One of the best and cheapest ways to discover the beauties of Scotland is to stay in a Scottish Youth Hostels Association hostel. They are situated throughout the country in lovely, often wild and remote places, as well as in historic towns and cities. Many hostel buildings are of architectural interest, ranging from simple cottages to grand castles.
Youth hostels welcomes all ages.
A popular, if understandable, misconception is that ‘youth’ hostels are only for the young, when all in fact warmly welcome more mature people, families and couples. You meet interesting people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. Some visitors are on bicycles and others come by car or public transport.
It costs considerably less to stay at a youth hostel than in a hotel or bed and breakfast. These used to be puritanical establishments, with segregated accommodation, separating husbands, wives and children. Visitors were expected to perform domestic duties and chores and there were many rules and regulations.
Now hostels offer ‘family’ or twin-bedded rooms, some have en-suite facilities and many have Internet access in their public spaces. There are not ‘chores’.
Islay at Port Charlotte Hostel.
The family friendly hostel at Port Charlotte, on the Hebridean island of Islay, is an old malt whisky distillery building dating from 1829.
The setting, on the shores of Lock Indaal, is idyllic, with a beautiful, safe sandy breach at the bottom of the garden and wonderful views.
Port Charlotte is a picturesque, whitewashed village, which has 2 hotels with pubs, restaurants and a post office/shop. There is also a charming museum. The Museum of Islay Life is just across the road from the hostel.
What to see and do on Islay
Malt Whisky Distilleries
Islay is world famous for its distinctive malt whisky, and the island’s historic distilleries are paradise for malt whisky connoisseurs. Distillery buildings are handsome and photogenic, in beautiful seaside settings, and they make excellent excursions.
Concerts and other events sometimes take place in the distilleries and there are distillery tours and tastings for adults who want to learn about the magical process of whisky making. Visitor centres have excellent cafes for lunch or a snack and distillery shops sell extra-special whisky and whisky related souvenirs. Cantilena Festival on Islay takes place in July with concerts in famous distilleries.
Islay has a wonderful wildlife, with deer, seals and otters to be seen as well as minke whales and dolphins. There are many bird species to be spotted throughout the year, including golden eagles, choughs and corncrakes. There are wonderful walks for all ages and abilities. The annual walking week is open to all.
Islay house square at Bridgend is an attractive converted stable behind historic Islay House. There’s a batik artist, chocolate maker, brewery and galleries. Islay House Community garden was the original kitchen garden which supplied fruit and vegetable for 18th century Islay House. A wide range of seasonal fruit, herbs and vegetables is available.
How to get to Islay.
By air daily service from Glasgow. By car: from Glasgow drive to Islay ferry at Kennacraig (2.5 hours) via Loch Lomond through Inveraray and Tarbert, There are two ports on Islay, Port Ellen and Port Askaig. By bus from Glasgow, Buchanan Street Bus Station.
Wilma Paterson, travel writer and author