There are plenty of ways to get to the highlands. But perhaps one of the most interesting and cheapest way to travel, hitchhiking in Scotland is a lot easier than you would think. Some would say hitchhiking in Scotland has come to an end. Recent polls suggest only 9% of Scots would stop for a hitchhiker. Despite this, success stories of people able to get around Scotland using nothing but free lifts still continue. Hitchhiking in Scotland is possible and can even allow you to get to places where a train or bus would not. While wait times do vary, you will be surprised by how quickly one can get a lift, especially in the more rural highland regions. Edinburgh is a good place to start hitchhiking in Scotland, with roads to all far regions of the country.
It is pretty much impossible to hitchhike directly from Edinburgh city centre. However, you do not have to go far to reach a better road. Queensferry Road is just a short walk or bus journey (Bus 41 to Barton Junction costs £1.50) from Princes Street. Alternatively, take a train across the Forth Rail Bridge as a way to get to quieter roads. Once out of the city you will it much easier and safer to get a lift on the roads.
Statistically, the further South into England you go the harder it becomes to get a lift, with polls suggesting only 5% of Londoners would pick up a hitchhiker. While it appears hitchhiking in Scotland is easier, it is possible to get all the way from Edinburgh to London. If heading South, avoid lifts which will see you stranded in the Borders as they can be very remote and lifts scarce.
Much like travelling North, travelling East becomes a lot easier once you get toward quieter roads. Travelling North East toward St. Andrews can be easily achieved along roads like the Fife coastal. The general wait time here is usually around 5-10 minutes. Directly East, toward areas like North Berwick and Dunbar can also be easy. This is especially true on sunny days and holidays when people will be heading from Edinburgh areas to spend the day at the beach. Finding a road that will lead onto the A1 will most likely be the quickest way to head East. Avoid hitching directly on the A1 as it a fast road with few places for cars to stop. Instead, find a road that will eventually lead onto the A1. A sign with your destination will come in very handy for this route.
Travelling to Glasgow and beyond can be fairly easy with a lot of daily traffic. However, finding a suitable spot will require a small bus journey out of the centre to gain access to the M8 (main road to Glasgow). A bus from the city centre to Ratho Station and then walking to the roundabout before the M8 is one of the best options. Another possibility is going from Edinburgh Park and finding a good spot before the motorway. Remember that the mega bus to Glasgow can cost as little as £3. This makes it a better option if you include the price of finding your way to a good hitchhiking spot.
Hitchhiking through the Highlands be extremely easy due to the trustworthy nature of the rural Scottish areas. However due to the lack of traffic the waits for any car can be long on rural roads. Despite this, during nice days waiting in the beautiful Scottish landscape can be very enjoyable. Areas such as Aviemore can be great for hitchhiking as they have a small-town centre and large number of visitors travelling both to and from.
Much like the highlands, islanders are usually very trusting and welcoming to travellers and hitchhikers. Most of the islands have single track roads which run around the entire Island and will get a fair amount of use. Standing near a ferry port where new visitors will arrive is a great way to get a good flow of possible lifts on usually quiet roads. Other, less used roads are to be avoided during the low season (October to April). This is because they may see very little traffic and often it will be faster just to walk.
Hitchhiking is free. While traveling by train or bus through Scotland is not extremely expensive it can still cost more than many travellers are able to spend making hitching an excellent option.
Hitching makes getting to the know real local people easier than ever. You will learn things about the local area that you would never find in books or tour. If you get on well with your driver, you may learn some secret spots only the locals know about.
Laws in Scotland mean that wild camping is legal almost everywhere. This means that after a long day of travelling you can pitch your tent wherever you find yourself. Just be sure to be respectful of the environment and not leave anything behind.
There is always a chance that something may go wrong. While 99.99% of the people who will stop and pick you up will be kind hearted people, there will always be a small risk of meeting someone with other intentions.
It is important to not have your plans completely set in stone. Travel times can very greatly. Journeys normally lasting a couple of hours to drive may take a hitchhiker days due to wait times and distractions. Don’t have a certain route in mind as this will only hinder the flow of your travels. Leave with plans to head in a certain direction and see where it takes you.
In Scotland there is no such thing as the wrong weather just the wrong clothes. When hitching you will be exposed to the elements any time you are left waiting on a lift. If you don’t enjoy getting wet, make sure you have some kind of waterproofs with you.
Avoid fast roads with little room for people to stop. These can be very dangerous for you and anyone who stops for you. Drivers may also be unable to respond quick enough to be able to pick you up.
Hitchhiking in Scotland is legal, except where pedestrians are not allowed to walk such as motorways. Never attempt to hitchhike on the motorway and instead attempt to flag down a lift on a quieter road which will later lead on to the motorway.
Travelling in pairs can be a great way to stay safe when hitchhiking in Scotland. It also gives you someone to talk to during the long waits beside the road. However, hitching with more than two people may reduce your chances of a lift.
While a sign can be useful, it is not completely necessary, for busier roads it could allow you to get one direct lift all the way to your destination.
Always make sure to smile, be presentable and be grateful to those who give a lift. Make sure to pay them back with good company as this is one of the main reasons people stop for hitchhikers.
Hitchhiking is certainly not for everyone, but for the few who like the challenge and adventure that hitchhiking brings, there is no better place to start than travelling through the beautiful landscape of Scotland.. If you need any further advise on a certain route or are in need of accommodation while staying in Edinburgh, feel free to contact us anytime.