Backpacking in the Scottish highlands is a wonderful way to explore one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles. With its mountains, lochs, and sparsely populated islands the Scottish Highlands are a natural wonder. It’s no surprise they were the perfect subject for Victorian watercolour artists keen to capture the unspoilt beauty of Scotland before the advent of photography.A view of Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland.
Whether you would like to look for the “Loch Ness Monster” or walk up Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis (1,344m) or visit some of the famous castles that dot the landscape it will be hard not to fall in love with the Highlands.The Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter used the Glasgow to West Highland line during filming.
The starting point for most people visiting the Highlands is the town of Fort William with a population just shy of 10,000 it is the second largest town after Inverness. Most tourists arrive in Fort William by train from Glasgow on the West Highland Line, which is one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world and was used in the Harry Potter films for the “Hogwarts Express”.
If you want to get to Fort William from London there is an overnight train called the Caledonian Sleeper leaving London Euston every night at 8pm except Saturday? The train is effectionaly known as the “Deerstalker Express” referring to the shooting parties that used the train to get to their estates in Scotland. Relax in the dining car with something to eat, and a few drinks before retiring to your private berth for the journey north. When you awake stare out the window upon the shores of Loch Lomond the largest lake in Briton at 39 kilometres long. When booking railway journeys always try to book well in advance as the savings can be half the regular fare.
Fort William lies at the foot of Ben Nevis and climbing the mountain is a very popular hike that takes around seven hours to get to the summit and back. Make sure to have the proper attire, and be aware that weather conditions can change rapidly. This is not a walk that novices should do in the winter months.
Camping is very popular in the area, with a large number of local campsites. Make sure you go to a camping gear store beforehand so that you will have all the outdoor and camping equipment you will need. The Glen Nevis holiday park located at the bottom of Ben Nevis is particularly popular locally for camping.
A popular walk that opened up in 2002 is the 73 mile trail linking Fort William to Inverness. This is called the “Great Glen Way “and is a fault line which divides Scotland from coast to coast starting from Scotland’s largest sea loch, Loch Linnhe, in the south to the Moray Firth in the north. It is an easy walk for anyone used to a bit of hiking with most people breaking the journey up into six days where they average four to five hours of walking a day stopping off each night at a campsite or a bed, and breakfast the final day is a bit more gruelling with seven to nine hours of walking required.
Many visitors do not realise just how far north Scotland is, and to give you an example, Edinburgh which is in the Scottish Lowlands is on the same latitude as Labrador in Canada. The best time to go backpacking in the Highlands is during the summer when it is warm, and the sun does not set till 11pm. The people of the Highlands are warm and friendly towards hikers so you are guaranteed to feel welcome.