The Loch Ossian Youth Hostel is one of the remotest hostels in Scotland. The eco-hostel in the middle of the Scottish Highlands is a great home base for hikers and adventurers – miles away from civilisation, but easy to reach and thus a great stop on anyone’s active Scotland itinerary. If you’re looking for a unique Scottish getaway, this review will convince you to book a weekend in the mountains!
Are you a backpacker? In fact, that term is too conflated; who doesn’t like to be smart about their travel money and save to splurge in the right moment? Gone are the days, when you had to travel with a backpack to be considered a savvy backpacker.
Let me ask a different question – are you a hosteller? If you’re confidently agreeing to this question, you can simply read on; but if you’re shaking your head in terror for the thought of sleeping in a hostel dorm – hear me out!
I recently spent a weekend at the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel in the middle of the Scottish Highlands which is run by Hostelling Scotland. My friend Yvette from Wayfaring Kiwi and I wanted to spend a girls weekend in the mountains to do some hiking before winter conditions would make the Highland summits inaccessible to us. Both of us had spent the summer hiking long-distance trails and frequently swapped our tents for hostel beds to dry out, rest up and gain new energy for the trail. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, this is a great guide for hostel first timers.
We chose the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, because we wanted to go somewhere that can be reached by public transport, while also being far away from civilisation. With the nearest train station only one mile away, but miles upon miles to the nearest town or village, Loch Ossian seemed like the perfect choice. We booked ourselves in for two nights in the wilderness, packed our hiking boots and waterproofs, and got on the train to the Highlands.
So, are you a hosteller – and do you have to be a hosteller in order to enjoy staying at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel? Let’s find out!
A Hostel like no other
My experiences staying at hostels in the Scottish Highlands and Islands have always been great – and uncomparable to staying in hostels in big cities like London, Glasgow or Edinburgh. City hostels can be noisy and busy. They are often a means to an end – providing cheap accommodation and a bed to sleep – but I often find that guests are not really that interested in the community of hostellers. Or they are party central with loud music banging on until the early hours. What can I say – neither is my scene at all!
Hostels in the mountains and along hiking trails in Scotland are a different story though. Staying at a remote hostel like the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, you can be assured that all the people staying there have at least one thing in common – a deep appreciation for the great Scottish outdoors. Why else would you make the effort to get here?
Hostelling Scotland runs a wide range of hostels around Scotland, including hostels in large cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Inverness. The majority of their hostels though is scattered around the Highlands, islands and coastlines of Scotland. They are more than just a means to affordable accommodation, they are perfect home bases for adventures and adventurers, whether you want to go for day hikes, mountain biking or trek long-distances from hostel to hostel.
Forget what you thought you knew about hostels – the dirty showers, the noisy neighbours and the uncomfortable bunk beds – and give hostelling another chance. Loch Ossian Youth Hostel is different and at the same time exemplary for the hostels of Hostelling Scotland. It might be smaller and remoter, but I’ve made equally pleasant experiences at Hostelling Scotland hostels in Crianlarich, Aviemore and Glencoe, all of which I’ve used during hiking trips before.
A Backcountry Luxury Hostel
The luxury of Loch Ossian Youth Hostel has nothing to do with Egyptian cotton, turn-down service or fruity cocktails for check-in. But you will feel like in a 5-star boutique hotel, once you realise how lucky you are to spend a night in such a wonderfully remote place!
The hostel is located on a small headland at the western tip of Loch Ossian, which means that it is surrounded by water on three sides. The main building has two dorms with 8 beds and a bathroom with a shower each and a cosy common room with a kitchen, a fireplace and two drying racks. There are two eco-friendly composting toilets in a smaller building next door.
The eco-hostel is powered by locally sourced hydro-power and has its own solar panels, which means there are hot showers, plenty of plugs and powerful electric heaters in the bedrooms – everything you would expect from any other hostel, but much more environmentally friendly. Grey water is treated through a reed bed soakaway, but I recommend using biodegradable camping soap to minimise your impact – it works as soap, shampoo and dishwashing liquid as well!
The kitchen at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel is fully equipped with two stoves, plenty of teapots and all the cutlery and crockery you could ask for. You just need to bring your own food! There is a small cupboard of communal food, but it’s best to pack essentials like salt, pepper and cooking oil yourself, just in case. If you don’t use it up, you can leave it behind and the next guests will be forever grateful – but only leave behind dry food with a long shelf life! There is a composting bin for your food waste, but all non-perishable rubbish has to be carried out and disposed of back in the city. I recommend bringing your own reusable bin liner to make that easier.
The fireplace uses coal, but Jan also has a supply of sawdust logs, which make it easier to get it going faster on a wet and windy day. There are two drying racks on the ceiling above the fire, which makes it easier to dry your clothes after a wet day in the outdoors. The tables are spacious and offer plenty of seats even if the hostel is fully booked. There is a small library with books and games for entertainment too!
