Global search for memories to celebrate landmark anniversary for youth hostels

An international search has been launched to find anyone with memories of staying at two of Scotland’s oldest youth hostels.

Photograph by: SYHARatagan Youth Hostel today

Both Gairloch Sands and Ratagan youth hostels are celebrating their 85th birthdays this month, having been part of the SYHA Hostelling Scotland (SYHA) network from the earliest days of the organisation.

As part of the celebrations SYHA is appealing to members of the public with memories of spending time at either of the hostels to share their experiences past and present.

The SYHA wants to hear from people, around the UK and further afield, who have spent time at either of the properties – two of their longest running youth hostels in the country. The organisation hopes wayfarers young and old, past and present, will have memories, amazing experiences or interesting photographs they would be willing to share with others around the world.

Photograph by: SYHAGairloch Youth Hostel as it was

Located on the on the north shore of Gairloch, Ross-shire, Gairloch Sands (Carn Dearg) Youth Hostel, a former hunting lodge built in the 1880’s is one of the oldest youth hostel buildings within SYHA’s network. It was gifted to the organisation in August 1931 by Lady Mary Ogilvie and opened to the paying public on 13 May 1932.

On opening, members were asked if they could please refrain from bathing during church hours and reminded that the small number of resident staff would not make their beds, clean their shoes or tidy their rooms. While the bathing ban may have been lifted staff have still drawn the line at cleaning shoes.

At the end of 1933 a memo claimed that 276 cyclists, 110 motorists and 564 pedestrians had used the hostel.

Photograph by: SYHARatagan Youth Hostel as it used to be

Opened a day later on 14 May 1932, Ratagan Youth Hostel in the North West Highlands near the Isle of Skye, is a very popular choice with hostellers and has one of the best youth hostel locations in Scotland. Set on the shore of the beautiful Loch Duich the hostel enjoys unrivalled views of the magnificent Five Sisters mountain range. It was one of SYHA’s first rentals from the Forestry Commission, housed in a bare 19th-century farm building.

Unlike today, Ratagan’s initial attraction, was undeveloped in the extreme. Writing in the Scotsman on 22nd October 1932, a journalist referred to it as the ideal hostel for the Highlands: “Spartan-like in simplicity; it should aim at the primitive character of an Alpine hut rather than the cheery cosiness of the Lowland cottage.” Another correspondent wrote: “Hostellers had to be a hardy breed, resistant just as much to icy draughts as to invasive midge swarms.”

The team at SYHA are sure there must be a wealth of stories detailing guests’ special memories, chance encounters and amazing experiences just waiting to be told.

Anyone with anything to share is encouraged to visit the SYHA’s Facebook page or tweet their experiences using the hashtag #SYHAdventure.


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