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Backpacking in the Scottish Highlands

With their jagged peaks, rocky coasts and winding glens, the Scottish Highlands are one of the most spectacular regions in the British Isles.

From crumbling castles and lonely hill forts to famous hiking trails through dramatic scenery, the Highlands are perfect for backpackers looking for adventure.

Starting Out at Inverness

The largest city in the Highlands, Inverness is the busy transport hub of the region, with good rail links both to Edinburgh in the south and on to Aberdeen. The city also has its own airport, Inverness Dalcross, which is served by a number of budget flights.

As such, Inverness is often considered to be the gateway to the Highlands and it has become a popular starting point for backpackers exploring the area. There are plenty of well-equipped Inverness hostels offering great budget accommodation in the city, including the renowned Bazpackers Hostel which has excellent views over the River Ness and a cozy lounge, complete with open fire.

However, there is more to the city than its transport links -Inverness also boasts a castle that dates back to medieval times, along with the historic Old High Church and a handful of museums.

And there's even more history just outside the city at Culloden Moor, the site of the final battle waged on British soil in 1746, when the English decisively crushed Bonnie Prince Charlie's army for the final time.

Loch Ness

Many backpackers in the Highlands are drawn to Loch Ness by tales of the legendary monster which inhabits the depths. There's a large exhibition detailing the many 'sightings' of Nessie in Drumnadrochit, which is the main tourist town for the loch.

One of the largest and most significant castles in Scotland is also situated at Loch Ness. Urquhart Castle was built in 1230 and its ruins still stand in an impressive spot overlooking the lake.

Although there is accommodation in the area for backpackers visiting Loch Ness - including the Loch Ness Hostel perched right at the edge of the water - it's a mere 30 minute bus ride from Inverness and easily accessible on a day trip from hostels in the city.

Into the Mountains

The beautiful Highland mountains offer great hiking opportunities, as well as adventurous activities from skiing to cycling. Backpackers' hostels across the region will be able to provide information on the sports and walking available in each local area.

The most famous - and popular - climb in the Highlands is Ben Nevis, the UK's highest peak. The most accessible route begins just outside the town of Fort William but even this can be tough-going, particularly with the unpredictable weather of the mountain.

The West Highland Way is equally well-known for trekking, although the terrain is somewhat easier. Running over 92 miles from Milngavie (at the edge of Glasgow) all the way north to Fort William, the long path crosses some of the most remote and unspoiled parts of the Scottish Highlands, many of which are only accessible on foot.