Last week I took a trip down memory lane at Hostelling Scotland’s Torridon Youth Hostel. The last time I stayed at one of their hostels I was a fresh-faced teenager attending high school camp. Duran Duran and Wham dominated the music charts, twilight teaser was the only shade of lipstick to be seen in and leg warmers were the height of fashion thanks to the kids from Fame. Would my stay at the Hostelling Scotland Torridon Youth Hostel bring back fond memories, or would it be the stuff of nightmares?
Organisations like Hostelling Scotland opened my eyes to the wonders of Scotland and the great outdoors. I grew up living in a tenement flat on an Edinburgh housing estate. Scotland’s lochs, glens and mountains were alien to me. I remember visiting places like Loch Lomond, Glencoe and Mull for the first time and returning home to excitedly share what I’d seen. A whole new World.
As an adult fond of home comforts would I embrace the experience of hostelling as much as I did in my youth? I joked with friends that I was spending the weekend at school camp with Mr G and The Wee White Dug.
After a 4 1/2 hour drive from Edinburgh we arrived in Torridon and were met by a welcoming committee of midges.
Our digs – Torridon Youth Hostel
We shot indoors as fast as lightning, bringing with us a sizeable swarm of midges stuck to the boy’s hair.
The hoard of noisy youths I’d expected to be occupying the place were conspicuous by their absence. In fact the other guest were all grown ups like us.
Our private room was perfect. It was really cosy and had a sink and comfortable seating area. I’d expected it to be basic but it had pretty curtains, cushions and nice prints of Scotland hanging on the walls. Best of all we had an amazing mountain view that would normally come at a premium. The boy sniffed around until he found the perfect sleeping spot, then put a mammoth effort into plumping up his blankets to make a nest.
That evening we ate locally, before relaxing back at the hostel’s quiet lounge with a couple of drinks. Being licensed and with hot food available it felt more like a hotel than a hostel. Ahh, it was nice to unwind with my two favourite boys.
We were joined in the lounge by a lady with a book. She ignored us and settled into a chair at the opposite side of the room. Hmmmfffff she cleared her throat loudly. Hmmmfffff and again, and again, and again, and again. Non-stop in fact and for good measure at random intervals she spoke to herself too. I couldn’t look at Mr G as we’re the world’s worst gigglers. It doesn’t take much to set us off at all. A few years ago on Iona, we were relaxing in a hotel lounge when two ladies we dubbed Hinge and Bracket came in and started singing hymns and playing the piano next to. We sat with tears streaming down our faces, failing miserably to stifle our laughter. Hinge and Bracket were oblivious.
Set up for the day ahead with breakfast
After a sound sleep we woke early and enjoyed a Continental breakfast before heading out for the day. Hostelling Scotland have a policy of sourcing their food locally. Not only does this help to support the local economy, it’s also better for the environment as food doesn’t travel hundreds of miles to reach the table. Food scraps are recycled to feed birds and wildlife or made into compost, so nothing is wasted.
With Torridon on the famous NC500 driving route, we were perfectly located for a scenic drive on one of our favourite sections of road in Scotland.
I’ve shared this section of road on the blog before but from a dreich (miserable) day out. This day was very different. The sky was blue, Loch Torridon was reflecting like a dream, the sun was casting a rich amber glow on the mountains and low-lying clouds looked like billowing candy-floss. It was one of those days that makes you feel euphoric.
A gorgeous red glow on the bracken covered mountain side.
The pretty red roof of my favourite little but n ben in Scotland.
On our last visit to the infamous mountain pass, the visibility was zero.
This time the summit was clear and we could open the car doors without fear of the wind tearing them off.
Back at ground level, we snapped photos and reminisced about our last visit when the wind nearly blew the boy’s whiskers off.
We’d timed our crossing of the Bealach na Bà perfectly. It was lunchtime and we’d just arrived at a favourite cafe of ours. We enjoyed tasty soup, sandwiches and a good cup of coffee at the Bealach Cafe & Gallery. It was nice to chill for a while. In between begging, the boy napped under the table.
