Saddle Mountain Hostel is red and white. If you have stayed with us before then you will have seen that all of our branding is in those colours. Our external and internal signage is red and white, and after taking the hostel over in 2015 we bought new bedclothes in predominantly red. We will soon have finished painting all the rooms with a new coat (several in fact) of white paint.
Why is this? Is it connected with fire and ice? Nope. Is it somehow to do with mountain leader cycling jerseys? Nope. Is it connected with the painted route markings on European long distance walking routes? Could be.
Whilst we love walking in the Scottish hills, with all the route finding challenges which that can bring, for many years we have also enjoyed our summer holidays walking long distance trails in the mountains of Europe. In the European tradition, there is a network of long distance waymarked trails which snakes throughout all the major mountain chains. As the network grows, these trails now criss-cross most western European countries even outside the mountainous areas. They are generally known as GR routes (short for Grande Randonnée in French or Gran Recorrido in Spanish, for instance).
So far, we have walked these routes only in France, Italy and Spain. One thing that they all have in common, though, is a way of marking the route. The convention is that every so often on the route there will be a painted sign on a visible rock, tree or the like. That sign is a white stripe above a red one.
It is hard to explain, but at the start of one of these holidays our hearts soar when we see our first waymark sign. It can be even more exciting if our walk starts at the official start of the route. Some of the GR routes can take weeks or months to walk from start to finish, meaning that the start point is a very big deal. The first sign, to us, means the beginning of an adventure.
It can also be just as exciting to see a GR sign if we are on a non-walking holiday and stumble over it. Just before we took over the hostel we were in Toledo in Spain and discovered that it was on the route of the GR113, which follows the route of the river Tagus. Maybe this doesn’t seem so exciting in itself, but it allowed us to spend an afternoon walking a GR route on what was supposed to be a sightseeing holiday. Result!
Some of our guests notice the tribute in our own signage. We have also made sure that some our wall photographs inside the hostel feature a GR marking, if you look closely.
The next time you visit the hostel, take a look around. While you marvel at the colour coordination you will maybe get the connection! And maybe you will be inspired to book a holiday, sling your big pack on and lose yourself for a couple of weeks in the mountains.