When my friend Kathi from Watch Me See suggested we head away for a girls hiking weekend, I jumped at the opportunity. We both needed a break from our busy lives in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and so we headed north to the Scottish Highlands.
Our chosen destination was the remote Loch Ossian on the northeastern edge of Rannoch Moor, in the wild heart of Scotland. Our accommodation was the eco-friendly Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, run by the non-profit charity, Hostelling Scotland.
Covid-19 notice: While I’ve tried my best to keep this article updated with the latest information, due to the pandemic some attractions and places mentioned in this article may be closed. Be sure to plan ahead, check what’s open before you visit and read my Covid-19 Scotland guide for more information on travel in Scotland.
We spent a wonderful weekend hiking, star-gazing, reading, drinking whisky and catching up in the beautifully remote loch-side setting in the Grampian Mountains.
It’s important we disconnect from technology and our responsibilities once in a while to reconnect with ourselves. This is often more challenging than we think; the temptation to ‘quickly’ check our phones often results in scrolling through our feed for hours and making impulse purchases.
Spending a weekend away somewhere remote without the temptations of technology is the easiest way to reconnect with ourselves. I can vouch that after spending a weekend at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, I returned to Edinburgh with my zen intact.
>> Read more: 11 places in Scotland off the beaten path
This is a sponsored article, however all opinions are entirely my own (as always). This article may contain links to products and services that I love. I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.
Loch Ossian Youth Hostel: A Hostel With a Difference
The Loch Ossian Youth Hostel ticked all my boxes for several reasons. I have been mindful of my impact on the environment recently, so imagine my delight when I found out Loch Ossian Youth Hostel is a Green Tourism awarded eco-hostel. The hostel runs entirely on locally sourced hydropower, has composting toilets and a reed bed soakaway for greywater (water waste from showers, sinks, and washing machines). Recently hot showers have been installed complete with an eco setting.
>> Read more: 21 tips for sustainable tourism in Scotland
The self-catering kitchen is rustic yet modern, stocked with everything you need to cook a delicious warm meal after a day in the mountains. The dining area is a comfortable and cosy space, and warms quickly thanks to the fireplace. There is also a neat overhead drying rack to hang your clothes if you happen to be caught out by the Scottish weather!
There is an abundance of wildlife in the area, including a local herd of deer with the stag making frequent visits to the hostel! Unfortunately, we didn’t meet the stag, but we could hear him calling to his females from the hills.
Other wildlife that can be spotted in the area include black and red grouse, goshawks, merlins, black-throated divers, ptarmigans, golden eagles, dotterels, golden plovers, mountain hare, otters, peregrine falcons, and pine martens.
There are three munros virtually on the doorstep of the hostel, and an easy hike that circumnavigates Loch Ossian, making it a perfect location for hikers of all levels. The hostel closes during the day for cleaning, encouraging you to get outside to soak in the surroundings, but it remains open in cases of extreme weather.
How to reach Loch Ossian Youth Hostel
Loch Ossian Youth Hostel can only be reached by train, and then by bicycle or on foot; it is not accessible by car. The hostel is best reached by catching the train to Corrour (which runs directly from the Glasgow Queen Street train station) and following the clear 4×4 track for one mile.
Next to the train station is the Corrour Station House, a hotel/restaurant which has a good selection of regional produce such as game and seafood and alcoholic beverages. There is also Wi-Fi here for any ’emergencies.’
What you should pack
You will need to bring all of your supplies with you when staying at the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel- there isn’t a supermarket around for miles, and you will need to carry out everything (including rubbish) so make sure you pack wisely. Here are some of the things I recommend you pack:
- The correct Ordnance Survey map
- A rain jacket and waterproof trousers
- Enough food to last you for however long you intend to stay
- A smaller day pack (to take hiking)
- A lightweight battery pack for charging your devices
- Compeed blister plasters
- A rubbish bag
- A quick-dry, microfibre towel
- Hiking boots (I love my Scarpa Terra hiking boots!)