An added bonus of lunching at The Bealach Cafe is the fab wee gallery attached to it. Last year I left with a lovely print of the Bealach na Bà, this year I left with some locally made silver jewellery and a cute little croft house, complete with passing place and washing line.
Castle Exploring because we’re history geeks
Strome Castle sits on an elevated spot overlooking Loch Carron. Dating to the 15th century the castle was once a stronghold of the Lords of the Isles. Today it’s a shell, but it boasts impressive views and is a nice spot to stop for a while.
The boy was excited as he made a new friend at Strome. A big black dog came bounding out of a nearby cottage when we arrived at the castle. The wee dug and his new friend enjoyed a game of rough and tumble in the castle courtyard. The boy remained attached to his lead due to precipitous drops and a lack of common sense.
Our final stop of the day was the Loch Maree viewpoint, to admire one of Scotland’s finest views.
We ate in that night as the hostel menu had all of our old favourites on it. Beef curry for me, pizza for Mr G and Mackie’s ice cream to finish.
later, in the lounge we toasted another great trip and memories made, with a nice bottle of fizz we’d brought back from a holiday in Paris.
I was beyond excited when I looked out of the lounge window and spotted Pine Martens playing outside. I last saw a Pine Marten 30 years ago. The boy jumped around excitedly too. I’m not sure why as he wouldn’t know a Pine Marten from a House Martin.
Torridon Youth Hostel – my verdict
Our stay at Hostelling Scotland’s Torridon Youth Hostel flew by. It was an eye opener for me, as I arrived thinking I probably outgrew hostelling in my teens, but left clutching a brochure and wondering where I should stay on my next Hostelling Scotland break. What’s not to love about getting great value for money and comfortable accommodation in a stunning location? There are lots of places to stay in Torridon, but this would definitely be my first choice.
A walk in and around Torridon Village
The National Trust for Scotland’s Torridon Countryside Centre was a stone’s throw away from our hostel, so we headed there to follow a way-marked walking trail.
It was a pretty walk and signs of autumn’s imminent arrival were everywhere. Bright red berries, golden leaves and ripe fruits. It was like a Keats poem come to life.
Our walk had wildlife aplenty too. We passed a deer park and Highland Cattle enclosure. It was strange seeing those beasties enclosed, especially somewhere remote like Torridon. We’re more accustomed to seeing them roaming free on our travels.
Skirting the shore, the boy waded into the loch. Possibly in search of the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Sadly he returned empty-handed.
Torridon is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s prettiest villages. The whitewashed cottages contrasted against a backdrop of hulking mountains are beautiful and dramatic, and the black waters of Loch Torridon give an air of mystery to the place.
Pretty scenery and history too
The village is a gem for history lovers too. There’s a rocky, open-air church, which is thought to have been used by Free Church congregations during a period of religious division and unrest which saw them denied land to build churches.
You’ll also find the remains of ruined clearance townships if you know where to look. We visited the township of Doire na Fuaran (Field of the Springs) which sits directly behind the modern-day village.
If ever a place-name was understated this is it. Springs hints at streams of crystal clear water meandering lazily downhill. Doire na Fuaran is probably best described as boggy and froggy.
The place was saturated and every step I took squelched loudly. Thankfully my boots were Gore-tex and water tight, so I had no need to fret about my watery surrounding as I set off in search of my history fix for the day.
As I squelched my way uphill I noticed we weren’t alone in the Field of the Springs – frogs were hopping around beside us. Mr G got increasingly exasperated as I stopped to watch each one I spotted. I love encountering wildlife on my travels and alway get excited by my finds. Mr G couldn’t give two hoots about frogs.
For generations a thriving crofting township existed on this site, keeping livestock and raising crops. That all came to an abrupt end in 1845 when the landlord decided not to renew their leases, opting to use the land for more profitable sheep farming instead. Many of the displaced Highlanders left Scotland in search of a new life overseas, while others remained, struggling to eke out a living by any means they could.
I always find clearance ruins poignant and sad. It’s impossible not wonder what became of the families who once called these old tumbledown piles of stone home.
Although our accommodation was provided on a complimentary basis, all opinions are my own.
Until next time ………..