A Pinoy's guide for planning a trip to the Scottish Highlands

Take the road to Hogwarts. Harry Potter fans who want to know what it's like to ride the Hogwarts Express can do the next best thing: take the scenic train from Fort William to Mallaig and pass over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct made popular by the Harry Potter films.

Mallaig is a sleepy but charming coastal town from where ferries regularly depart for the Isle of Skye. Another scenic train worth taking is the one from Inverness to Kyle of Localsh, where there are buses that can take you by road bridge to Skye.

How much will it cost?

As with most other destinations, a trip to the Scottish Highlands can be as expensive or – well, not cheap but – as doable as you are willing to make it.

Tips for frugal travelers:

Before you go

Get a UK visa. The Scottish Highlands are, of course, part of Scotland, which in turn is part of the United Kingdom, so you need to get a UK visa. The application process is fairly simple; the forms, requirements, and instructions are all online.

The visa fee is $133 and if you apply through the VFS office in Cebu, there is a surcharge of $92.

(You can read about how we applied for a UK visa here: Getting a UK Visa in Cebu: What You Need to Know.)

Pack rain gear. “There was a drought in Skye recently,” said our guide once. “It didn’t rain for 6 whole hours.” That joke should tell you what you need to know about how prone the western Highlands and islands are to rain; however, as a Scottish saying goes, “There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.”

Look up the weather forecast for your trip and pack accordingly. If you're planning on doing some trekking, definitely bring a raincoat and waterproof shoes. Also: look up midges and how to survive them.

Read books, listen to music, and watch films set in Scotland. You don't need to know the stories of Scotland to appreciate its breathtaking beauty, but you will feel a greater connection to what you see if you do a bit of research before you go.

You don't even have to open a history book – try reading Neil Gaiman's Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains, Dick Francis' To The Hilt, or even those romance novels involving strapping lairds in kilts and spirited young ladies.

Watch Brave and Braveheart and at least the first few episodes of Outlander. Listen to Dougie Maclean. The Scottish Highlands – its sights, its songs, its stories, its spirit – is a place that is sure to delight your eyes, touch your soul, and fill your heart to bursting. – Rappler.com

Gaya is a travel blogger from Cebu whose background in psychology and medicine has taken a backseat to her passion for writing and traveling. Her main occupation is spamming her friends' Facebook feeds with travel articles she's published in her blog Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains, but for bread and butter she takes on writing and healthcare-related projects from home. Her bucket list includes taking her family to Rome, seeing the northern lights from the Scottish highlands, and walking the Camino de Santiago.