10 of the best hostels in rural Scotland

Rucksack at the ready ... these budget stays range from a historic crofters’ village to a purpose-built bunkhouse, all in spectacular settings

The Cowshed Boutique Bunkhouse, Isle of Skye

One of the new breed of boutique hostels, the Cowshed on the north-west coast of Skye looks out over the bay to the ferry terminal in Uig and offers spectacular sunsets and occasional views of the northern lights. The bunkrooms feature built-in bunks with tongue-and-groove walls, tartan privacy curtains, downy white linen-clad duvets and sheepskin rugs strewn across the floor. Alternatively, bed down in a stylishly kitted out wooden pod in the grounds – with adjoining dog pods. Communal areas are light and bright with apple green and cornflower blue sofas and a woodburner, plus open-plan kitchen and dining area with range cookers and banquettes. In spring and summer, take a boat trip for whale-, seal-and otter-spotting. Beer-lovers should note that the village of Uig is home to the Isle of Skye Brewing Company.
Dorm beds from £18, pods from £60, skyecowshed.co.uk

Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, Fort William, Inverness-shire

Glen Nevis Youth Hostel

This smart, wooden hostel at the foot of Ben Nevis reopened last summer after a £2.1m revamp. It had been a beacon for weary hill-walkers for nearly 80 years but was creaking with age when it closed for refurbishment in October 2017. Now, it has a sleek, contemporary design and features a colourful mural by local artist Nikki McGuigan of Little Book Transfers, along with bicycle bar stools, which are a nod to the network of mountain biking trails nearby. The open-plan living space has mountain views, Chesterfield sofas and a wood-burning stove. Bunk up in an eight-bed dorm or one of the private en suite rooms. There’s food on offer, too, such as cooked breakfast (£7.50), packed lunch (£6.50) and a self-catering kitchen – and the hostel has an alcohol licence. After hiking, nurse blisters on the outside decking – while downing a beer from local brewers Glen Spean Brewing Co.
Dorm bed from £24.50, doubles from £55, hostellingscotland.org.uk

Old Bridge Inn Bunkhouse, Aviemore, the Highlands

The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore

Aviemore is the activity capital of the Cairngorms national park, a hub for hikers, mountain bikers, climbers and skiers. This bunkhouse is by the River Spey, away from the main drag and next door to the Old Bridge Inn, a gastropub with legendary live music sessions, a roaring fire, riverside tables and real ales. The bunkhouse has a retro-chic design with mismatched tables and benches, and there’s a mix of dorm and private en suite rooms. It’s also got green credentials: with energy efficient underfloor heating, multi-glaze windows and thermal insulation.
Dorm bed £23, double from £55, family room from £75, aviemore-bunkhouse.com

Am Bothan Bunkhouse, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

A view over Northton near Leverburgh.
A view over Northton near Leverburgh. Photograph: PR

This jaunty red bunkhouse is a short backpacker-stagger from the ferry terminal in Leverburgh in the south of the Isle of Harris. Inside it’s equally cheery with a multi-coloured maritime theme – doors with portholes and thick knotted ropes – and warm Hebridean hospitality. Seafarers are also welcome to moor up for a hot shower and dram in front of the peat fire. This cosy, little independent hostel sleeps 18 (three rooms with four bunks, one with six) and has spectacular views over the Sound of Harris. From here you can hop on a ferry to North and South Uist and Skye or book a boat trip to remote St Kilda.
Beds £25, ambothan.com

Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse, Durness, Sutherland

Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse interior
A room at Mackay’s. Photograph: PR

Robbie and Fiona Mackay have helped revolutionise the accommodation scene in the far north-west corner of Scotland with beds for all budgets: from a boutique B&B, Mackay’s in Durness, to eco-luxury self-catering Croft 103 and rustic-clapboard bolthole, the Cabin – and, at the other end of the spectrum, a cosy, purpose-built bunkhouse. The Lazy Crofter (pictured), close to golden sandy beaches, the local pub and village shop, sleeps 20 in a mix of dorms and double rooms. The wood-panelled living room is a warm, sociable space peppered with tartan armchairs, while the covered decking has wooden picnic tables and sea views.
Bunkhouse beds from £22, family rooms from £176, visitdurness.com

