Hostelling, again

SYHA is the acronym for the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, although I noticed, on rejoining recently, that the preferred name these days is “Hostelling Scotland”.

I have fond memories of hostelling as a teenager – hiking around the Spey valley with a few girls in tow being just one highlight!

Despite my membership having lapsed at the age of 20, I found myself staying at the Loch Lomond hostel by virtue of being invited to a wedding. Patrick married Juliet in quite the grandest youth hostel I had ever been in. The dorms however, weren’t quite so grand – green shag pile carpets (which had no doubt been luxurious at some point) and cold institutional metal-framed bunk beds. Just wrong.

The best thing about hostelling for me was always the kitchens. At many hostels I stayed at, the kitchens were often large, and under-used. You’d have a kitchen fit for a catering college, and often as not, the place to yourself. I can remember Mhairi McGregor in one youth hostel kitchen pulling out all the mushroom stalks and eying them with curiosity, unsure of the best way to dispatch a mushroom.

Luckily I came from a house with a well-used kitchen, and for me, a youth hostel kitchen was the equivalent of getting to rummage in someone else’s toybox!

I recently rejoined SYHA, and when the chance of a late night boat-ride in Easdale came my way, I took the opportunity to stay in the Oban hostel.

It’s recently been refurbished, and everything is new. And massively improved! It’s hands down a thousand times better than a Bed & Breakfast, and a higher standard than a fair number of “four star” hotels I’ve stayed in. Alright, it’s not Gleneagles and you do have to share a dorm with four strangers. But I think I’d rather that be the case. And I don’t play golf anyway.

I had spent the morning on the hills and got to the hostel around 3.30pm. An old fellow had already arrived in my dorm and had bagged the double bed, so I chose the lower bunk nearest the door and made up my bed. After being beaten by an aggressive shower, I relaxed on the fairly comfy bed and read a book, nodding hello’s to the latest arrivals – three french students. We sharing a few smirks as the old chap snored his way through his afternoon nap.

Later in the evening I got talking to the old fellow, whose name is Jim. I reckoned him to be late 60s. But he is 80, and fit, and, with scars to prove it, the survivor of a quadruple heart bypass.

Jim has been hostelling since he was 14, and told me of a time when, as a trainee baker, he would smuggle leftover pancake batter out of the bakery inside a hot water bottle tucked under his shirt. The hot water bottle would famously reappear to provide pancakes for his pals at the Glen Loin hostel, cooked on a pot-bellied stove.

Membership starts at £8. Hot water bottles are optional.

About RennyRambles

Running, rambling, cycling, swimming and scrambling to my heart's content. Happiest on a trail, with some jelly babies in my pocket.
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