- Indoor shoes, such as sandals
- Spare socks
- An interesting book about Scotland [check out my recommendations here]
>> Read more: My guide to hiking the Scottish National Trail
The Grampian Mountains: A Quick History
Loch Ossian Youth Hostel lies within the Grampian Mountains (also known as ‘the Grampians’). It is an area steeped in history; some of the first people of Scotland, the Caledonians, inhabited this area during the first century.
The first ever recorded figure in Scottish history was the Chieftain of the Caledonian tribe, Calgacus. This was recorded by the Roman historian, Cornelius Tacitus. Apparently, Calgacus and his tribe fought against a Roman army led by Gnaeus Julius Agricola at the Battle of Mons Graupius in AD 83 or 84. The Romans were unable to defeat the strong Caledonia warriors and fled to the safety of the south.
While many historians debate the existence of Calcagus, it is clear that there were battles between the Calidonians and the Romans in the Grampian Mountains. The Romans were not able to penetrate north of the Grampian Mountains for hundreds of years, resulting in the construction of Hadrian’s Wall to keep the “barbarous” Calidonians from entering the southern lands.
It’s a special feeling being in the mountains where the ancient Calidonian tribe once lived- and you’re right in the thick of it at the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel.
>> Read more: My diary of the Scottish National Trail
Walks and Munros from Loch Ossian Youth Hostel
The Loch Ossian Youth Hostel is a fantastic base for hill-walkers and munro baggers of all levels. There are several hikes to choose from, but I’ve listed four that begin right at the doorstep of the hostel. You may like to begin with the circuit around Loch Ossian before dipping your toes into something harder, such as munros Beinn na Lap, Sgor Gaibhre and Carn Dearg.
All of these hiking routes can be found on the WalkHighlands website.
1. Loch Ossian circuit
Time: 4.5-5.5 hours
The circuit of Loch Ossian is the easiest walk in the area. You can begin this walk by following the track from the hostel, taking the first left to follow the loch anti-clockwise on the clear 4×4 track. At the head of the loch lies Corrour Lodge, a wildlife refuge.
The GPS waypoints for this walk can be downloaded here.
2. Beinn na Lap (munro)
Time: 3-5 hours
Beinn na Lap is considered one of the easiest munros in Scotland over 3000 feet. The railway station is already 1300 feet above sea level, leaving you with much less of a mountain to climb. This munro is also right next to the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, and can be admired while having a pot of tea from the picnic tables outside.
The distinct, but rough track in some areas is fairly easy to navigate. This munro was officially the first one I’ve ever hiked!
The GPS waypoints for this munro can be downloaded here.
3. Leum Uilleim
Time: 3-4.5 hours
Leum Uilleim is a short, yet rewarding hill walk. It is best known for appearing in the film Trainspotting. You begin this walk from the Corrour train station, and it conveniently loops to take you back around to the station. This Corbett gives good views of Loch Ossian, Ben Nevis, and the peaks around Glen Coe.
The GPS waypoints can be downloaded here.
4. Sgor Gaibhre and Carn Dearg (munros)
Time: 7-8 hours
For those looking for a challenge, the munros Sgor Gaibhre and Carn Dearg offer just that. Despite WalkHighlands describing these munros as “unspectacular,” there is nothing unspectacular about the view these munros offer over Loch Ossian. The two munros are best tackled together in one day. There is a combination of pathless hillsides and clear tracks, but can be boggy in places.
The GPS waypoints can be downloaded here.
>> Read more: How to travel Scotland on a budget
If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and head into the highlands, spending a weekend at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel offers the perfect combination of remoteness, adrenaline and relaxation.
Staying at this hostel is truly one for the bucket-list, and a unique Scottish experience you’ll never forget!
Have you stayed at the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel or tried any of the hikes in Corrour?
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*All photos by Kathi Kamleitner and Yvette Webster