Looking for inspiration for a brilliant break in Scotland this summer, but just confused by how much choice this vast country with its 800 islands and over 10% of Europe’s coastline offers? Don’t despair just yet – book a SYHA youth hostel and you will have a great base for your holiday, as well as the chance to self-cater and make some new friends. As a travel writer I’ve been travelling the length and breadth of this glorious country for two decades now and think hostel breaks are ideal whether you are a couple, a family or even in a group.
Join me now as I take a look at some of my favourite youth hostels, which make for a great holiday whether you are a walker, city slicker or foodie. Or maybe just someone seeking the sun or who loves islands.
1. For Walkers – Glencoe Youth Hostel
Sitting amidst a swathe of world-class mountain landscapes, this friendly Highland youth hostel could not be better located for walkers. There are some serious technical challenges for those looking to push themselves and a volley of epic Munros that most capable well-equipped walkers can enjoy in good weather. Perhaps Britain's finest ridge walk, the tough Aonach Eagach, actually ends near the youth hostel. There are lower level trails too for those looking for a gentler adventure.
Hiking in Glencoe
Whatever you tackle in this landscape – captured so memorably in the James Bond film Spectre – it never ceases to be unremittingly dramatic as you hike alongside red deer and golden eagles. After your adventures a pint in the legendary Clachaig Inn awaits just a ten minute amble from the welcoming arms of the youth hostel.
2. For City Slickers – Edinburgh Central
Why bother booking a B&B far from the centre or a faceless budget hotel when you can stay at this centrally located, ultra friendly 270-bed youth hostel? It makes the perfect base for exploring the bountiful charms of the Scottish capital right at the top of Leith Walk within easy reach of all the attractions. They do a mean cooked breakfast too, which really sets you up for a day of sightseeing.
Arthur's Seat. Credit: Marketing Edinburgh
It’s the Queen’s 90th birthday this year so how about a visit to and regal lunch aboard her plush former yacht Britannia, which is moored in Leith? Sticking with the Royal theme there is the grandeur of the official Edinburgh residence of the British Royal Family, the Palace of Holyrood House. Or hike up the city’s highest point, Arthur’s Seat, for the best view in town.
3. For Movie Fans – Portree, Skye
There’s a choice of youth hostels to stay in on Skye – Portree, Glenbrittle or Broadford. I like Portree in the island capital, making it a great base for movie fans seeking a slice of tartan celluloid. Skye starred last year quite brilliantly as the main attraction in the epic Hollywood adaptation of Macbeth, despite the valiant attempt of man of the moment Michael Fassbender to usurp the largest of the Inner Hebrides. You will recognise swathes of Skye from the film with the most dramatic scenes shot around the otherworldly Quiraing. Hollywood’s love affair with the island does not end with Macbeth as Highlander, Breaking the Waves, Flash Gordon and the Wicker Man all featured scenes shot on this deeply scenic island.
The spectacular Quiraing
4. For Foodies – Oban
Oban these days is a real foodie destination and styles itself with some justification as the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’, given its active fishing fleet and bustle of seafood restaurants. The good food starts right at the youth hostel with great breakfasts and meals available in the Raasay Dining Room. You can also stock up at one of the superb local butchers or fishmongers and cook up your own feast in the self-catering kitchens.
Oban Youth Hostel Apartment
You can even enjoy it in your own apartment – the hidden gem within the youth hostel which is ideal for families or small groups. Around town the best place to enjoy boat fresh seafood served simply is the green and white shack right next to the ferry terminal.
Fish and Chips Oban Style
There are a volley of great chippies too – some serving more unusual items in their suppers, like monkfish and hake. My favourite of the seafood restaurants is Waterfront Fishouse. Book a window table with a view of the distant isles.
5. For Island Lovers – Lochranza
For me Arran is the Scottish island with it all – no wonder they hail this gem in the Firth of Clyde as ‘Scotland in Miniature’! It literally is as it straddles the Highland Boundary Fault, with epic mountains and sweeping glens in the north, giving way to rolling fields and sandy beaches in the south. It’s all here from seafood restaurants and cottage industries, through to its own brewery and even a whisky distillery.
For walkers Arran is world class. For families the island is so good that I go over every year with my wee girls. They love the beaches, plus candle and soap making at Arran Aromatics and the wonderful kid’s activity park at Balmichael.
Balmichael on Arran
Biography for Robin McKelvie
Robin McKelvie (www.robinmckelvie.com) is a Scottish travel writer, broadcaster and blogger who has been covering his native land since the 1990s. A member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Robin is the author of a number of guidebooks, including National Geographic’s Scotland guide. He regularly contributes to a variety of newspapers and magazines across five continents, such as the Times and the Scotsman, as well as doing travel slots for BBC radio. Robin can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robinmckelvie.