Gearrannan Hostel, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Isle of Lewis, Scotland

Set in the the coastal conservation village of Gearrannan, this hostel is still known as Duncan’s House (or Taigh Dhonnchaidh) after a crofter, Duncan Macleod (1861-1940) who lived there. . The village, close to two beaches, seems frozen in time since the last crofters left in the early 1970s. History is hewn in the stone walls and thatched roof of the old crofter’s house, which has been converted into a cosy bunkhouse sleeping 10 in dorm rooms and three more in a family room. Inside, there’s a country-chic vibe, emerald-painted kitchen and bright tartan bedding on the bunks. Some of the other village houses have been turned into quaint self-catering cottages and there’s also a small shop and cafe.
Bunkhouse beds £20, family room (for three) £65, gearrannan.com

The Sail Loft Bunkhouse, Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

Sail Loft Portsoy

The Sail Loft Bunkhouse has been created from a cluster of 18th-century Grade B-listed buildings (the sail-making loft, Georgian house and two cottages) on the water’s edge in Portsoy on the Banffshire coast. The North East Scotland Preservation Trust undertook the £2m restoration and conversion project with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Coastal Communities Fund and Historic Environment Scotland. The result is a light, bright, stylish bunkhouse sleeping 25 in four- and six-bed bunkrooms and a handful of private rooms. The chunky wooden beds are topped with white linen, the luxury mattresses from Glencraft in Aberdeen. The bunkhouse, run by the Portsoy Community Enterprise since it opened in 2017, also has a walled garden, barbecue, and wood-fired hot tub.
Bunkhouse beds £23, doubles £48, portsoysailloft.org

Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, Rannoch Moor, Fort William

Loch Ossian Youth Hostel
Loch Ossian Youth Hostel Photograph: Hostelling Scotland

It’s hike, bike or take the train to get to this remote eco-hostel on Rannoch Moor. The nearest railway station is Corrour (remember that windswept scene in Trainspotting?) on the Fort William to Glasgow west Highland line. From there it’s a 20-minute walk along the track to the homey little green wooden hostel. This is a rustic rural hideaway with a romantic loch-side setting, deer (nearly) on the doorstep, dark sky-stargazing and munros to bag. There’s a small shop selling basic supplies, a fire to dry your boots and hot showers (thanks to local hydro power and solar supply). Other environmental initiatives include a greywater reed bed filtration system, composting toilets and bat-friendly paint.
Bunkhouse beds from £20.50, hostellingscotland.org.uk

Marthrown of Mabie, Dumfries and Galloway

Marthrown of Mabie, Dumfries, Scotland

In a magical woodland setting, this tree-shrouded hideaway has a smattering of glamping options scattered among the foliage, from Mongolian yurts to a Native American tipi and iron-age roundhouse – plus a 26-bed low-slung whitewashed bunkhouse in the forest. One of them, Nith bunkhouse, has four dorm rooms, a cosy lounge with wood-burning stove and a veranda with chiminea, barbecue, sauna and wood-fired hot tub for soaking under a starlit sky.
Bunkhouse beds from £15, roundhouse from £16 (minimum 6 people), tipi from £30, marthrownofmabie.com

Black Isle Berries Bunkhouse, Black Isle, Ross and Cromarty

Black Isle Berries Bunkhouse, Scotland
Black Isle Berries Bunkhouse, Scotland Photograph: Lynn Fraser

A bunkhouse on a working farm just a short hop over the Kessock Bridge, north of Inverness. This purpose-built, barn-style property can sleep 18 in a mix of rooms for two, three, four and five. The kitchen is stocked with basic ingredients – everything else can be found in the farm shop, from local venison and free-range pork to pies made by the local butcher, their own fruit and veg – as well as the apple juice they make and bottle from their orchard. In the summer you can also pick your own fruit (strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, cherries, plums, damsons and apples).
Bunkhouse beds from £25pp, twin room from £50, blackislebunkhouse.co.uk

Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to see a range of fantastic trips

Lucy Gillmore

The GuardianTramp

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