Despite the name, the cultures, politics, and histories of Ireland, Scotland, and England are distinctly different from one another. Each having its own beauty, foods, drinks, people, arts, and communities. Backpacking through this incredible region is an opportunity to explore culture cultivated over hundreds, if not thousands of years. The people you meet and the experiences you have on a backpacking trip to the British Isles will last a lifetime!
1.Travel Light and Wear Layers
When backpacking, the weight of your clothing and the amount of space they take up in your pack is probably the most important thing to consider. Lightweight performance fabrics that wick and dispel moisture are best because you can layer up or down to suit the temperatures. Hand-wash them in the evening and they are dry and ready to wear in the morning. They also come in a wide range of styles, cuts, and colors to suit many personal tastes.
Backpacking and budget travel go together like tea and biscuits. Hostels are the absolute best value with the added benefit of meeting other solo travelers to swap stories and keep company with after a long day or night of taking in the scene. Hostels typically offer dorm style lodging geared toward backpackers and budget travelers for rates averaging seventy-five percent below that of a standard three-star hotel room. Many hostels are kept to the standard of a three-star hotel, often have their own bar and light snack service, and are in popular towns, ports, and neighborhoods. Do some research, there are a plethora of gems out there.
3.Be Kind to Your Feet
Backpacking often means many miles of walking and soggy, sore feet can feel like the end of days, so give your feet some extra love. Pack flip flops, lots of extra socks and an extra pair of comfortable shoes. At least one pair (preferably both) should be waterproof due to the wet weather patterns of the area. Wearing the same pair of boots or sneakers everyday compresses and degrades the support components so you feel like your shoes are made of concrete. Your feet will also need air and a break daily so spend some time flip flopping around before bed, go barefoot at a hidden beach on the Ballycotton Cliff Walk, dip your toes in Loch Ness by the ruins of an old Scottish castle, stretch out in the lush grass of the Kensington Palace Gardens…if the weather cooperates that is.
4. Bring a Waterproof Jacket & Compact Umbrella
The Isles are known for their annual rates of precipitation and very rarely do they disappoint. This past year has been an exception and I was lucky to see seven straight days of sunshine and 60+degree temperatures. It rained the day I flew home, and when it did, the temperatures dropped quickly and the rain came down hard and fast. Always have a top waterproof layer (preferably with a hood) to keep the wet and chill at bay. A compact umbrella is handy, lightweight, doesn’t take up much space in your bag, and keeps you dry when the skies open unexpectedly.
5.Take It All In
The point of the backpacker style of travel is to save money by skipping the frivolities and splurging on the experiences. Do things, see places, meet people, and eat all the food. You can take a tour or rent a car to drive from Galway to Cork and catch a train to Belfast. Hop on a plane to Glasgow and drive the Highland roads to Loch Ness and back down to Edinburgh. Take the early morning commuter flight to London and spend time wandering the city or catch a bus to Stonehenge. If the opportunity arises to sail or fly to an outlying island like Shetland or the Isle of Mann, jump on it.
The next time you get the chance to backpack through the British Isles, don’t say no!
Alexis is a travel enthusiast, writer, and entrepreneur from West Hartford, CT. An avid adventurer and lover of the outdoors, Alexis can often be found out hiking with her Treeing Walker Coonhound or enjoying time at one of the many CT beaches.