The Highlands and Islands of Scotland are most beautiful. The scenery is magnificent. The fresh air is plentiful and bracing. The islands are isolated and amazing and the hills and mountains are out of this world. The Highlands and Islands have some unique hostels, bunkhouse and bothies and these are ideal accommodation if you wish to meet people as you travel and enjoy the most remote and beautiful of locations. I have put together a few things its good to know about using shared accommodation and some useful hints to help you get the best out of travelling and walking in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland!
Advice is freely given. However like all advice you can take it or leave it. You can pick the bits you like and leave the rest. It’s entirely up to you!
Travel light. Take only sufficient clothing, for example for the number of days you are away. Be careful not to overload your transport. The reason is, weight is expensive to move and more difficult to stop. Make sure that everyone has a comfortable space for what can be a long journey around the Highlands and Islands. Avoid packing the luggage around the passengers. They won’t want to go with you and next time.
Carry a first aid kit which is made available to all. If one or more of the party is a qualified First Aider all the better. First aid is as it says, the first response to an accident or injury which can help save a life. If the condition is serious call the Emergency Services immediately and let them take over as soon as possible. Time is of the essence.
Wear suitable clothing and be prepared for cold and/or wet weather. There is nothing more demoralising than being cold and wet. Stay dry. Stay warm. Wear walking shoes or boots when travelling and walking. Your feet need good support in all terrain and all weather conditions. The trainers or shoes you feel comfortable in when walking down Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow are not the ones to give you dry well supported feet on a Scottish hill or even a mountain. Boots are the order of the day for the mountains. It is recommend that you bring a pair of light indoor shoes to use when you need to go outside to reach toilets during the night. This is a good idea for some hostels e.g. the bunkhouses at some of the Black Houses in the Western Isles for example.
Bring a small torch and keep it by your bed so that you can navigate around the dormitory in the hostel without switching on lights risking waking your friends. I spent some time in a broom cupboard being attacked by broom handles in a hostel near Aviemore. A fellow hosteller switched on the dormitory lights and let me out at three in the morning. I made a quick dash to the loo!
Avoid keeping items in supermarket bags which rustle excessively as you search them for your bits and pieces … when all around are trying to get to sleep. Alternatively do all your rustling before everyone retires. Be aware that mountaineers on places like Skye go to bed very early so have a thought for them.
Carry or buy midge repellent to combat midge attacks. Hope for breezy weather. They don’t like wind. Fortunately on the islands of the Outer Hebrides there are winds in excess of eighty miles per hour. Thankfully mostly in winter! If the midges are really bad and they are after your blood then a midge net might be just what you need. You will look like a bee-keeper dressed in black. It might be worth it.
Ticks can be a problem where there are deer or sheep. Check your body for ticks and get a friend to check where you cannot see. I carry tick tools in the first aid kit and these can be borrowed by members of the party. I have picked up three ticks in the past ten years. Don’t burn ticks or use whisky (God forbid you waste the Water of Life) to get them off. Anything which could make the tick regurgitate it’s stomach contents into your blood stream should be avoided as you could end up with Lyme disease.
I hope that you all have a lovely time and that there are no midges, no rustling, no ticks and no bogeymen in broom cupboards to trouble you on your travels. May the sun always shine on you and those who travel with you around the Highlands and Islands.
Oh yes and then there is sun protection. Don’t forget!