Before arranging our trip to Scotland I searched on the web whether hitchhiking in Scotland is common as such. Reviews differed, but the common opinion is that people these days don’t do it that often. Which might be true, but does it mean that hitchhiking in Scotland doesn’t work anymore? My personal experience shows the contrary.
Let me take you through my story of hitchhiking in Scotland.
WHERE TO START?
We needed to hitchhike from Edinburgh all the way to Isle of Skye, which is basically crossing through the whole of Scotland. Quite a challenge, to be honest, but we were very positive about starting our adventure.
Important thing when hitchhiking is to know which route you want to take. We used Google maps and a local resident in a hostel as advisors on which route to take. Remember, it is unlikely that you will catch a car that goes directly to where you need to end up, therefore, we broke our route up into smaller destinations, hoping to catch cars between bigger cities on the way to Skye.
The first thing to do is to get to the highway outside the city, where all the cars go in direction to your next destination point. Therefore, we took a city bus to get as far out as possible.
Once you get to the highway, be prepared to hold your hitchhiking thumb up for quite some time before you catch a car. For us it took 30 minutes before we got someone to stop. Luckily, the first person could take us where we needed to go, so we got in.
Ron, who gave us the first lift, turned out to be extremely friendly. According to him, there are not so many hitchhikers in Scotland any more, but since he was hitchhiking Europe himself once and knew what it’s like, he always picked up the road travellers on his way.
Ron was really excited to find out more about us and to share stories about Scottish history, which was very interesting to know. He even took the time to show us some historical sights that were on the way, which is not something you would expect when hitchhiking.
But thanks to Ron, we got to see the William Wallace monument in Stirling, which was quite fantastic.
Our generous new friend took us much further than he needed to go himself, leaving us only half way to go.
Left half way to the Isle of Skye in the middle of Scotland we found ourselves facing a challenge. The west coast where we wanted to reach didn’t have any big cities, which means much less traffic. There was no need to hold the thumb up anymore as there were only a few cars passing through. We had some time to kill.
Couple more cars stopped on the way, but none of them was going in direction we needed to get. That’s when we figured that our location was very unfavourable for catching a hitch, so we asked one of the guys to drop up literally couple miles further, where the highway went through.
It took around 45 minutes of standing in the wind to get our miracle. We got a car to stop, which we hoped would get us at least to another city on the way. But since adventures are there to show us that miracles happen, it turned out that the driver was going straight home to Skye. We couldn’t believe our luck, it was so unlikely to get someone driving all the way to Skye, that we got to thinking whether we should start buying lottery tickets from now on.
Our new friend named James was really into literature, especially Russian classics, such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoi, etc, so we had plenty to talk about. Since he was local, we got plenty of tips on where to eat and what to see. James took us all the way to the town of Portree in Skye.
Just to give you a sense of how much time we saved by getting there with one instead of several cars I will tell you that it took us 4 hours to get to Portree from where we were hitchhiking. Imagine couple of stopovers in between! We would have never gotten to Skye in one day if James didn’t pick us up. Thanks to him, we got from Edinburgh to Portree in total of 8 hours.
PROs AND CONs OF HITCHHIKING
- Obviously, you save money. Especially, if you travel in expensive countries like Scotland
- This is one of the best ways to get to know the local people, since you spend hours with them in closed environment just chatting
- Learn a lot about the country’s culture and history. Thanks to two Scotts who gave us lifts I was able to learn a lot about Scottish history, traditions and even pick up some slang!
- It might be dangerous. You have to be aware of the risk, even in developed countries you might get into trouble
- You have to be flexible with time, since you do not know how long it will take to catch a car and get from one place to another
- Weather might a problem. We were quite lucky to hitchhike in a sunny day, but there is only so long you can stand in wind, rain and snow.
- The best way is to travel in pairs. That way you reduce the danger factor for yourself and you are still able to fit into almost any car.
- Hate to be a sexist, but having a girl in a group helps to get a car faster. Presumably, because it reduces the danger factor to the driver.
- Make sure you know which highway you need to take to get to your destination and start your hitching there. Researching beforehand saves a lot of time.
- If your traveling distance is long, split it into smaller routes between bigger cities.
- Be friendly and engaged. People pick up hitchhikers because they are lonely on the road and they would love to chat and tell their stories. Therefore, be kind, show your interest and be engaged in conversation.
This trip was originally published on the website TravelMonkey on September 5, 2015.