Young at heart are welcome on hostel holidays
As far as the Scottish Youth Hostelling Association is concerned, there are no TVs in its bedrooms because what's outside is much more interesting.
You can’t dispute that fact as a quick glance of SYHA’s locations read like a tourist’s almanac of beautiful Scottish destinations.
With hostels in Aberdeen, Aviemore, Tobermory, Islay, Oban, the Cairngorms, Pitlochry, Lerwick and Callendar, patrons are always in a great location to enjoy an adventure or ten.
Whether you’re into Munro bagging, kayaking, hill walking, island hopping, or mountain biking, there’s lots to enjoy if you’re willing to forgo room service and a chocolate on your pillow.
After 85 years, the not-for-profit organisation is still doing what it was set up to do – providing quality budget accommodation which allows people to apprecriate all that Scotland has to offer.
However, some things have changed.
Today, more than 50 per cent of SYHA rooms are private.
It’s been a move the organisation has made over the years to shake off perceptions that youth hostels are pokey dormitories, only for students and backpackers.
In fact, the organisation lends itself perfectly to what the modern-day traveller wants – whatever their age or situation.
Families are now one of SYHA’s largest client groups with city centre hostels boasting en-suites and Wi-Fi.
While not only providing a base to enjoy the great outdoors, SYHA is still famous for the camaraderie and community spirit it encourages indoors.
Keith Legge, chief executive officer, said: “Only one thing has changed in our history and that’s the idea we are just one big dormitory.
“The days of sharing rooms with total strangers are gone, although we still do offer that – say in Edinburgh during the Fringe when people want to keep costs down or in very remote locations, miles from anywhere, where experienced walkers just want a shower, hot meal and bed for the night.
“With SYHA, people can grow their own organic adventure. We get people to where they can explore the outdoors, providing advice to guide people in the right direction.
“A third of those who stay with us each year are in formal education or join us as part of their studies.
“The rest are people who want to explore Scotland – its culture, heritage and environment.
“We still do what we have always done – we enable people to get around.
“But it’s not a hotel: there’s no TV in the bedroom and we have done that deliberately.
“We want people to engage with other guests and exchange views.
“We find that the self-catering communal kitchen is a good place for a gathering.
“It’s informal and a place to meet like-minded people.”
Around 400,000 people stay with SYHA each year.
With two thirds from Scotland, the UK and Ireland, the remainder are international visitors.
Most are from Europe, particularly Germany, France and Spain, but the numbers of tourists from America and the Far East is also now increasing.
Perhaps one reason for the SYHA’s sustained popularity is because it keep reinventing itself.
For the past five years, for example, the organisation has also organised a series of holidays for adventurers.
Working alongside tour providers in the local area, SYHA hosts holidays ranging from sea kayaking to long distance trail walking, cycling and photography.
“There are people who want something organised for them,” said Keith.
“We work with local operators and groups, while we take care of the administration, bookings and itinerary.
“For example, Tai Chi in Torridon has been really popular, as has the Munros holidays in Skye.
“What’s on offer is very varied and we adapt it to suit travellers.”
For 2016, SYHA has also introduced new holidays in partnership with the Venture Trust, including a sea kayaking week in September.
The holidays are all geared to learning new skills, meeting new people and keeping active.
The organisation hopes the holidays will appeal to travellers who want to try something different while enjoying Scotland.
It seems after 85 years, SYHA is happy to stick to its no frills thrill seeker policy and will no doubt do so for many more years to come.
For more information, visit www.syha.org.uk or search #SYHAdventures.