Episode 48: ‘That Magical Feeling’ – Solo Travel with Hostelling Scotland
Let’s embark on a solo adventure to the cities and mountains of Scotland – and discover together what it feels like to travel Scotland on your own.
‘That Magical Feeling’ is a story about the good, the bad and the ugly sides of solo travel. But how do you overcome the overwhelm of being responsible for ALL the decisions, and step into the power of adventuring on your own? Let’s find out together, shall we?
I’m taking you on a trip from the dreamy streets of Edinburgh to the remote mountain peaks of the Cairngorms National Park and on to the Capital of the Highlands – Inverness. Together we’ll travel by train and bus, walk and hike, stay in beautiful hostels and make decisions – one at a time.
Are you ready? Great – let’s travel to Scotland!
This episode is sponsored by Hostelling Scotland, a not-for-profit charity with over 60 youth and affiliate hostels all over Scotland.
Written and hosted by Kathi Kamleitner.
Produced, edited and sound design by Fran Turauskis.
Transcript by Kathi Kamleitner.
Social media support by Kirsty Spain.
Cover Art illustrated by Lizzie Vaughan-Knight.
All original music composed by Bruce Wallace.
Field recordings and all photographs by Kathi Kamleitner.
Additional sound effects from Zapsplat.
5 Tips for planning a solo trip to Scotland
1) Stay in hostels
Hostels are such an ingenious place to stay for solo travellers. They’re budget-friendly and usually come with a lot of useful facilities like a self-catering kitchen, washing machines, common rooms to socialise but also areas to retreat and find calm.
Hostelling Scotland has over 60 youth and affiliate hostels all over Scotland, whether you’re looking for a city trip, an active getaway in the mountains or an island adventure. I’ve stayed in many of them over the years and have often recommended them so my clients too.
If dorms aren’t your thing, many of them also have private rooms, some even with en-suite bathrooms. Despite the name ‘youth hostel’, they are really suitable for any kind of traveller, no matter your age. They’re family-friendly as well as great for solo travellers.
2) Take public transport
Renting a car on your own can be expensive and when you’re the only one footing the petrol bill, the costs quickly adds up. Not to mention that driving on your own is an inefficient way to travel and not particularly eco-friendly.
Luckily Scotland has a great network of public transport and with some smart planning and good timekeeping you can go almost anywhere in Scotland. On my trip in the story I used the train to travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh to Aviemore and on to Inverness, and local buses to get to the hostel in Glenmore and the Black Isle peninsula.
I have a detailed guide to public transport travel with lots of tips on my Scotland travel blog Watch Me See.
3) Allow time for down days
One of the biggest mistakes to make when you travel on your own, is to make a plan for every single day. It’s important to allow yourself time for down days when you do nothing, unless you feel like it. I actually spent two days in the Cairngorms on this trip because I wanted to have the option to rest and take it easy. I ended up taking the bus to Aviemore and doing a big cycling tour, but the key thing was that I added a day to my trip where I didn’t have to move unless I wanted to.
4) Be flexible
Things don’t always work out as planned. As a solo traveller you often have to think on your feet, whether you misread the bus timetable or didn’t realise you had to book some castle tickets in advance.Without someone else to pick up the slack, you’re dependent on your own problem-solving skills.
Sometimes that means making a slight adjustment to your plan, others you may have to come up with a new plan on the spot. Either way, accepting the things you can’t change and staying flexible are two important lessons to learn on any solo trip.
5) Create moments for yourself
If the thought of being on your own all the time makes you uncomfortable, it’s easy to create opportunities to meet other travellers. You can book a guided group tour, join a day trip, or an activity that is open to other travellers.
However, I also encourage you to create moments where you get to spend quality time by yourself. It could be a solo hike in the mountains, a swim in a loch, cooking an elaborate meal at the hostel or even a spa treatment. Give yourself the opportunity to make a lasting memory just by yourself and I promise you’ll want to experience more like it in the future.