One thing you will have to walk for miles to find is phone reception. But look at it this way: some people pay hundreds of pounds for phone-free retreats and digital detox. At Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, the wilderness takes care of that for free! For miles and miles, there is little to no reception and your phone turns into an over-ambitious alarm clock for the duration of your stay. In case of an emergency, the hostel manager Jan has a landline telephone in her office and the nearby Station Inn next to Corrour Station has a 4×4 truck to navigate the gravel tracks in the area.
This is backcountry luxury with every safety net you could imagine!
Staying at the hostel costs £19 for a bunk bed (2018 prices), so it’s a real steal!
A Unique Scottish Experience
If you ask me, there is no more unique way to experience Scottish Highland hospitality, than a weekend trip to Loch Ossian Youth Hostel. Jan will welcome you with open arms and pop by the main building every day to make sure everyone is doing well and keeps warm. The hostel is so cosy with its wooden furniture and the fireplace.
The other guests we met during our stay were adventurers just like us and chose to travel to this remote area for their love of the Highlands. There were people from Scotland and England, but also a German guy at the last stage of his big Eurotrip – an illustrious round, who was keen to chat, exchange hiking stories and share a dram in the evening with!
Normally, remote places like this are only accessible by car. If you travel to Scotland and don’t want to hire a rental car, a stay to Loch Ossian Youth Hostel can give you that unique Scottish experience of a remote Highland cabin. A trip to the hostel can be combined with city hopping around Glasgow and Edinburgh, or you can stop here on your way to Fort William from where Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye are within easy reach for your further Scotland itinerary!
Hikes at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel
The hikes in the area around Loch Ossian are suitable for beginners as well as experienced hillwalkers. From challenging multi-summit hikes to a relaxed circuit around the loch, there is something for everyone. There are several munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000ft) at the hostel’s doorstep, as well as Corbetts (between 2,500 and 3,000ft) and other smaller elevations.
One of the easiest munros in Scotland is Beinn na Lap, which stands tall behind the youth hostel. But since the loch lies already at about 1,300ft elevation, the ascent is much easier than other, less remote munros. The trail starts right by the hostel and it took us about 3.5 hours to reach the top and get back down again. The weather was nasty during our hike, so I can imagine it would take a bit longer if you’d stop to enjoy the views or a relaxed lunch break! This hike is super easy and it’s pretty much impossible to get lost, making it a very beginner-friendly munro even in bad weather.
Other hikes in the area lead to Sgor Gaibhre and Carn Dearg, 2 munros towards the eastern tip of Loch Ossian, Leum Uilleim, a Corbett on the western side of Corrour train station, and the basically flat Loch Ossian circuit around the loch. You can also walk to Rannoch station (about 4 hours) and catch the next train back to Corrour and Loch Ossian.
How to get to Loch Ossian Youth Hostel
Loch Ossian Youth Hostel is located only one mile from the nearest train station Corrour, which is one of the remotest train stations in Scotland. It is part of the West Highland Line between Glasgow, Fort William and Mallaig.
To get to Corrour station, take the train from Glasgow Queen Street and get off four stops before Fort William. If you travel on the Caledonian Sleeper Train, note that you have to request the train to stop at this station, and wave it down when you catch it on the way back home.
The walk from the train station to the hostel takes about 20-30 minutes and leads along a well-maintained gravel track. It’s very easy to walk, but it would be quite tricky to pull a suitcase. Find out more on what and how to pack below!
What to pack for Loch Ossian Youth Hostel
I highly recommend travelling to Loch Ossian Youth Hostel with a backpack, because it will be so much easier to carry your luggage from the train station to the hostel. I currently travel around Scotland with a large Vaude backpack (this Vaude Astrum 60+10L is similar) which is super spacious and extremely comfortable to carry. If you’re new to the backpacking business, here are 10 features to look out for in a good travel and trekking backpack, and three of my favourite backpacks on the market!
I packed very similarly to when I go long-distance hiking: quick-dry hiking clothing, my vegan-friendly non-merino baselayers, a warm fleece, my favourite hand-knitted jumper, buffs to keep my head and neck warm, my rain jacket, a puffy jacket, waterproof trousers and waterproof hiking boots by Zamberlan.
Since I did not need to bring my tent, sleeping bag or pad, there was plenty of space in my pack for additional camera equipment and a bag with food supplies.
Here are a few more items, I recommend packing:
- a headlamp -> it’s easy to forget just how dark it is at night when there is no light pollution around!
- a pair of slip-on trainers to wear in the house and to go to the toilet
- comfy pyjamas or lounge clothes to wear inside while your hiking clothes hang up to dry
- a hip flask filled with your favourite whisky -> current choice is Jura Journey
- a smaller backpack for day hikes
- rain covers for your backpacks
- a travel towel
Loch Ossian Youth Hostel was the perfect getaway for a quick weekend out in the wilderness. The hostel is cosy and warm, and a great home base to explore the mountains in the surrounding area. I can’t think of any other place in Scotland that is so easy to get to while being super remote at the same time. Spending a weekend by Loch Ossian is a great way to experience the Scottish Highlands up close and make a memory for life!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner and Yvette Morrissey.