Busman’s holiday

But what do you do in the winter? As hostel owner/managers this is something which our guests ask us a lot. There are obvious peak and shoulder seasons for the hostel business when we know that we will be very or pretty busy. The winter is different, though. In the winter most of our guests are hill walkers, and they visit mostly at the weekends unless the hill conditions are particularly good.

This means that on winter weeknights we tend to be a bit low on guests, if they come at all. This gives us a chance to catch up on essential hostel maintenance and repair jobs, and we close for the whole of November to give ourselves a nice annual break.

This winter just past we have begun a policy of closing on two weekday nights in the winter (Tuesday and Wednesday) to give ourselves an opportunity to take some guaranteed midweek R&R. It’s our equivalent of a weekend off.

It has allowed us to do a bit of hill walking of our own, so that we don’t just hear about how the hills are looking from our guests. Amongst other things, we have been able to complete the Great Glen Way and walk up Ben Tee (our local Corbett) from our front door. As well as that, though, we have also taken the chance to have a few nights away and stay in some other Scottish hostels.

So where have we visited this year? First up was the wonderfully rustic The Lazy Duck in Nethy Bridge during a very cold snap in January, with plenty of snow on the ground. It gave us a chance to do some great walking through the snow in and around Abernethy Forest. We just wished that we’d brought our snowshoes with us.

Next was a completely different prospect when we visited Portsoy in the North East and stayed at the very new and plush Sail Loft Bunkhouse. The countryside round there is very different from the Great Glen but we had some wonderful coastal walks and saw the very impressive ruins of Auchindoun Castle.

More recently, we are just back from a few days spent on the shores of Loch Eriboll as a rejuvenating break before the main season starts for us. We stayed in a property run by the Mackay family, who also own and run the highly regarded Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse in Durness. It’s one of our favourite parts of Scotland and we got a chance to go up Arkle, visit pristine sandy beaches and walk along some impressive sea cliffs.

Now it’s back to a seven day week for us until late October. Our trips away have been good for us, though. As well as helping to keep us sane they have reminded us what it is like to be hostel guests as well as hostel owners.

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