The last paying guest at Saddle Mountain Hostel stayed here on 14th March. A couple of days after that we took the decision to temporarily close the business as we felt it was irresponsible to remain open in the face of an oncoming pandemic. Since then we, like most of the rest of the UK, have been in lockdown.
This obviously means hard times financially for us, on top of worries about the health of our families and loved ones. We are not alone in that. Everyone in the tourism sector has the same issues. This is compounded by the fact that we simply don’t know when we will be permitted to open again. For perfectly sound public health reasons it is likely that the tourist accommodation sector will not be first in the queue of businesses to reopen. Any continuation of social distancing rules will also not sit well with the type of communal facilities and dormitory rooms which hostels traditionally offer.
As a result, we suspect that we will be lucky if we are able to open for the summer season. When we do reopen, we may at first have to adjust what we offer in the short to medium term. The only thing we do know is that we will be open for business again. This is our livelihood and we want to continue to share our love of the Scottish Highlands and the outdoors with likeminded guests.
So what have we been doing while the hostel has been closed? First of all, we had already planned various improvements and bits of maintenance work to the hostel. We have been able to complete these and more with the extra time we have been given and we’ve also been able to do lots of work in the hostel garden. It is fair to say that the hostel and grounds have never looked better!
We have also been able to get out and about on lots of local walks from the hostel front door. We probably now know every path and forest track in Glengarry, some of which we have never had time to explore in our first five years here. We will be able to pass on our knowledge to future guests.
It is a bit of a paradox that, for us, running a hostel for five years has been a perfect mental preparation for being in lockdown. Normally, the summer season means that we are pretty much tied to the hostel building and immediate surroundings for months on end. The better the weather is the more guests we tend to have and the less spare time that gives us. Because of this we are well used to our own company and to staying in and around the building for long periods. Just now, though, we are able to get out into the countryside when the weather is good. We would of course rather be open and have an income but we are trying to make the most of what we have and stay positive.
We hope that in a few months’ time we will be able to return to “normal”. We’re certainly looking forward to greeting guests here again. In the meantime, we hope that you all stay safe and well. Saddle Mountain Hostel will still be here next year.