Heidelberg has always been a haven for Romantics and romantics. The old town by the Neckar, coated in sunlight with its castle sinking into the forest above, hypnotizes thousands of tourists per day and seduced the likes of Goethe and Schumann. Perhaps the river hugging the forested hills of the city served as the poets muse. Between the trees, they strolled along the Philosophenweg (philosopher’s path) to ponder the panorama of Heidelberg’s castle across the river. Already crumbling by the 18th century after two wars and one lightning bolt severely damaged it, the regal ruins today crown the city as a testament to its history.
About 20km east of the Neckar’s confluence with the Rhine, Heidelberg stretches along the river’s shores for several kilometers. In the Altstadt (the old town), Hauptstrab e (Main Street) is the city?s heart where tourists and locals explore historic squares, churches and (very successful) shops. The tourist office located directly in front of the train station is the ideal place to stop off first for information. They reserve rooms and have a lot of valuable pamphlets on the city. Also, make sure to inquire about the Heidelberg Card (around $9) valid for two days that includes use of all public transport and admission to the Castle, and a tour of most other major sights.
An economy return flight to the Gold Coast (or Brisbane) from Sydney costs 17000 points, whereas from Newcastle the cost is only 9000 points. It might be worth the drive!
Getting to Lewis and the rest of the Hebrides, like most travel in rural Scotland, requires some planning. Most travelers make their way from Inverness to Ullapool by bus (1hr., several per day, 6 pounds). Ullapool, a small fishing-village-cum-tourist-magnet on the shores of lovely Lochbroom, boasts many sea-side shops, a modern supermarket, an excessive number of B&Bs, and two hostels-the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) hostel (tel. 01854 612254, 9.25 pounds) and the superior West House Hostel (tel. 01854 613126, 10 pounds). From Ullapool, Caledonian-MacBrayne ferries passengers to Stornaway, Lewis’s main port (tel. 08705 650000, 3hr., M-Sa 2 per day, 10.50 pounds). There are other ways to get to Lewis and its Siamese twin, the Isle of Harris (such as taking the ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye into Tarbet on Harris), but traveling through Ullapool remains the most popular for backpackers. Once on Lewis, Stornoway is about the only place to rest your head and stock up on supplies. The town’s two hostels are of comparable quality and are located within several blocks of one another. Stornoway Backpackers Hostel (tel. 01851 703628, 9 pounds) is the older and cheaper of the two; the bunkhouse down the street is more oriented toward the surfing set (tel. 01851 705862, 10 pounds). Once you’ve settled in, hit the road as fast as you can; Lewis’s real attractions are outside Stornaway, sprinkled around the island’s circumference and accessible via the W2 bus, which makes a circuit through the middle of the island (4 or 5 per day, 1-3 pounds).