To travel from London to Inverness, I decided to book a room on the overnight Caledonian Sleeper. The train departed from London Euston around 7:45pm and arrived at its final destination, Inverness, at around 7:30am the next morning.
The train was an amazing and different experience that I’d love to do again one day. It was the perfect way to travel overnight and finally get a room of my own while hostel jumping, if even for just a few hours. The lull and sway of the train engines put me right to sleep. I woke up pretty early to follow my location and watch the green rolling hills of the Highlands pass by. There was even coffee served right to your door.
There were some downsides to the overnight train, especially while solo. I was unable to lock the door to the room from the outside, so my trips to the bathroom were quick and there wasn’t much time to explore. But I was on my way to Inverness! I had never been to Northern Scotland before.
The Inverness Student Hostel is only a 10 or 15-minute walk from the only train station, very doable even with a 15lb backpack, past Inverness Castle, and at the top of a large hill. The common areas were cozy. One room had a fish and an old piano. The walls were original stone and leather armchairs and plushy couches stood in every corner. It was mostly the facade of the building that drew me to book. I couldn’t get over the quaint cottage feel.
Checking in was easy. Little clay Nessies (The Loch Ness Monster) stood guard at the front counter. Their WIFI was a Harry Potter pun. The kitchen had an endless supply of coffee and hot chocolate, all you had to do was grab a colorful mug. I love the look of hostels. They’re full of strangers, but they have that comfortably familiar, thrifty atmosphere.
Plants dripped from walls and fairy lights lined a bay window that overlooked a gothic cathedral on the River Ness. My room was on the basement floor, down a spiral staircase, and was only accessible by a key instead of an automatic card. My bed was chosen for me and had a name: Fiddle. All of the beds in my room were named after musical instruments. I had two pillows (wonderfully uncustomary) and the sheets were decorated in colorful dinosaurs. I think they were heading for those Nessie vibes again.
The beds themselves were pretty comfortable and I had no trouble falling asleep. I had a nice semi-secluded bunk off in the back of the room. The only downside to these rooms was that there were no personal lockers, which felt like I was playing with fate when it came to pickpocketers. While there is mutual respect amongst backpackers, I still wouldn’t trust everyone coming and going from that room to have the same mentality. While there were small personal lockers to rent out behind the desk, I still didn’t feel comfortable parting so far from my passport and ended up carrying it with me for my entire Inverness stay. I usually don’t, as it is problematic to carry everything at once. Everything I left underneath the bed was locked away in my backpack, but there wasn’t anything stopping anyone from just grabbing the bag. While I did enjoy my stay, lockers are a big deal when it comes to comfort and peace of mind.
The “Student Hostel” doesn’t truly refer to an age requirement, at least for this one. There seemed to be more requirements on Hostelworld rather than their direct website. However, as is for most hostels, you must be at least 18 and show ID (usually a passport). While I did see a mostly younger crowd at this hostel, I did have a lengthy conversation with an elder gentleman about Inverness history. Hostels are really for anyone and everyone.
Some days I wouldn’t even set an alarm. I would wake up with the sun (or by my hostel roommates) and slowly get out of bed (Fiddle was quite nice). I’d find my way to the kitchen and, if I had groceries, make breakfast or help myself to some free coffee or hot chocolate. I’d find a place at the bay window or in a great leather armchair and write for a bit, gazing out over the gothic countryside.
In Inverness, the weather can change fast. One day was sunny and the next hazy and wet. While each day certainly didn’t look postcard-perfect, the foggy and dark cobblestone streets were certainly a beautiful aesthetic. With the grey and black graveyards and misty rivers, I couldn’t help thinking that Mary Shelley was controlling the weather to hide all the secrets and monsters lurking behind dark corners.
Overall, my stay at Inverness Student Hostel was quite great. I made a close friend and pen pal, explored downtown and the Highlands, ate lots of haggis, and slept well. The building itself is old and that comes with its own expectations, of course. Being in the basement didn’t mean the best when it came to bathrooms, but sneaking to a different floor for the better bathroom wasn’t anything new for me.
Inverness is a beautiful town, the capital of the Highlands, and a great home base for day trips. One day, book a tour or rent a car to the beautiful Isle of Skye. See the historical Culloden battlefield and mysterious lochs. Explore Outlander filming locations, fairy glens, and whisky distilleries. But, of course, we can’t forget about the hairy coos!
Check out the Student Hostel right here or find them on Hostelworld.