Outdoor Discoveries

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out-of-doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

It would be a pity to see them go

14th December 2011

A recent poke around the SYHA website revealed some sad news: hostel closures. In total, there have been 46 but 5 of them are facing closure. There’s Canisbay near John O’Groats in Caithness, Arden near Loch Lomond and three in the Scottish Borders. These are Broadmeadows, Kirk Yetholm and Melrose. The latter losses will leave the network looking very bare between Scotland’s central belt and its border with England.

A weekend in early July had me staying in both Kirk Yetholm and Melrose. Both seemed well used though neither was completely full. Both are near long distance trails so that should explain their locations. St. Cuthbert’s Way goes by both of these and that’s how I chose them as places to stay. Kirk Yetholm also is the northern end of the Pennine Way and both the Southern Upland Way and and the Borders Abbeys Way pass Melrose. That makes both of these a big loss for long distance walkers who now need to make alternative arrangements unless others take them over and run as independent or affiliate hostels. After all, Melrose also is useful for cyclists.

In the article on the SYHA website announcing the news, the reason given is one that will be eerily familiar to those who have witnessed YHA closure announcements. Yes, the cost of refurbishment has been mentioned in concert with the standards expected by hostellers these days. The upgrades to Oban and Lochranza are mentioned and I can vouch for the one on Arran being a good job. However, it sounds like it took a dedicated husband and wife team to make it happen.

The announcement has me pondering the future of youth hostel associations and it’s a line of thought that may spawn another entry on here regarding the subject yet. There are those who consider that youth hostels are on borrowed time. At Kirk Yetholm, I met a grandmother taking her grandchildren hostelling before she felt it was too late to do so. That Kirk Yetholm now is facing closure makes here views sound prophetic.


  • Andy Jones says:

    Sad indeed, the days when youth hostels were there to support the weary traveller on a low income have gone. They are just hotels by any other name and not particularly cheap at that. I rarely use them now as I can normally find a B&B at a similar price

    • John says:

      Yes, B&B’s can come at a similar price but I have found it tricky to book them at busy times in the past, mostly for a trip to some part of Scotland. Not having the patience to be told that every establishment that I phone is full, I now tend to get TIC’s to do my bidding for me unless it’s in the low season or somewhere off the beaten track.

  • Alan Sloman says:

    On my LEJOG it was rare to find a YH open or answering the phone. If it did answer it was occupied by a school party so could not take lone male walkers.

    Canisbay was wonderful – I shared it with about ten others. It is run by two wonderful women who also do the TGO Challenge.

    Why they continue to call it the “Youth” Hostel Association I don’t know, as their marketing doesn’t seem to be targeting youth at all.

  • John J says:

    I’ve just about given up on Youth Hostels, the YHA & SYHA have completely lost the plot.

    “To help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside, particularly by providing hostels or other simple accommodation for them in their travels, and thus to promote their health, rest and education.”

    Oh yeah – who do they think they’re kidding?


    • John says:

      John, I too would love to know what goes on in the minds of these people. After all, I only ever managed to book a YHA once and the hostel (Capel Curig) is closed now. Mind you, I seem to have a higher view of the SYHA than I have of the YHA.

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