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Hitchhiking in Scotland tends to be far easier than England, and can be incredibly easy in the Highlands (specifically towards the west coast and islands), with up to 1 in 5 cars stopping. In Dumfries and Galloway, on the Isle of Arran and on the Kintyre penninsula (south-west), hitching locally is reasonably easy.
There aren't many motorways in Scotland. There are, however, some express dual carriage road, such as the A9 or A90. Those are great to hitchhike since it's allowed to hitchhike on the road itself, in bus stations or laybys. Just make sure that you dont stand after a turn and that your sign is large enough.
For more general hitchhiking information, check out the United Kingdom article, which relates to all countries within the Kingdom.
There are two main roads to get to Scotland from England.
- Glasgow. Not easy to get on from London, but recommended from anywhere in the West/Southwest as you can easily hop from service station to service station. To get to Edinburgh, fork off at Abington Services to take the A road east. Hitching with a sign works better than asking at the services. : The western road to Scotland, connecting Birmingham with Manchester, Liverpool and finally
- /A1: The eastern road to Scotland, connecting London, Leeds and Edinburgh. The M1 only goes up to Leeds where it becomes the A1. Relatively easy to hitch out of London on, but the last services before Edinburgh are near Leeds. Afterwards you can hitchhike along the road though as it's not a motorway anymore.
There's ferries from Ireland and Scandinavia, but those can't be hitchhiked. There's always a chance of asking around in ports to find a small boat, though. Boats from the Faeroe Islands call at Scrabster.
As you can see below, camping is great in Scotland. If you don't have a tent, though, or if you're not cut out for Scottish rain, there are several alternatives. There are a lot of different kinds of shelters if you're a bit creative. In the Highlands, you might even consider sleeping in a bus shelter as the area is safe. The bus shelter in the village of Haroldswick on the island of Unst in the Shetland Islands even has a sofa and a table!
There are many derelict houses which are either empty or transformed into stables. Feel free to move into any of those for a night, but make sure the walls and roof are stable enough. Bear in mind that squatting in buildings is illegal in Scotland and the owner can immediately eject you from the premises.
There are many bothies (semi-abandoned or converted shepherd huts, cottages, etc), many of which can be found on: https://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/ . You can stay at these for a night or two, but remember to respect the bothy code - and check the website for restrictions. For example, some bothies are locked or not safe during stag stalking season, when hunters use the area. Bothies are often a long walk from the nearest road, sometimes up advanced hiking routes. Be careful, know your limits, and always carry a tent in case you find the bothy locked or already full. If you do find other people there, or others join you when you're already there, it's customary to make space and share something such as firewood, biscuits, and conversation with them.
Scotland has a code of access to all rural areas, particularly national parks such as the Cairngorms - except in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, where camping is prohibited during summer months. Generally, Camping is tolerated and allowed anywhere where public access applies, out of the way on farmland, out of sight of houses and public buildings and out of sight of roads. This includes beaches, you have very little light pollution on the west coast which means you are treated to a fast array of stars at night. One must take care not to damage the natural environment, and in upland and peat areas, open fires are discouraged due to the danger of peat fires and forest fires. Camping near A-Roads is not included under public access provisions, but it is well tolerated, making it easier to travel, as if you become stuck somewhere you can pitch camp as long as you are out of the way.
Asking people where the best camping spot might be has often yielded great results - from good spots to being invited to stay with them instead. Just mention that you're not looking for a campsite, but for a patch of grass where you could pitch a tent.
If you're camping in or near a small coastal town, the harbor might have toilets and showers (operated by coins and not very expensive) for the yacht crews. In some places there's an entrance code, but someone might help you and give you the code - just make sure you're leaving things clean so that no one has a reason to complain.
The Scottish Highlands are very easy to hitchhike around, however you should be careful to avoid major trunk routes as people drive very quickly, and even when you can be seen they are unwilling to stop.
Locals stop very often, especially in less busy areas such as Lewis and Harris or in hiking areas. On the NC500 route, especially during the summer, you can get picked up by tourists from all over the world. During the winter, areas like this can be quite empty and you may find yourself waiting for a while before you see a car. Wear warm clothes and try to keep moving.
Camping in the highlands can be uncomfortable in the summer, especially near pine forests and water, due to biting insects - midges, which are almost a match for mosquitoes; if you are not careful they will attack any area of exposed skin and bite repeatedly. Midge nets (particularly the over-head nets) are a valuable asset for any trip to Scotland and will make your experience travelling around the country much more pleasant. Make sure the netting says 'midge-grade', because some nets do not have small enough holes. Unfortunately, Mosquito repellent is mostly ineffective against midges. A secret weapon against them, is to use a skin lotion called "Avon Skin So Soft", which you can find in most camping shops or petrol stations. Its effectiveness is widely known among the locals (only little con: using it, makes you strongly smelling of lemon).
The weather in Scotland is very unpredictable. In summer it's advisable to be prepared for both extremely warm and humid conditions but also the cold and very, very wet. Thunderstorms are not uncommon at any time of the year, and unusually for the British isles, some of the mountains will carry a permanent snow cap which gives you an idea of some of the possible conditions. In the winter, it is very cold in central Scotland and the highlands, and in the Cairngorms, further North and nearby, snow is not unusual, and in colder winters the peaks are enjoyed by skiers. Some mountains and upland regions are renowned for their dangers, however with care, preparation and proper maps these areas can be enjoyed at any time of the year, and are particularly beautiful in the winter months.
A popular place to stay while in Highland Scotland are mountain bothies, which serve as both an emergency shelter and short-term unserviced accommodation for hikers, hitchhikers, campers and explorers alike.
Hitchhiking boats around Scotland and out of Scotland
Scotland has hundreds of islands, of which about 90 are populated, many coastal tows with harbors, lochs (lakes) and the Caledonian canal. As a result, many boats are sailing around. Nina has done minor attempts to hitch boats, and though she hasn't been successful, can definitely say that it's possible. You should leave time for that (sailing depends on winds, which are really moody around Scotland), ask around in harbors (people are very helpful) and maybe even be open to various destinations. Scrabster might be an option. At Wick there was at least one boat going to the Shetland Islands, so it might be possible too.
- Edinburgh - the capital.
- Fort William
- Glasgow - the largest city.
- Inverness - the only city in the Highland region.
- Perth (Scotland)