you'll probably be better off with a car, or a lot more time.
  • Go to a nearer location (eg. Loch Lomond) and hike for a few days, public transport is quite possible.

However, the current situation, with the Coronavirus Pandemic is likely to be the biggest problem. According to you could find yourself needing to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, depending on where you have come from. Add to that the other restrictions, many services, hostels, restaurants, bars, etc. being closed or severely restricted, and the much lower likelyhood that anyone would want to pick up some random hitchhiker who may be carrying Covid-19. The situation could change at short notice (for better or worse), but I would imagine you will have a very difficult time right now.

Answered by Nick on August 22, 2020

Renting a car would result in a rental car road-trip of Scotland and you would see less. reserve the money from the car and spend it on trains and hotels and hostels. Like that you can go wherever you want and stay for as long as you want. I'd want to walk along the Scottish coast for a couple of days and the mountains a couple of days and spend some time in some historic Scottish towns on the way. Just the hill above Edinburgh takes all day to hike, it's an ancient volcano. It's best to get out to the small towns by train, then in 10 minutes from the hotel you are already in the countryside.

Answered by aliential on August 22, 2020

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