Highlands, Scotland

Hostelling Scotland, Torridon Youth Hostel – a trip down memory lane

Recently 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, Glen Coe and Mull for the first time and returning home to excitedly share what I’d seen – a whole new Scotland.

As an adult fond of home comforts, would I embrace the experience of hostelling as much as I had in my youth?  I’d joked with friends that Mr G and I were off to school camp with The Wee White Dug.

4 1/2 hour after leaving Edinburgh, we arrived in Torridon and were met by a welcoming committee of midges.

Scottish Youth Hostelling Torridon - SYHA

Our digs – Torridon Youth Hostel

We shot indoors at lightening speed, the boy bringing with him a sizeable swarm of the nasty wee beasties in his hair.

The hoard of noisy youths I’d expected to be occupying the hostel 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 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.

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 to avoid waste.

SYHA Torridon hostel
Road-tripping on the NC500 

With Torridon being slap bang on the North Coast 500 driving route, we were perfectly located for a scenic drive on one of our favourite sections of Scottish road.

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.

Inside the car, frequent cries of “LOOK” each time we spotted something photo worthy sent the boy rocketing towards the roof in fright. We stopped often to snap the stunning scenery and soak it all in.

The signature colour of our drive that morning was red.

A gorgeous red glow on the bracken covered mountains.

The pretty red roof of my favourite wee but n ben in Scotland.

A red fishing boat by the village of Shieldaig.

And a big red heilan’ coo. This stretch of road is brilliant for spotting Highland Cattle.  More often than not you’ll find them blocking it and in no rush whatsoever to move.

We stopped in Applecross to stretch our legs, before winding our way up the notorious Bealach na Bà – a steep and windy mountain pass with hairpin bends.

Visibility on the Bealach na Bà

On our last visit to the Bealach na Ba, 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.

We lingered at the summit a while, watching an assortment of vehicles navigating the steep inclines and cautiously tackling the hairpin bends.

A spot of lunch – Bealach Cafe & Gallery

We’d timed our crossing of the Bealach na Bà perfectly, it was lunchtime and we’d arrived at one of our favourite cafes.  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.

Back on the road, it was time for some castle exploring.

Castle Exploring

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 boasts impressive views and is a nice spot to stop for a while.

The boy was excited as he made a new friend there. A big black dog came bounding out of a nearby cottage as soon as we arrived at the castle. The Wee White Dug and his new pal 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.

Strome CastleStrome Castle Strome Castle

Our final stop of the day was the Loch Maree viewpoint, to admire one of Scotland’s finest views.

Loch Maree Viewpoint Loch Maree Viewpoint
Back at Torridon and despite low cloud, we were treated to a fine golden hour display. Our day had started and ended with a gorgeous amber glow.

Torridon Village Sunset Torridon
Time to unwind at Torridon Youth Hostel

We ate in that night, as the hostel menu had some old favourites on it. Beef curry for me, pizza for Mr G and Mackie’s ice cream for us both 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.

SYHA Torridon hostel
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’d probably outgrown 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.

SYHA Torridon hostel
In no hurry to head home we decided to go for a walk before our drive back to Edinburgh.

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 rugged and rural like Torridon. We’re more accustomed to seeing them roaming free on our travels.

As we looped back towards Loch Torridon we spotted a beautiful rainbow over the water.

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-pawed.

Torridon is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s prettiest villages. The whitewashed cottages contrasted against a backdrop of hulking mountains are beautiful and dramatic. While the dark waters of Loch Torridon add an air of mystery to the place.

Torridon village walkTorridon Village walkTorridon Village Walk

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 watertight, 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 always get excited by my finds. Mr G couldn’t give two hoots about frogs.

For generations, a thriving crofting township existed on the site, keeping livestock and raising crops. That 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.

And so ended our wonderful hostelling adventure. The trip had turned out to be one of the highlights of our year so far. Who knew we’d leave, a trio of converts to the joys of youth hostelling.

Although our accommodation was provided on a complimentary basis, all opinions are my own.

Until next time …

24 thoughts on “Hostelling Scotland, Torridon Youth Hostel – a trip down memory lane”

  1. Lovely photos as always – just an affirmation that I NEED to head out that way soon!! Didn’t quite make it there last month, unfortunately. I’ll be staying at Torridon youth hostel too. I think you meet nutty people at all hostels, but that’s part of the fun of it! 😉

    1. Thank you – yeah it’s a must visit location. One of my favourite spots and the hostel was brilliant. Got my eye on a couple of their other hostels. You’re right about the nutty ones – added humour. 😂

  2. Your blog is a wonderful discovery…..such beautiful photographs and, of course, the Wee White Dug! Our own wee Westie, Mungo, has yet to experience his ancestral homeland, but we do our best to replicate it here in Northern Ireland. In the meantime, I wish you happy travels!

    1. Thank you so much – Northern Ireland looks beautiful and it’s on our list of places to visit. I’ve only been to the South of Ireland. Hopefully next year we can hop on a ferry and visit. 😊

  3. Lovely, brilliant photographs and a fab post, which I enjoyed greatly. Oddly enough, going the SYHA way was always something I intended to do, but never did. Growing up I went with my dad and when he passed I went on my own. Years later Annabell and I spent some time in Inverness and we took day trips with this as our base. I sort of remember going to Torridon, but it was a long time ago. In the “Scots Magazine” I have been reading about the NC 500 – the North Coast 500 mile Inverness to Inverness. If I get back to Scotland for a holiday in the not too distant future, I would like to do that route. I think that would be fantastic. Annabell has been to Iona, I have not, but I thought the Hinge and Bracket was hilarious..

    1. You should do the NC500 if you get a chance. It’s a beautiful route as it gives you east, west and north so it’s a diverse mix of sights you see from rugged mountain, white sandy beach and highland town. SYHA have several hostels along the route with private rooms so you can budget travel and spend your money on delicious seafood fresh from the sea, whisky and gifts for yourself. Iona is beautiful and tranquil minus Hinge and Bracket. 😂

  4. I’m 34 and still a regular hostel user although the experience can vary quite a lot. I recommend the SYHA at Smoo Cave for your next NC500 adventure. A lovely little cosy, quiet place. Best hostel I stayed in in Scotland was Saddle Mountain hostel north of Fort William near Loch Garry: you get barrista coffee served at breakfast and it feels modern and new whilst being hidden away in the woods. Also stayed in a lovely hostel in Kirkwall too. The age range of hostel occupants is very varied these days. Hope you enjoy many more stays.

    1. Thank you – I know the one at Smoo Cave well as it’s near my favourite beach at Balnakeil. 😍 It’s another dog friendly one too which is fab. Think it’ll be SYHA Achmelvich Hostel next as the location is out of this World. So impressed that SYHA operate a dog friendly policy in so many of their accommodations. I hate when we have to rule out staying places that look good because dogs aren’t allowed.

  5. Great read. Your photos are top notch, as always, and your stories are equally entertaining. I love the Hinge and Bracket reference! I’m jealous of your trip, of course, but placated slightly by thoughts of my approaching week in Elphin in October (may the midges be few and far between!). Cheers

    1. Thanks Graeme – I’m so gutted you won’t be in Elphin this weekend for Chicken Day. It sounds like so much fun and my overactive imagination is running riot. Looking forward to your blog.

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