01 February 2016
Irene McMillan recalls the pleasure and pain of youth hostelling in 1960s Scotland. ...
It was the summer of 1968 when my friend Jean and I set off on an adventure. I’ve always liked researching where I’m going and so took myself to the library and, using the information in the Youth Hosteller’s Handbook, mapped out a route for us to follow. We took the bus from Glasgow to Fort William then hiked the rest of the way, along Loch Lochy and Loch Ness to Drumnadrochit.
I remember standing at the side of Loch Ness at dusk and could have sworn I saw the ‘monster’ raise its head out of the water. After visiting Urquart Castle we made our way to Cannich and stayed in the youth hostel there for two nights, giving our feet and legs a rest. On the Sunday afternoon we were wandering along the road taking in the scenery when an elderly couple in a car stopped and offered us a lift. We explained that we weren’t going anywhere in particular, just out for a stroll. They asked us if we’d like to join them on their Sunday afternoon outing.
They took us to Ullapool where they were visiting a friend, left us to explore Ullapool, and then arranged to meet us at a certain time. On our return to Cannich they invited us into their cottage and gave us a supper of scrambled eggs on toast.
After leaving Cannich we made our way through Glen Affric to the youth hostel there. This was little more than a hut but we had a good evening with the student warden and some English visitors. Unfortunately in Glen Affric, disaster struck. Although Jean and I liked the idea of hiking we weren’t really prepared and fashion had overruled the hiking boots. We had each bought a pair of very comfortable cord shoes, mine were green and Jean’s orange. We looked really good in these, however it was still quite wet and marshy in the glen and our wonderful new shoes shrunk.
From Ratagan Youth Hostel on Loch Duich we made our way to Glenelg then took the ferry to Skye and stayed at Broadford Youth Hostel. When we came off the ferry at Kylerhea, a steep hill awaited us and a very kind man who was driving a baker’s van offered us a lift. All through the holiday we were determined to walk the route, however the smell of the freshly baked bread made us give in this time.
By the end of the holiday, I was really brown, so much so that people were asking me where I‘d been for my holidays. One of my work colleagues was very jealous as she’d spent a fortune going to Spain and there I was with a fabulous tan.
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