Memories of hostelling in Gairloch and Ratagan sought

gairloch old
The hostel in Gairloch before refurbishment

Memories of stays in hostels at Gairloch and Ratagan are being sought to mark the 85th birthdays of the premises.

Both the Gairloch Sands and Ratagan youth hostels celebrated the major milestone in May. To mark the occasion SYHA Hostelling Scotland would love to hear from hostellers, around the UK and further afield, who have spent time at two of their longest running youth hostels and have memories, experiences or photographs they would be willing to share.

Gairloch Youth Hostel
Gairloch Youth Hostel

Located on the north shore of Gairloch, the Gairloch Sands (Carn Dearg) hostel is a former hunting lodge built in the 1880’s and 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 paying public on 13th May 1932, just a month after it was gifted.

On opening, members were asked if they could refrain from bathing during church hours and were reminded that the small number of resident staff would not make their beds, clean their shoes or tidy their rooms.  At the end of 1933 a memo claimed that 276 cyclists, 110 motorists and 564 pedestrians had used the hostel.

Rattan Youth Hostel as it was…
Ratagan Youth Hostel as it was…

Opened a day later on 14th May 1932, Ratagan Youth Hostel, on the shore of Loch Duich, has one of the best hostel locations in Scotland, enjoying unrivaled views of the magnificent Five Sisters of Kintail mountain range. It was one of SYHA’s first rentals from the Forestry Commission and was housed in a bare 19th-century farm building. 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.”

Ratagan New 1
…and how it looks now

The share your memories of either hostel, contact the SYHA team by email at; by letter to: SYHA National Office, 7 Glebe Crescent, Stirling, FK8 2JA or on the Facebook page or on Twitter using the hashtag #SYHAdventure.